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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's time for a lawn renovation; here's a how-to

Advertiser Staff

It's time to think about getting into a regular yard routine. If your lawn has become thick and spongy, now is a perfect time to do some renovation by verticutting, aerating and putting down a top dressing of compost. With proper follow-up of fertilization, irrigation and mowing, your lawn will re-establish in several weeks.

Now is also the time to start a complete lawn makeover. In this case, don't skip the most important part of establishing a new lawn thorough planting bed preparation.

I have covered this topic several times in previous articles, but here is a fast review:

• Get a soil analysis, and in the meantime kill off all existing vegetation with several applications of a non-selective herbicide such as Roundup.

• Add a few inches of compost if the soil is either heavy clay or very sandy.

• Rototill to a depth of 5 or 6 inches, and fertilize based on the soil analysis. Smooth out by raking and let settle or lightly roll with a lawn roller.

It's a good idea to wait for another week or so before planting. This will give time for any new weeds to come up, and one more application of Roundup if necessary. The best time to lessen future weed problems is during the soil preparation.

Depending on the kind of turf grass you are planting, you have the option of planting by seed or by vegetative methods.

Until recently, there have been only a few high-quality seeded warm-season turf grasses available primarily centipede grass and the lower-quality common Bermuda grass. High-quality hybrid Bermuda varieties, zoysia, seashore paspalum and St. Augustine all required vegetative planting by sod, stolons or sprigs, which is more expensive and time-consuming than seed.

In the past several years, however, this has begun to change, and greatly improved seeded varieties of Bermuda grass have been developed.

Riviera Bermuda grass is an improved seeded variety that has outperformed all others during the last five years of national Bermudagrass trials, including the very popular hybrids Tifsport and Tifway. Riviera has excellent color, drought tolerance and wear tolerance and it establishes within eight to 10 weeks.

Another high-performing seeded Bermuda variety is Princess 77, which is a little slower to establish and lighter green, but forms a low-growing, dense lawn. Both should be frequently mowed with a reel mower at a mowing height of less than one inch.

Greatly improved seeded paspalum varieties are Sea Spray and Ocean Spray. They are reported to be very similar to the popular vegetative Sea Shore paspalum. Both germinate in 10 to 15 days with proper watering and soil prep and are fully established within 8 to 9 weeks. Both should be mowed at one inch or less and show the same salt tolerance as Sea Shore.

The seeded zoysia grasses have not yet reached the high quality of El Toro or Z3. However, the seeded Zenith zoysia makes an acceptable substitute. It tends to be clumpier and does not give the smooth finished look of the other two vegetative varieties.

Common seeded centipede grass remains the preferred standard for centipede lawns in Hawai'i. Other seeded varieties are being introduced, but so far they have not been tested enough to be well evaluated.

St. Augustine grass seed is not available in Hawai'i.

Seed for Princess 77 is available in Hawai'i only at Crop Production Services (formerly UAP).

For information about all other grass seeds mentioned in this article, contact Susan Owen at Ko'olau Seed: 239-1280.