YARMOUTH, Maine — Is your lawn looking a little patchy? Is the grass a little thin and losing a battle with weeds for space? Now is the time to tackle the problem because it's the perfect time to plant grass.
Fall promotes rooting. It's not as hot, there is more moisture, and the temperatures are cooler -- all perfect for getting grass to root. We have about six weeks left in the season, so plant now.
Since contractors are harder to come by this year, here's what you need to get started.
Tom Estabrook of Estabrook's in Yarmouth says you first need to loosen the existing soil. If it won't loosen with a rake, consider using a pitchfork to lift the soil slightly. Otherwise, you can aerate your lawn. You can rent an aerator or use a tool you step on for smaller spaces.
Then sprinkle loam or topsoil on top. You can also use good compost. Use a rake to smooth that out into a thin layer of soil.
Sprinkle your seeds. More is better. You can use your hands or a spreader and then rake the top layer to mix the seeds with the soil.
It's always good to use a seed starter fertilizer. You can use that either before or after you seed.
Then cover the whole thing with a mulch of some sort. Estabrook says beware of hay since it often contains weed seeds. A product named Lucerne is Estabrook's favorite topper. These keep moisture in the soil and keep birds from eating the seeds. Another option, if you want to keep the job super simple, is Easy Seed Straw. It has the seeds, fertilizer, and straw topping all in one bag.
Then ... water. It's important to keep the topsoil moist but not saturated. Estabrook suggests turning on your sprinkler for 15 minutes at a time ... not two hours. You need to keep it moist until the ground freezes ... so it's a commitment.
If you notice a lot of moss or clover in your grass, it means the pH is off and it's time to lime. Soil pH is important to rooting. You can test the soil if you like, but most people add lime every couple of years. Estabrook recommends a high calcium lime because it will change the pH instantly, instead of over the course of weeks.