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Giving new life to your drought-damaged lawn.

For children's play, no other outdoor surface matches the comfort and safety of mowed grass. But four dry summers and water rationing have taken their toll on cool-season lawns (bluegrass, fescue, ryegrass) in many parts of the West, turning them into dusty patches of straw-colored stubble. If you're thinking of replanting a drought damaged lawn, September is the month to start. You can take advantage of the last warmth of summer to kill existing grass and weeds, then use the cooler months ahead to establish the new grass. If water is still in short supply after replanting, consider letting the seedbed sit on the chance that winter and spring rainfall will germinate the seed and maintain the seedlings. That's doing it with free water; however, if water is available, you'll get better germination if you sprinkle the seedbed until grass is sprouted and then as needed until the rains take over. You can also plant in spring. By dethatching the old grass and aerating the soil, you eliminate the need to remove the old sod, rotary-till the soil, and do extensive leveling in preparation for replanting, thus cutting down considerably on labor Lind expenses. (If you want to lay sod, it's better to prepare the soil the hard way.) Dethatching and aerating also improve moisture penetration, making the lawn easier to water than if you had just killed the weeds and reseeded. Keep in mind that grass is a high water user. Before you start a new lawn, decide whether you really need one and if you can afford the extra water it will demand every dry season. Make it smaller; use less thirsty grass If you decide to go ahead, look for ways to minimize the lawn area for most activities, 600 to 800 square feet is plenty). The lawn pictured on these pages, in Burlingame, California, is just 500 square feet, enough to serve the, needs of two little girls. Its owner chose to finish off his old bluegrass lawn (and weeds) and replace it with more drought-resistant tall fescue, a deep-rooted grass that can withstand longer periods between waterings. For a 500-square-foot plot, renovating should cost less than $100 All the equipment used to renovate a lawn-dethatcher, aerator, drop spreader, and cage roller is available from rental yards. Unless you have a very large lawn, the cost of equipment rental, herbicide, grass seed, and soil amendment should total less than $100. If the weather is relatively warm, it takes about two weeks to kill a lawn using the herbicide glyphosate (it takes longer in cool weather). If you have tough weeds like Bermuda grass, you might have to apply it twice. Make sure you spray on a windless day and follow the label directions exactly: because glyphosate is a nonselective herbicide, it can kill any plant it touches. Glyphosate doesn't affect seeds that have not germinated, so try watering your dying lawn about 10 days after you spray it. That may cause left-over weed seeds to germinate. You can then pull, hoe, or spot spray the weeds. n
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 1, 1990
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