Now is the time to be seeding a lawn, but in some communities water restrictions and bans are preventing homeowners and lawn care professionals from renovating/reseeding damaged lawns following this summer’s drought. August 15 to September 15 is considered to be the optimum time to seed cool-season lawns in Indiana. This optimum window is slightly longer in southern Indiana until about September 30. The reasons why this window is optimum for establishment is because 1) soil and air temperatures are warm which promotes faster seed germination, 2) few weeds germinate at the end of the summer and 3) this seeding date allows for maximum plant development and root growth prior to the next summer’s hot, dry conditions. All of these factors should improve long term turf survival. Aside from improving the appearance of the lawn, seeding lawns now will help turf reestablish thin and bare areas to reduce potential soil erosion, especially in newly established/constructed areas.
While turf can be established in the spring from seed, spring seeded lawns often perform poorly in the summer because 1) weeds like crabgrass also germinate in the spring and compete with turf seedlings, and 2) turf planted in the spring is shallow rooted at the start of summer and requires additional summer watering to keep spring seeded areas from succumbing to summer heat and drought. Thus, fall is the best time to seed a lawn and establish a lawn to reduce future watering needs and reduce erosion.
While water restrictions in Noblesville were lifted recently a water ban still exists in the city of Bloomington and the City of Indianapolis including Marion County and its surrounding communities.
The City of Bloomington and the City of Indianapolis water bans prohibit installing sod in damaged areas and new construction. While the optimum planting window for sod is slightly longer than the seeding window, early fall is still the best time to install sod. This helps promote long-term survival and fall rooting which in turn will reduce watering needs the following summer.
The City of Bloomington and the City of Indianapolis water ban does allow for watering new sod and newly seeded grasses, but only if these areas were installed prior to the watering bans going into effect. We would encourage the City of Bloomington and the City of Indianapolis to consider allowing exemptions this fall for planting seed or sod in turf areas damaged by this summer’s drought. This will help long-term turf survival, reduce soil erosion, and reduce 2013 watering needs.
The Bloomington water ban does excempt some businesses included golf courses (only greens, tees, and fairways) and nurseries. Both bans also allow watering of athletic fields to help keep these areas safe for athletes by reducing soil surface hardness and maintaining actively growing turf. The City of Indianapolis watering restrictions do restrict athletic field watering to Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays sometime between the hours of 9 pm and 6 am for athletic fields with sports in season.
Drs. Aaron Patton and Cale Bigelow, Purdue Turfgrass Scientists