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I live in Maryland, and I expanded my back yard last fall by clearing some trees and leaves. I brought in top soil and tried to smooth out the contour also. After seeding, I had areas of success and failure in the yard. I didn't put down starter fertilizer, which was my fault. I'm ready to put some time in this spring to help get a healthy lawn going before the summer temperatures rise. Some of the advice I've gotten:

  1. Overseed again
  2. Use starter fert. this time
  3. Spread Lime

What is the right thing to do for a lawn's first summer season?

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There's a few very local answers that will affect the success of spring seeding:

  • what kind of soil do you have? Clay, sandy, rocky, moist,dry?
  • what are your expectations as far as the finished product? Do you want a bowling green or a pasture?
  • how many hours of light does the area receive?
  • are there existing weeds or are a lot of wind blown weed seeds likely?
  • what is your mowing equipment, practices and cutting schedules?

I think starter fertilizer is over rated in importance over these more critical factors:

  • Choose a mixture of grass seeds appropriate for the soil and light conditions. If you have to sow shade grass in some areas and higher light cultivars in sunnier areas you loose out on a uniform appearance but gain in diversity and ability to adapt.
  • If looks and bees don't bother you then add some clover seed. Clover will add nitrogen to the soil but is tough to remove once established.
  • Spring over seeding is perfect if your area can expect four to six weeks of cool temperatures and moister conditions. If your area has early hot dry springs be prepared to water thoroughly until the seed is established or consider plugs of zoysia grass.
  • watering practices are also critical. Frequent, light watering are worse than a few inches of water applied at longer intervals. Soil and light will affect your lawn's needs. Where rye grass and fescue mixes will brown out in the summer and allow weed seeds to take hold zoysia will stay green and out compete annual weeds.
  • mowing practices have a huge effect on the health of your lawn. Sharp blades cut cleanly so sharpen your mower blades. Cut as high as you can tolerate with fescues, lower for zoysia, more often in the spring, less in summer.
  • do some research at the local nurseries and sod farms on the best performing grasses for your area. I see from my research that Maryland is considered a

transition zone, meaning cool-season grasses such as fescues, bluegrass and ryegrasses suffer in the summer and warm-season grasses look awful in the cold months

  • the choice of using a traditional rye fescue mix or zoysia should be governed by your local conditions. For zoysia "The negative is, it's dormant here probably six months of the year. On the plus side, it's great in the summer and survives most summers here without much maintenance." (Kevin Morris, executive director of the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program, )

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