How to Plant, Grow and Care for a new Grass Lawn
The condition and type of the soil under the grass is the most important element to the overall health of your lawn. In situations where you are putting in a new lawn you will have ample opportunity to prepare the soil before the grass is planted. It is a good idea to have the soil tested before establishing your new lawn. The soil test report gives the type and
amount of fertilizer to apply for your lawn. This fertilizer (and lime, if required) should be worked into the top four to six
inches of your soil. Once your lawn is established it is hard to do much to improve the soil at the root level.
Proper preparation of the soil is the first step in attaining a healthy lawn. The soil should be tilled thoroughly, either by a mechanical tiller or digging down a spades depth over the entire area. If you've added topsoil to your yard, you will want to be certain that it is well mixed in with the soil underneath. Otherwise it is possible that the roots of your lawn may not penetrate the native soil. If the tilth of the soil is very heavy or sandy, organic material such as peat moss, compost, sludge or even sawdust should be added. (If sawdust is added to the soil it is wise to add extra high nitrogen fertilizer to compensate for the nitrogen loss that is caused by the composting of the sawdust.)
Test and Adjust Your Soil pHMost lawn grasses do well in mildly acid soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5, preferably about 6.5. You need to decide what type of lawn grass you want to grow, according to your climate, soils, and what the lawn will be used for. Your local nurseries or agricultural agency will be able to help you with this decision. Once this choice is made, you can prepare your soil accordingly.
If the soil test shows high acidity, ground limestone should be added at a rate of 50-100 pounds for each pH point below 7 per every 1000 sq. ft. of lawn.
If the test shows alkaline soil (above pH 8.0) on the other hand, sulfer should be added at a rate of 20 pounds for every 1000 sq. ft. of surface area. Add any other fertilizers which were recommended by the soil test. The soil should then be well tilled again to mix in these added components.
The soil is now ready to be raked smooth, filling low spots and removing the humps and breaking up the larger clumps as you go.
Phosphorus is slow to be absorbed into the soil, and next to impossible to introduce to the root zone once the lawn is in, so now is the time to mix some superphosphate into the top few inches of the soil. Use a cultivator to mix it in at a rate of 50 pounds per 1000 sq. ft
Using a steel garden rake, create a finished grade sloped slightly away from the house. Use this oportunity to create very shallow channels to deal with any runoff problems you are aware of and to move water runoff away from the house. Level the soil to avoid any low spots where water may stand, or high spots that could cause the future lawn to be 'scalped' when you mow.
If you are planning to install an automatic sprinkler system, now is your last, best time to get it in place!
Roll the entire lawn bed with a roller (available from rental centers) to firm it up, then water it lightly to settle the area.
There are three common methods for planting your new lawn, seeding sod, and by plugs. The most cost effective method is by seeding, but this is a slow process. If you are looking for an instant lawn, sod is your answer.
Planting a New Lawn with SeedsThe best time to seed lawns is from late summer until early fall (August 15 to September 20) while the soil is still warm (faster germination), watering will not be as much of a problem, there will be fewer weed problems, and the cool season grasses in the mix will have a better chance of getting established.
The best and most even results are usually achieved using a 'whirlybird' hand crank operated seed spreader. Sow ¼ of your seed (at ¼ the recommended rate) to the entire lawn area. Repeat three more applications like this, each in a different direction. Rake the seed lightly into the surface of the soil using a bamboo or fan rake. (Barely brush the seed under the surface of the soil.)
Roll the entire lawn surface with an empty lawn roller to set the seed in good contact with the soil. Water the entire area thoroughly with a fine mist.
Once the seed is planted, make sure that the soil is kept evenly moist until germination.
After the seeds germinate, you can water more heavily but less frequently. DO NOT OVER WATER and do not use a strong spray. You don't want to drown the seeds, nor do you want to wash them away. Water will continue to be a prime concern for your new lawn. About one inch of water per week (rainfall plus irrigation) will be required until your lawn is well established. You may mow a newly seeded turf when the grass is 2 1/2-3 inches tall. Use a SHARP mower so the grass is cut cleanly, and the plants are not pulled out of the ground. Do not cut the grass too short, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches is a good height for a first cut. After the first mowing you can apply a high nitrogen, turf fertilizer (23-4-6) at one-half the application rate recommended on the bag. Water immediately to prevent possible foliar burn.
Planting a New Sod LawnSod is quite a bit more expensive than seeding but it does have the big advantage of giving you an instant lawn, with far less headaches. Sod also has the advantage that it can be installed any month of the year. Special care must be taken during the hot months of the summer to insure the new sod lawn receives adequate water! Be certain that the sod you buy is fresh and viable. It should be slightly moist, green, and a minimum of ¾" to an inch thick. Lift up a piece by the end. If the sod is in good condition it will hold together tightly.
Planting a Lawn with Plugs and SprigsPlugs and sprigs are primarily used for planting smaller lawn areas and are commonly used in warmer regions of the country. They are small sections or pieces of container grown grass, usually consisting of hybrid Bermudas, Zoysia or St. Augustine grasses.
Prepare the area as you would for a lawn bed or any other perennial planting area. Plant the plugs in the soil spaced about every six to twelve inches apart so that they will spread and fill in to form an entire lawn. Firm the soil around the roots. Water immediately after planting, and then every other day, to ensure that the soil remains moist. The lawn will begin to fill in during the first month and by the end of the second month, you will be ready to mow.
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