An excellent turf grass suitable for lawns and high traffic areas, Kentucky bluegrass is used for sports fields, picnic areas, parks and other public places. Lawn establishment is accomplished by either seeding or laying sod over well-prepared ground. Seeded lawns produce thick, healthy stands of grass when sown in their preferred environment and soil conditions. Along with pest and weed control, adequate irrigation techniques will result in a thick, healthy stand of Kentucky bluegrass.
Seeding Kentucky Bluegrass
Early spring is the best time of year for seeding Kentucky bluegrass, with late August to mid-September being the next best time. The seed rate for establishment of new lawns is 2 to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet, spread with a broadcast spreader to achieve an even distribution of seed. Annual ryegrass or fescue is often mixed with the bluegrass to provide a quicker green-up while allowing the bluegrass to germinate, which can take up to two months. Cover the seed with 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch of soil and keep the area moist until it is established.
The seedbed should be free of weeds, firm, smooth and well drained. Till amendments into the soil at the rate established by a soil analysis specific for Kentucky bluegrass propagation. Submit a quart of the soil to the local extension service for an assessment of its suitability. The extension office might recommend supplements for Kentucky bluegrass to thrive.
Ideal Growing Conditions
Moist growing conditions and cool weather are ideal for Kentucky bluegrass. Though it will tolerate short flooding conditions, average rainfalls around 18 inches are best. The optimum temperature for Kentucky bluegrass is in the range of 60 to 80 degrees F. At temperatures greater than 80 degrees and in freezing temperatures it will go into dormancy but will recover when the preferred temperature returns.
Maintenance of Kentucky Bluegrass
Mowing height for Kentucky bluegrass lawns is 3/4 to 1 inch high. A lawn should be mowed often enough to maintain this height without cutting off more than 1/3 of its length in a single mowing. For best results, lawns should be fertilized three times per year in March, June and August. Approximately six pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per year should be applied with other amendments as identified by the soil test results.
Adequate irrigation is important to the health and subsequent rich color of Kentucky bluegrass. It should be watered when the upper 2 inches of the soil are dry and crumbles readily. Watering deep and infrequently once a lawn is well established is best. Allow moisture to soak into the soil evenly down 10 to 12 inches to force the lawn roots to grow deeper in search of moisture. This will produce a more drought tolerant and disease resistant lawn.
Disease and Pest Management
Weeds such as clover, crabgrass and dandelions are major invaders of Kentucky bluegrass. Pre-emergent herbicides applied at the appropriate time of year are the best methods of preventing such weeds. In addition, a lawn should be routinely monitored for insect activity from grub worms, webworms and billbugs, whose activities can destroy large sections of a bluegrass lawn. When insect activity is discovered, insecticides meant specifically for such insects should be applied.