Fall Renovation: Agronomics (Part 2)

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tall fescue renovation

Fall renovation of a tall fescue lawn

With seed costs being significantly greater this fall, perhaps you are considering your renovation options. The first option you may be considering is to just not add seed when you renovate. If you are reasonably comfortable with your current stand of cool-season turfgrass (e.g. tall fescue), you could still aerate and amend your soil (lime, fertilizer, etc) as you normally would but not add any seed. The grass will naturally tiller and fill in small gaps over time. Nevertheless, this will not give you great results with a very thin turf stand or a stand that has large bare patches.

A second option is reduce the seeding rate, proportional to the turf stand density. For example, 6 pounds of (uncoated) tall fescue seed per 1000 square feet of ground is a “healthy” seeding rate. I know some may suggest seeding at 8, 10, or even higher seeding rates, but these higher rates are not necessary and in some cases can be detrimental to long-term health of the turfgrass stand. Therefore, if you have a thin, but decent stand you could drop your seeding rate by a pound or two (using 4 to 5 pounds per 1000 square feet) so that your seed goes further. If you have mostly bare areas in an otherwise decent-looking stand, then you could also “spot seed” the bare areas at a 5 – 6 pound rate and seed as needed with a reduced rate in the rest of the yard. Be careful as it is easy to apply way too much seed if spot seeding by hand.

There is also great value in using good fertilization and irrigation practices to grow in a healthy stand of turfgrass. Check our resources on the TurfFiles website on these cultural practices.

Other considerations are:

  • For residential purchases, it is often cheaper per pound to buy a larger quantity (e.g., a 50-pound bag). Split the bag among neighbors and share the cost.
  • Do not be tempted to purchase low-quality seed, especially if you plan on reducing your seeding rates this fall.
  • Do not delay seeding this fall thinking it will be better to spring seeding. Spring seeding in North Carolina is rarely successful. In addition, some market indicators suggest turfgrass seed may be in even shorter supply by spring 2022.
  • Fall is not the time to switch to a warm-season grass species if you are thinking about giving up on growing a cool-season grass lawn.