Nourishing Your Lawn to New Heights

When you gaze upon your lawn, you may notice those occasional bare spots or thin areas that draw your attention. It’s only natural; homeowners have a keen eye for their lawns and a desire to make them flourish. While these intentions are often well-meant, sometimes our attempts to improve our lawns can inadvertently create more problems, incur added expenses, consume our time, and increase the need for chemical treatments. This is where the age-old debate of “seed it or feed it” comes into play.

Remember the Fundamental Principles

The basics of lawn management are rooted in elementary concepts that we learn as children. Think back to planting sunflower seeds in tiny dixie cups – it’s a testament to the wonder of nature. A dry seed, placed in fertile soil with the right amount of water and sunlight, blossoms into life. While seeds are indeed miraculous and pivotal for establishing new lawns, sowing seeds to address specific issues requires thoughtfulness, an understanding of your plant’s life cycle, the growing conditions, and the climate – both past and future.

In the Midwest, the management of turfgrass is heavily influenced by the ever-changing seasons. The foundation lies in soil conditions, but the climate adds its unique variables. Our growing season consists of two primary parts – spring and fall, each separated by two dormant seasons – summer and winter. Summer, while not always inducing dormancy, presents challenges due to poor soil quality in many new home lawns and the use of Kentucky Bluegrass. In contrast, winter’s dormancy can stretch for up to four months, and during this period, lawns face cycles of freeze and thaw, as well as potential damage from snow and ice. This extended period of vulnerability, combined with the effects of snow removal, ice melters, snow piles, and even foot traffic from pets and children, leaves your lawn looking worse for wear.

The Aftermath of Winter Dormancy

As winter’s grip begins to thaw, and spring emerges on the horizon, a sense of renewal fills the air. However, the reality is often less rosy – snow melt reveals matted, brown grass, with bare spots, scrapes, scratches, snow mold, and remnants of critters who found shelter beneath the snow. While most homeowners’ immediate reaction is to rush outside and start seeding, hoping that within 10 to 14 days, all their issues will magically vanish, reality has other plans.

The problem with this approach is that most people simply toss seeds on the surface without considering germination. A significant portion of the seeds will either wash away, get devoured by birds, or simply rot. Some may invest extra effort, properly preparing the soil for seed planting by mixing it with soil, smoothing it out, and even mulching over the seeds for protection. However, even if these seeds germinate, it’s just the first step of a multifaceted process that requires fertilizers and other components to help these seedlings grow into established turfgrass. Unfortunately, one can’t control climate conditions and the growth cycles of competing weeds, which can lead to more problems, often resulting in complete failure.

Spring: Mother Nature’s Time for Renewal

Spring is Mother Nature’s season for renewal, and her primary goal is to grow anything and everything to protect the soil from erosion. Consequently, soil is laden with weed seeds, and exposed, fertile soil will grow weeds in the first half of the season, even under the best conditions. Annual weeds, such as crabgrass and foxtail, typically emerge during this time. These invaders can be especially challenging to manage, and pre-emergent herbicides that target them also prevent the germination of planted grass seeds. As a result, it’s difficult to establish grass seed effectively while dealing with the pressure from these annual weeds.

The Better Way: Feed Instead of Seed

So, what’s the alternative? At Tompkins Lawn Care, we suggest the approach of “feed it” instead of “seed it.” Fertilizing your lawn stimulates growth in existing plants within days, compared to several weeks required for seedlings to grow. Fertilizer can be a more practical and efficient choice for homeowners and professionals. With a well-fertilized, aerated, and well-managed lawn, turfgrass thickens before the threat of crabgrass emerges, reducing the need for pre-emergence herbicides. This approach is more cost-effective and minimizes the environmental impact, requiring fewer chemical inputs.

Fertilization allows for a well-established lawn with deeper roots and more resistance to pests and diseases. While the rapid growth you observe in the spring may lead you to believe that seeding is the key to a lush lawn, the reality is that it’s the “feed” that lays the foundation for a healthy, vibrant, and thriving lawn.

Expand Your Lawn Care Knowledge

Expand Your Lawn Care Knowledge

  • How we got here…
  • Protect Our Pollinators
  • Fungal Lawn Diseases
  • Moles
  • Nourishing Your Lawn
  • Fertilizer 101
  • Core Aeration
  • Lawn Watering
  • Mowing

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