Most all Lawn Care items fall into one of the following categories. From Establishment to Mowing or Watering. We will follow the example of a new lawn being established and cared for over the course of a season and list the things that may need to be done. We can’t cover every single item that there is possible to be done to a lawn here for lack of time and space, however, if you don’t find it here you will find it in our Lawn Care Manual or Sprinkler System Installation Manual that you can order elsewhere on this site. Let’s start with Establishing Turfgrass.
Turfgrass can be established a variety of ways. The method you choose will be determined by the situation your lawn is in. Do you have a new construction? An existing lawn that is thin and rough? A fair lawn that is just a little thin? Depending on what condition your lawn is in will determine where to start. Let’s say you have a lawn that is in fair condition but needs thickened up. An easy way to do this is to Aerate and overseed. An aerator is a machine that will poke a hole in the ground (thousands of them actually) and remove a core of soil and leave it laying on the surface. These are called core aerators. Some aerators will simply push a spike into the ground creating a hole, this type is not as good. To start with, mow your grass as low as you can safely, don’t throw rocks and dig dirt with the mower, but get it down to about 1″ high.
This will stunt the grass and slow it’s growth allowing the new grass that you will seed to get started with limited competition from the existing grass. After mowing take an aerator, rent one, buy one or borrow one, and go over the entire lawn at least twice. Depending on the model you use, the aerator will poke holes every 2 to 8 inches apart. I like to be able to look down at the lawn at any point and not see spots that don’t have holes larger than 6″. If you have a spot larger than 6″ without holes in it, you won’t have very much grass come up in that spot, so go over the lawn as many times as it takes to be sure you have holes everywhere.
Once your done aerating, spread your seed. The amount of seed you use is important. If you don’t use enough you won’t get the desired results. Professionally, we use 350# per acre for lawns. Divided out per thousand square feet that is 8# per thousand square feet. This brings up an important point, measure the square footage of your lawn accurately and write it down. Every thing you do in lawn care will ask for how large the lawn is. Spread the seed with a spreader of any type, do not use your hand and just throw it around, you won’t get even coverage. Spread the seed using half of the required amount spreading it in one direction, use the other half spreading the opposite direction creating a cross hatch pattern on the lawn. This way you are assured of getting even coverage.
After spreading the seed take a drag of any type, a piece of chain link fence, a board with a rope tied to it, or what ever you can drag behind your mower. Drag the lawn, this will push and drag seed into the holes you created and break up the little plugs of soil that the aerator left on the ground, it will cover up most of the seed giving much better germination and a thicker lawn. After dragging, spread a starter fertilizer, this can be done first if you want, it really doesn’t matter. A starter fertilizer has a higher middle number than first and last numbers. (More Phosphate) For complete explanation on what the numbers mean on fertilizer bags, how they affect grass and what micro-nutrients grass also needs, refer to our Lawn Care Manual. You will need to put down 8 pounds per thousand square feet of a 6-12-12 or 4 pounds per K of a 6-24-24. This will give the ground the nutrients needed to germinate and start a turf lawn, thus the name “starter fertilizer”. After about a month the new grass will start to yellow off some or maybe turn pale green, this is showing you that it is time to fertilize again. Apply 6# per K of 15-15-15 this will provide the nitrogen for green and growth and phosphate and potash for root growth and overall vigor. After the grass is about 3 weeks old you should be able to start mowing. CUT IT HIGH!!! Refer to the section on mowing for more. Fertilizing will also need to be done on a regular schedule. Refer to Fertilizing for a complete schedule.
If you have a new home and this is the first lawn a few things are different. Mainly you will have to do clean up and get the proper grade before working on seeding. Once this is done you will have to till up the ground to make a soft seed bed. After tilling fertilize, and seed just as described above using the same amount of seed. After this you will have to cover the entire lawn with straw. Shake out straw to cover approximately 50% of the soil from view. After done you should be able to look down and still see about half of the soil showing through the straw, no more. This equates to about 100 bales per acre. After your done strawing it’s time to start watering. Soak the lawn until runoff the first watering, followed by daily waterings of sufficient length to keep the soil wet. If it dries out, the seed won’t germinate.
Fertilizing the grass does more than just make it green. Of course it will make it grow too, but lot’s of things happen when you fertilize. Going back to our establishment, fertilizer makes the seed germinate faster, and get started out of the ground. After the grass has a good start fertilizer will make the grass get thicker send off Rhizomes, Stolons or Tillers all making the grass thicker and healthier. What most people want to know is how much and when. Simply put, most grasses will benefit from four applications of fertilizer per year. Spread out 60 days apart starting in early spring approximately 30 days before the growing season starts in your area, continuing through the growing season until fall. Spring fertilizing gets the grass off to a fast start giving you that rich green color everyone wants. A word of warning though, don’t use too much fertilizer, follow the listed guidelines on the bag, or these generic instructions. Too much fertilizer will cause excess growth, lead to Fungus growth and weaken the grass.
Controlling weeds in a new or existing lawn is vital to the health and overall appearance of the lawn. A beautiful smooth lawn gets most of it’s good looks from the fact that it is smooth and level with no weeds sticking up above the turf. You have probably mowed your lawn before only to have dandelions popping up above the grass a day later making it look like you need to mow already. A weed free lawn holds it’s good looks for several days if the grass is a monoculture with uniform growing heights.
Mowing is the most misunderstood part of lawn care, and the most often incorrectly performed part of lawn care. Far too many people will set their mowers too low or “scalp” the lawn. This leads to thin and dying out grass, shallow root systems, and in the long run, NO GRASS.
Once you have achieved the perfect lawn, after hundreds or thousands of dollars on Renovating or installing a lawn, it just doesn’t make sense to let it go back to being a pasture from lack of watering or other maintenance that needs to be done. Spend a little time and money and keep it watered and you will keep the lush grass you spent your hard earned money and time on. The Ideal way to water your lawn is with an Automatic Underground Sprinkler System. This way the watering is done every day that it needs it, you don’t have to drag hoses, you don’t waste water from overwatering, you get all of the lawn watered, not just where you happen to set the sprinkler. How many times have you started the sprinkler then forgot to move it? This wastes water and over waters some parts of the lawn while other parts may never get water because it’s too far to drag a hose to. Another common problem in hand watering is that you can only run one or two sprinklers at a time. If you have a very large lawn this could take all day to water. Automatic systems will water when you program the system to come on, once a day, every other day, once a week, your choice for what needs to be watered. Also, shrubbery and annuals need to be watered separate from the lawn. If you applied the same amount of water on your landscape as gets put on the lawn you would surely kill some plants from overwatering. An automatic system waters landscape plants on their own zone at the times they need it, even multiple times per day for tender annuals like impatiens.