Because of our cool, rainy winters and acidic native soil, your lawn may require a “spring tune-up” to help it look its best. After a little moss control and spot treatment for weeds, bare patches can be reseeded to fill in this spring.
Okay, I admit it… this is a picture of my lawn. I chose this photo to show the worst of what I have to work with as I start thinking about how to begin the recovery process. As you can see, what little grass is left is thin and patchy with lots of moss, while there are significant numbers of broad leafed weeds mixed in such as dandelions and clover.
I will also admit that I am not one to lavish care and attention on my lawn. In fact, I view lawn areas as future garden space and think of it as primarily unplanted territory in need of very little attention from me. I know that I’m not alone in my neglectful attitude towards lawns; many landscape designers have done away with traditional lawns in favor of more drought tolerant plants, ground covers, and other materials due to increased demand for low maintenance and less thirsty landscaping alternatives. Nonetheless, lush green grass can provide an attractive canvas for flowers and foliage, and soft grass feels delightful on bare feet!
For years now, I have been slowly decreasing the size of my lawn as I create more planting beds. Since I am just about down to the right size lawn for me to maintain, it’s time to renovate it and bring it back from the brink.
Step 1: Treat the Moss
Yes, I have considered trying to have a lawn made entirely from moss… just as regular turf needs water during summer months, so does moss, and it quickly turns brown if not adequately watered. To quickly kill moss, we recommend an iron-based product called Moss Out; it can be applied as a liquid or in granular form.Once the moss is dead, it must be removed with a stiff rake to expose bare soil for seeding. After performing a basic soil test, apply lime to prevent future moss growth—moss prefers acidic soil conditions, while most turf grass grows best in nearly pH neutral soil.
Step 2: Kill the Weeds
Depending on your attitude about lawns and lawn care, you may be the type who waters your lawn all summer, or you may let it go brown and dormant during the dry months. I live in southeast Portland where most of us allow our lawns to go brown for the summer; these months of drought are stressful on turf grass and can often lead to invasive weeds. Clover, a common lawn weed, is ultra-drought tolerant and is often the last remaining green area as a lawn goes dormant for summer. This extra growing time allows weeds to easily take over a weakened turf, even when favorable conditions return.
Cool, rainy weather can make it difficult to apply herbicides, and many products require temperatures to be in the 60s for ideal performance. However, Bonide Weed Beater Ultra is effective on over 200 hard-to-kill weeds and works in temperatures as low as 45°F. It has visible results in just 24 hours and is rain-fast, once dry; the area can be reseeded two weeks after application.
Step 3: Prep the Lawn
Once the moss is gone and weeds are dead, prepare the soil by topping with a thin layer of compost. Use topsoil to fill in low spots and holes, creating a level surface.
Step 4: Reseed the Grass
The ideal time for spring planting of grass seed is early May to mid-June. If seed is sown earlier, it will germinate and grow more slowly. Be sure to choose seed that is best for your lawn’s sun exposure. My lawn area is in full sun, so I will choose my seed appropriately, and since I am over-seeding my thin, patchy grass, I plan to use about 5 lbs per 1000 square feet.
After spreading G&B Lawn Fertilizer with a drop spreader over the base soil layer followed by seed, lightly rake it in. Once the seed is down, apply a thin layer of mulch, no thicker than ⅛–¼ inch; we recommend G&B Soil Building Conditioner.
Step 5: Irrigate & Stimulate
It is crucial to keep your fresh lawn irrigated. Water thoroughly at first, followed by light repeated waterings for the first week or 2, or at least until the seed has germinated. Our typical rainy spring weather will work to my advantage but just in case I have my hose and sprinkler ready for action. It only takes about 1 inch of water per week to keep turf grass green!
It is also important to wait about 3 weeks after planting before mowing your lawn. I plan to apply another dose of G&B Lawn Fertilizer about 4-6 weeks after planting to stimulate rapid growth.
Step 6: Enjoy the Lawn
It’s time to sit back and enjoy your new lawn as it grows! I think I may water my smaller, nicer lawn this summer and see what difference it will make the following spring!