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Sod or seed: either way will treat bare spots

Tracey FitzgibbonQ: My small fescue lawn has developed several bare spots this year. I have checked and treated for grubs. My question is – would now a good time to get grass to grow in those spots? – S.L., Albuquerque

A: I feel confident that with the distinct change in the weather of late that yes, you could repair the bare spots in your lawn. Mostly you can expect, as long as you invest your time and consistent effort in it, great success, too!

You have two choices as to how you’ll complete this type of project. One, cutting pieces of sod to fit the spot or spreading seed. The size of the “spots” might decide how you want to proceed. Sod can be ungainly to handle but when you finish you have instant green lawn. If you choose to seed, you are married to the care daily for the next several weeks. But either way you choose it is a good time to repair your lawn.

First I’d want you to clear the spots of any dead grass, getting the spots down to clean earth.

Next be sure to bring the soil level up to the existing “grade” of the surrounding lawn. Filling and leveling these spots with top soil would work perfectly. Spread the top soil on the spot and tamp it down. Gently water the spots to settle the added top soil.

Next cut the sod to “fit” the space you’re filling. Use a tool called a sod knife or if you have a serrated knife in the kitchen that you would be OK to use. Cut a piece of sod that will fill the spot making sure there is no gap between the plug and the existing lawn. Measure twice, cut once!

(Please be sure to dress appropriately too and be safe! Don’t wear shorts and flip-flops while doing the chore!)

Just before you set the newly cut plug down barely rough up the tamped, dampened soil, and sprinkle the spot with New Lawn Starter. You want it barely roughed up so the sod pieces’ roots are more able to grab and grow into the soil. Then unceremoniously trod on the newly set sod repairs. Sounds cruel but you need to get the sod firmly “in touch” with the ground below it.

Finally water. Keep the spots wet. Daily for at least 10 days use the hose and get the repairs thoroughly wet. Don’t allow the repairs to dry in the least.

If you choose to seed instead of cut in sod then the processes are a lot alike. Clean, fill, and tamp the spots with your top soil being very sure to get the spot “to grade.” Don’t be shy when filling the spot since it’ll settle a bit.

Next dampen and gently rough up the spot, sprinkle the “New Lawn Starter” and sprinkle your seed. As soon as the seed is spread, cover it with enough top soil so you can’t see it anymore. Now don’t go burying it, just cover lightly but completely.

Once more walk on the spots to “cement” the seed below the cover layer to the ground. Lastly, gently sprinkle the spots with water. OK, with all that done you are now “Married”!

You will need to keep the newly seeded spots damp. Not soggy wet but nonetheless, damp. If the seed dries out, even once, during the germination process, it’s toast! All your hard work and the investment will be for naught. Be faithful with the consistent dampening, even if you need do it twice a day, and soon the seed will sprout and by the end of November you should have a lawn that is full and healthy!

Happy Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103, or to