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Ask a Master Gardener: Renovating your lawn

by Peter Sutter | August 21, 2022 at 3:05 a.m.

It was nice to have a rainy day last week. Although it does seem like okra liked the hot weather and is producing well, unlike tomatoes and pole beans which started dropping their blossoms. Even though it's hard to keep up with the okra this time of the year, it might be a good time to step out of the garden and evaluate your lawn.

Those upper 90-degree days along with drought conditions can be hard on lawns in central Missouri. This year, the hot, dry weather lasted longer than usual. With that kind of heat (and humidity), the problems were beginning to show up in the lawn. If you have some dead spots or some that have more weeds than grass (a real problem for me), now is a good time to start thinking of renovating them this fall. If your lawn is just looking a little thin, maybe just over seeding would fix the problem area.

Early fall is the best time of year for lawn renovation because environmental conditions are favorable and weed competition is much lower than in spring. In Mid-Missouri, the best time for seeding is the first part of September. Re-seeding during that time period will allow the lawn to get established before winter arrives. Although, if the weather is hot and dry -- and irrigation is not an option -- you can put the renovation off until the end of September, but not much later than that.

One of the first things to consider is getting a soil sample from your lawn and having the soil tested for fertilizer recommendations. (While you're at it, you might get the garden soil tested also.) Soil testing is a gardener's best way to know the needs of a garden and lawn and to obtain and maintain healthy soil. Optimally, you should have your soil tested every 3 years. Although soil-testing kits are available, laboratory testing is more reliable and readily available through the Callaway County Extension Center, 573-642-0755.

The next thing is to decide whether to do the renovation yourself or hire a professional to do all or part of it for you. There are several steps to lawn renovation, and some of them are best accomplished using specialized equipment the professional will have or is available through rental outlets. You may decide, for example, to prepare the site yourself but hire a professional to seed the lawn.

Whatever you decide, now is a good time to start making arrangements. If you are considering renovation this fall, there are two excellent publications that can be obtained from the MU Extension; G6954, Soil Testing for Lawns and G6700, Cool-Season Grasses: Lawn Establishment and Renovation. These publications can be downloaded free at Printed versions are also available through the local Extension office.

Happy gardening!

Peter Sutter is a lifelong gardening enthusiast and a participant in the MU Extension's Callaway County Master Gardener Program. Gardening questions can be sent to [email protected]

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