Minnetrista Blogs

Fix your drought-stressed lawn

The summer of 2012 has been one brutal summer for you lawn. The combination of high temperatures and a lack of rainfall has done its number on many lawns across the Central Indiana area.  With the return of rain, we have seen many lawns green up quickly, however, others are still showing signs of distress from the drought.

Fall is the best time to rejuvenate a lawn that has been stressed from drought.

Here are some things to put on your “to do list” this fall.

Aerate your lawn

Aeration is one of the best things you can do to improve your lawn and fall is the best time to do so because grass roots are actively growing at this time of the year. An aerator is a machine that has hollow metal tubes or tines that penetrate the ground and removes plugs of soil as it runs across the lawn.

Here are some but not all the benefits of lawn aeration:

  • By pulling plugs out of the lawn, oxygen gets to the roots and soil and allows them to breathe.
  • Aeration makes it easier for nutrients and water to be absorbed by the soil, which in turn makes them readily available for grass roots to feed on.
  • The aeration holes loosen the ground relieving compaction and enables grass roots to stretch out and grown deeper.
  • Regular aeration prevents thatch accumulation.

There are many more benefits to lawn aeration, and they all improve the growing conditions for the turfgrass plants and result in a healthier and more vigorous lawn.

For best results, aerate the lawn when the soil is moist. Avoid aeration when soil is too dry or excessively wet. The aerator will not penetrate deeply in dry soils and on the other hand will clog up when the soil is too wet.

Lawns that are properly aerated will have At least 20 holes per square foot. Most aerators will not remove the proper number of holes in one pass, therefore multiple passes are required. The plugs pulled out of the ground after aeration will take a couple of weeks to dissolve naturally, or you can use a lawn rake to help break them up. Either way is fine.

You can rent a lawn aerator from any one of the local tool rental store locally for about $25 for 3 hours or $50 for a whole day.

Overseed your lawn

Here at Minnetrista I have several lawn areas that have thinned out this summer due to the drought conditions, especially some of the non-irrigated areas. Many of your lawns are in the same weakened condition. The recent rains have helped green the laws up, but more will be needed to help them fully recover from the stress of the drought. Over seeding will help restore your lawn.

Fall with its cooler temperatures and ample moisture in the way of rain and heavy morning dew makes it the best time of the year to plant grass seed. In Central Indiana the optimum window to plant grass seed is from August 15to September 15.

There are several ways to over seed grass seed into an existing lawn.

One of the easiest ways is to incorporate seed into the lawn is after lawn aeration. As mentioned above, run the aerator over the lawn is several directions to create as many holes as you can. You can’t have too many holes in the lawn when you want to seed. Use a broadcast spreader to spread grass seed over the lawn. The seed will fall into the holes and sprout from there. You will have even better results if, after spreading the seed, you take a lawn rake and rake over the lawn to help break up the soil plugs. Doing so creates a thin layer of soil over the lawn which enables the seed to make good seed to soil contact.

Another option is to rent a machine called a slit seeder. A slit seeder slices grooves in the soil and drops seed at the same time.

Tips for using a slit seeder

Make a couple of passes with the machine. The first pass without seed in the hopper. The reason being is that the machine will pull up a tremendous amount of thatch. This will need to be raked in piles and removed from the lawn before spreading the grass seed. If you don’t remove the thatch first, it will be difficult for the seed to get down to the soil.

After picking up the thatch debris from the lawn, run the slit seeder one more time in the opposite direction. This time put seed into the hopper. Follow the directions on the seeder for the recommended settings in order to drop the correct amount of seed.

Another option—one that I often prefer—is just to use the seeder as a means of cultivating the soil. I use the same steps as mentioned above. However, I do not put seed in the seed box on the spreader on the second pass. I leave it empty.  Instead, after I finish with the slit seeder, I use a broadcast spreader to spread the seed. For me, it is an easier way to tell how much seed I am using.

If your lawn has taken a hit—like many have—take advantage of the best time of the year to restore your lawn by aerating and over seeding. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.


Steve Scott is the grounds supervisor at Minnetrista. He can be reached at (765) 287-3462 or sscott@minnetrista.net