Establishing A New Lawn By Seed
When establishing a new lawn by seed (in the case that the entire area is bare ground), it is an excellent time to correct any existing problems. Whether it is drainage, soil pH, soil fertility, or lack of top soil problems, this is the time (before you plant the grass seed) when it will be the easiest to correct. Survey the site by walking over the area and make note of any potential problem areas that will need to be addressed prior to seeding.
The first step is to have the soil tested. Most local Cooperative Extensions provide sample kits and testing for a minimal fee. This will determine which nutrients are available in the soil and will provide liming and fertilization recommendations.
Any perennial broad leaf or grassy weeds should be eliminated prior to seeding by properly applying a non-selective herbicide. Be sure to follow directions on the herbicide label and check for any restrictions in regards to seeding.
Installation of Irrigation and Drainage
An irrigation system or drainage system, if needed, should be installed prior to top soil preparation. An automatic irrigation system can ease the chore of watering your lawn during the hot, dry summer months. It is also more precise in directing water where you want it and saves water by preventing runoff on hard surfaces such as walkways and driveways. The most commonly used drainage systems are created by connecting existing downspouts from your home to pipes and running them underground, away from the foundation of your home. This can help with both watering your lawn and preventing water and mold damage to your home.
Soil Tillage and Grading
Completely till the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches (watching for buried wires and pipes) where: the soil compaction is severe, large amounts of phosphorus or lime are recommended, surface drainage is inadequate or the soil is to be amended. The grade should slope away from buildings and the area should be allowed to settle through two or more rains before planting. Low spots where water collects should be filled with additional soil.
Turf grasses do not perform well in acidic soils. Lime recommendations will be made from the soil test. The lime should be tilled into the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. If soil tests indicate low available magnesium levels, dolomitic limestone should be applied. We recommend Espoma Lightning Lime. A 30 lb. bag will cover up to 5000 square feet; 5 times the coverage of regular dolomitic limestone.
When applying the fertilizer recommended in the soil test, it is beneficial to till in two thirds of the amount to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. The remaining one third should be applied to the surface just prior to seeding, lightly raked into the soil. If no additional fertilizer was added as a result of the soil testing, it is best to apply a starter fertilizer such as Scott’s Turf Builder Starter Fertilizer, which will increase the speed and rate of seed germination.
Prepare a smooth, firm seedbed. Remove any large rocks, roots, sticks or other debris from the area you are seeding. The planting area should be smooth and at your desired grade. Distribute the seed evenly. One way to do this is to apply half the seed with your spreader in one direction and then turn at a right angle and apply the remaining seed over the same area in a perpendicular direction. Lightly cover the seed by raking. Good seed-to-soil contact is critical for maximum germination. If at all possible, the seedbed should then be rolled. Mulch the area with straw or better yet, EZ-Seed Seed Mulch with Tack. It will help protect germinating seeds from hot sun, drying winds and birds, as well as preventing some weeds.
New seedlings require frequent watering to ensure constant surface moisture for 30 days following planting. On hot days, several light waterings may be required.
New Lawn Maintenance
Begin mowing the new lawn when the grass is one-third taller than the intended mowing height. Be sure the mower blades are sharp. Avoid excess traffic on a newly seeded lawn until it is mature. Weed control may be necessary, but do not apply herbicides to new lawns until they have been mowed at least twice or per the herbicide recommendations on its label.