“Ya Gotta” Like Seeding!
BY BARRY C. TROUTMAN, PH.D.
Director of Technical Services ValleyCrest Companies
In this world of high speed Internet, the instant gratification of sod seems the perfect answer. There are times and places where sod is the best choice, but when the time and place are right for seeding; choosing sod is like buying a Big Mac when you can slowly char grill the perfect sirloin burger with your favorite bun while drinking a cold beer and still have some change in your pocket.
Seed is not always an option: St Augustine grass can’t be seeded and I wouldn’t wish bahiarass seeding on Joe O’Donnel. While seed is now available for zoysia and bermudagrass, breeders are just beginning to approach the quality and uniformity with seeded turf of these species that has been available in sod varieties for the last 30 years.
Season is also important when deciding whether to sod or seed. Cool-season grasses are best seeded in the early fall or in early spring. Tall fescue can be seeded in Atlanta from late August to early November and with limited success in early spring. As you move north to Columbus, OH, bluegrass and fescue may be seeded in fall and spring with almost equal success. Even further north, say Detroit or New England, bluegrass and fescue with good irrigation can be seeded in fall, spring and summer.
Warm-season grasses are best seeded in late spring or early summer. Generally-warm season grasses are slower to germinate and, unlike cool season grass, are somewhat slow to develop a dense hardy lawn. Late summer and fall seedlings of bermudagrass are more susceptible to winter injury.
When properly timed, seeding gives us the opportunity to plant the best-adapted species not only for your climate but also for the specific conditions of sun, shade and moisture at the site you are planting. This is achieved by using custom mixtures and blends of seed. Mixtures are combinations of different species such as mixtures of sunloving bluegrass and shade-adapted fine fescues. As seeds in this mixture germinate and develop, the bluegrass will dominate in full sun and the fescue will dominate in the shade.
Blends are combinations of different varieties of the same species that can be used to maximize the lawn’s resistant to stress and disease problems. Blending two or three varieties with different characteristics can maximize survival of any single stress or disease event. Seeding new varieties into a weak existing lawn can improve color density and health of the lawn.
NTEP has done your homework: The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program continually evaluates performance of turf grass species and varieties at multiple locations across the country. By accessing the results of these trials (www.ntetJ.org) you can determine the relative strength and weakness of each variety.