Over-kill?

Asked May 1, 2018, 2:48 PM EDT

My mechanic just tried to 'plant a lawn' and knowing I like to grow things, asked me what he did wrong. Here's what he said to me...
-He bought 10lbs of Kentucky bluegrass seed and tilled it into a 400sqft back yard area with a 50lb bag of heavy duty fertilizer. He then covered the ground with a light layer of straw and flooded the whole area with water. This was 3 weeks ago now and there are still no sprouts...

Did he go over-kill with his process for such a small area? Is there such thing as TOO much for starting out? A background of his yard... It's at about 7,000ft elevation and the soil was mostly clay based. Rather than amending it with a nice mulch for aeration and drainage, he tilled it 12in down and added that massive bag of fertilizer. Could it be that he just needs more drainage in his soil?

Montezuma County Colorado

1 Response

The short answer to your question is....yes, this was overkill.

According to the Penn State Center for Turfgrass, (http://plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/turf/extension/factsheets/calculations-turfgrass-fertil...) a 50# bag of fertilizer will cover 13,200 sq. ft. The entire bag in the area is 33 times more than what should have been applied. I suspect that with this bag of fertilizer in the soil, there is now an additional sodium/salt/sodic problem that needs to be dealt with. I would recommend a soil test to see how high the salts are and what can be done to alleviate it.

In addition, if he tilled in the turfgrass seed, it is probably buried too deep to sprout. Turf seed is just like any other seed, it only needs to be planted the depth of 2-3 times the width of the seed, which for turfgrass is sprinkled on the soil and barely raked in.

For new lawn seedings, I would recommend adding an aged compost into the soil. Manures would not be recommended at this time since he added the fertilizer and there may be additional salts in the manures. Sprinkle the lawn seed on top of the amended, raked soil, then rake the seed into the soil (not very deep). We don't recommend putting straw on top after seeding, as the seeds need light to germinate. The newly seeded lawn also needs light watering at least once a day in order for the seeds to germinate as well.