The most critical factor in your newly seeded lawn is water. Water softens the exterior ends of the seeds and allows the germination process to begin. The ideal germination conditions for optimum development are warm and moist soil.
What’s the right amount of water?
- The rule of thumb is … whatever it takes to keep the soil moist, without puddling, until the grass is established.
- Immediately after seeding, water 3 – 4 times per day for five minutes per time (this may have to be adapted depending on when your lawn is installed and the prevailing weather conditions.)
- Two days prior to your first mowing, reduce watering to once per day for five minutes. When your lawn has been established and you are mowing once a week, water every other day for 10 to 20 minutes (see your notes regarding the type of irrigation sprinkler heads installed on your property).
What happens if you over-water?
- Too much water will cool off the seed and slow the germination process. Or it will wash the seed away, leaving bare spots when the lawn starts to establish itself.
What happens if you under-water?
- If there is too little water applied or you miss a day of watering, the lawn will dry out and die.
When’s the best time to water?
- Early morning is the optimum time to get the best soil penetration and minimal fungal problems. If that is not convenient, the second best time to water is in the early evening.
- Refrain from watering in the heat of the day.
When to mow for the first time?
- Cut your new lawn for the first time when it is about 3 inches high.
- Be sure to cut it high, leaving the grass 2″ to 2 1/2″ in length.
- Don’t be worried if your lawn seems thin in spots on this first cutting. This is a common occurrence in newly seeded lawns and it will fill in the more you cut and fertilize.
- In the first few mowings, be sure there is only a minimum amount of grass in the catcher at any time to avoid adding weight to the mower and leaving tracks in the grass. When the lawn is established, you can have a full catcher of grass without causing a problem.
- Regular mowing after lawn is established. Maintain regular mowing after lawn is established. After the third cutting, maintain a cut height of 1 1/2″ to 2″ with weekly mowings.
When to fertilize?
- Begin applying fertilizer after your third mowing or once the lawn is established.
- Fertilize your lawn every five to six weeks from late February through early November.
- Your November fertilizing will be your winter feeding that will help your lawn get through the cold months without a lot of growth.
What kind of fertilizer to use?
- Choose a “slow release” fertilizer, as your lawn requires a high quality balanced food to maintain a healthy vigorous growth.
- Avoid the quick fix “junk food” fertilizers with ammonia nitrate.
- At least two weeks prior to your first spring fertilization (approx. mid-February) apply 25 lbs. of dolomite lime per thousand square feet. Lime is very important for the well being of your lawn as it allows the roots to utilize the micronutrients that are naturally available in the soil and water. The dolomite lime comes in granular form like fertilizer, so you can use your fertilizer spreader to apply the lime to your lawn.
- After three to four years, your new lawn will naturally begin to compact, actually acting like your roof, preventing water and nutrients from reaching down to the total depth of the root zone of your lawn.
Weed Lawn Care
What’s blowing in the wind?
- The excellent grass seedbed you have planted is also a perfect home for all the weeds blowing in the wind.
- CAUTION: Even though you may want to remove the weeds because of their appearance, do not apply any weed control until after the third mowing.
- Your lawn needs to mature, so it can withstand the herbicide you use for weed control. It’s really the same idea for all of us … the healthier we are, the easier it is to fend off a cold or the flu. Our lawns are the same.
- Maintaining a good, consistent fertilization program will insure a healthy stand of grass and make you the envy of your neighbors.
Sod Lawn Care
- Sod lawns require the same general care: watering, fertilization, mowing, and liming as a seed lawn. Upon installation, a new sod lawn will require frequent watering until it starts growing and is in need of mowing. Initially, you must keep it continuously moist (see water directions above). This is critical if the lawn is installed in the hottest, driest part of the summer or fall. Make sure seams are not allowed to dry out. Keep this watering schedule until you can see signs of growth and are able to mow it in 1 to 2 weeks. Reduce the watering before you mow to allow the ground to firm up a bit. If a sodded area gets too much shade, it will gradually thin out. This thinning will require some over-seeding. Select a grass seed suitable for shadier areas such as a fine fescue. Follow directions on the seed package for the rate of application and any mulching and watering needed. Thinning can also occur if the grass is allowed to grow too long.
- One other word, be sure to keep to a consistent mowing schedule.
Four key tips to remember
- Be sure not to walk on your newly sodded lawn – and if you have a dog or other large animal, they should stay off, too.
- Keep the soil moist until the grass is established.
- Wait until your lawn is 3″ high before your first mowing.
- Apply a slow release fertilizer after the third mowing.