Troops, here's some more thoughts on establishment. But first, I forgot to mention how important it is to get your soil tested. I will discuss soil samples later. But, I’ll say for now, at this point in the establishment process, once your soil is physically ready, do a sample. That will determine what modifications the soil needs. The test will reveal what levels of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (N, P, K) are needed. It will also reveal the acid or alkaline levels of your soil. A soil test provides you the route reconnaissance to, and tactical intelligence for, a beautiful stand of turfgrass.
We already discussed some of the considerations for selection of turgrass. Besides seeding, there are four methods of growing turfgrass: sodding, sprigging, stolonizing and plugging. Warm-season turfgrasses must be established by the above mentioned methods. Almost all cool-season grasses can be grown from seed. Seeding is cheapest. Sodding is the most expensive. Sprigging, stolonizing and plugging can be done when seed is not available or sodding is too expensive.
Read the bag of seed. Just read it, Soldier. State and federal regulations require grass seed bags to have a physical assessment of the percentage, by weight, of the desired inert matter, crop seed, weed seed, and turfgrass seed. You want seed that has 90 to 95 percent turfgrass seed. Crop seed is the percentage of other crop type seed in the bag. Types of crop seed are not listed. This is important because the higher the crop seed percentage, the higher the chance for weeds. You want crop seed to be as close to 0.0% as possible. The weed seed category is similar to crop seed – stuff you don’t want. That should be as close to 0.0% too.
Each state in our great nation tests turfgrass seed for germination. The result is on the bag label. Note the date of testing. Most states require a re-testing every nine months.
Be sure to seed your soil just before the optimal conditions - temperature and moisture conditions. Remember we talked about the two types of turfgrass? Well, warm-season grasses germinate best in 70 to 95 F while cool-season grasses germinate better in 60 to 85 F.
Drop or rotary spreaders can be used. There are pro’s and con’s to each type of spreader. A drop spreader is more accurate. A broadcast spreader can be influenced by wind. Make sure you overlap when seeding and go in two different directions – like north and south then east and west.
In many cases, you will see a recently seeded area covered by mulch (like straw). This reduces water evaporation.
For four to six weeks after seeding, keep the area well irrigated. Do not soak the area. Just water it enough to keep the 0.5 inches of topsoil moist. Start mowing when the seedlings are 40% higher than the desired height.
The mission is not yet complete. We’re just getting warmed up! Turfgrass Warrior "Actual" Out!