For your lawn or turfgrass seed to germinate and grow into a beautiful lawn it needs just four basic things: Sunlight (warmth), Air, Water, Soil (with nutrients) and of course the proper balance of each is needed.
Best Time To Plant
Generally the best time to plant a lawn from seed is when the temperatures are best for rapid seed germination and rapid grass plant growth. For cool season grasses used in the northern latitude of the U.S. that includes the period from about May 1st to June 15th in the spring and again from Aug.15th to Sept 15th in the fall. Planting earlier in the spring usually does little good because the seed will not germinate until the soil is warm enough. Planting to late in the fall risks freezing and if planting in the heat of the summer is possible but it is difficult to keep the soil wet for seed germination.
Weed Control – Tough perennial grass, or broadleaf weeds should be killed with herbicides. Non-selective products like Roundup kill all weeds including broadleaf and grasses. It is safe to plant your grass seed within 7-14 days after spraying these products. If spraying broadleaf weeds with a broadleaf weed killer like 2,4-D you must wait 6 weeks after spraying before you plant your grass seed so you do not injure your new grass with residual herbicide in the soil. Most annual weeds can be killed when you till your soil. Most all soil has some weed seed in it that will germinate and grow with your new grass but the grass plants in combination with a broadleaf herbicide almost always take care of them.
Ruff Grading/Soil Preparation – Remove any debris, rocks, etc. from the planting area. Grade the area so it is contoured to your landscaping plan. Bring in any fill dirt needed to get the desired contours or slope. Add good topsoil as needed to make sure all areas to be planted to grass have a minimum of 4-6 inches of good topsoil. This is vital, if you do not have good topsoil with the proper nutrients, soil texture and PH your lawn will never be its best. Less than optimum soils can usually be improved with additives. If you have a question on your topsoil quality get it tested. However, most native Intermountain topsoils are OK. If you do need to bring in good topsoil do not be fooled with subsoil that is not topsoil.
Rototilling – Go over the entire area to be planted tilling the area 6-8 inches deep. Do not over-till and destroy the soil structure and turn it to dust. If you desire to add some organic mulch do so but it is often not necessary. Any other possible needed soil amendments can be tilled in at this time.
Sprinkler System – If at all possible a well designed and installed sprinkler system will be a great benefit in your lawn establishment and maintenance for the years to come.
Final Grading – Take your time and move the soil around so you have the exact lawn contour you desire. Remove any remaining rocks or large dirt clumps. Spots you have filled in will settle so roll the entire area with a lawn roller or compactor and re-level the low spots.
Selecting the Best Lawn Grass Species – All lawn grass seed is not the same. A number of species, varieties, mixes and blends are available to meet the needs and desires of various customers and site conditions. Selecting the proper grass seed is extremely important. Stevenson Intermountain Seed Inc. will supply you with expert advice to help you select the right lawn grass seed for you.
Planting – Your soil should be firm but not packed. If you step on your soil you should not sink down more than about 1/2 inch. If you do get a lawn roller or compactor from a rental store and compact your soil to the desired amount.
Determine the number of square feet of space you will be planting. The grass seed you have selected to plant will have a recommended planting rate. An example would be that the recommended plantings rate is 6 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. If you have 6,000 sq. ft. of space you want to plant you will need 36 lbs. of grass seed. Purchase a little extra to fill in any spots you miss or that do not establish well.
The seed needs to be distributed evenly over the entire area. A drop-type seed applicator on wheels is best but a hand held broadcast seeder will work also. Seeding should not be done on a windy day, as the wind will blow your seed around. In order to get the seed spread evenly and reduce possible missed spots calibrate your seed spreader to only use 1/2 of the amount of seed and go over the entire area twice. First, traveling one direction (say north to south) using 1/2 the seed and the second time traveling in the opposite direction (east to west). After the seed has been spread onto the soil lightly rake the seed into the top 1/8-1/4 inch of the soil. Do not plant it to deep. If a fair amount of seed is still on the surface after raking that is ok. Next use a lawn roller or compactor and go over the entire planted area to compress the seed firmly into the soil.
Fertilizing – When planting your seed fertilizing with the seed is optional and not needed usually but will help with latter growth. If you do spread fertilizer with your seed use a light application of standard lawn fertilizer.
Mulch – Applying a thin layer (1/8-1/4 inch) of an organic mulch material over the seed is usually very beneficial in helping keep your soil moist while your seed is germinating. Be careful not to use something like straw for mulch as it may have undesirable weed seed in it. Also, do not put more than 1/4 inch of mulch. Mulching is not absolutely necessary but keeping your seedbed moist while the seed is germinating is necessary.
Watering – This is a critical step in getting your lawn established. In order for your seed to germinate and begin to grow it must be kept moist. Depending on the species of lawn grass and the soil temperature this process will usually take between 10-21 days. During this time your lawn should be watered 3-4 times a day but only for about 10-15 minutes each time so the top ½ inch of soil remains wet. The first time watering may take a little longer on your dry soil. After your lawn becomes fairly well established you can cut back to 2 times a day and for a longer duration as to promote the plants root growth deeper into the soil.
After Your Lawn is Established.
Watering – Different lawn grass species require different amounts of water as does different soil textures affects the amount of water needed. How hot the climate is and how much rainfall comes all factors in to how much you will have to water your grass to keep it green. Usually it is best to water less frequent but for longer duration so the water penetrates 6-8 inches down to the deep roots. Do not over water but all grass needs water to stay green. Watering in the night is best to minimize evaporation.
Fertilizers – To keep your lawn at its best requires a good fertilizer. Again the amount depends on your grass species and other factors. An application after your lawn becomes established is recommended and then 2-3 application per year. A good lawn fertilizer of nitrogen-potassium and phosphorus (e.g. 24-4-12) should be used. Do not over fertilize.
Weed Control – Most new lawns will have some weeds in them. Usually from the fact that most soil has weed seed in it. Usually this is no problem. As your lawn establishes and thickens it will crowd most weeds out over time. Also a broadleaf weed killer can be used to speed up the process but wait until your lawn is well established before a herbicide is used to prevent injury to a young lawn. In some cases a pre-emergent weed herbicide may be useful after a lawn is established to control crab grass or other weeds.
Insects or Lawn Disease – Brown or dead spots that may develop in your lawn that are not because of lack of water may be from insect or disease damage. Usually a professional will be needed to prescribe the best treatment.
Mowing – The height a lawn should be mowed or can be mowed varies with the species of lawn grass. Some species can be mowed to a short ½-3/4 inch and still do ok as others need to be left longer up to 2-3 inches. Generally longer lawns take less water. If you use a sharp blade on your mower it will make a clean cut on your grass and look better. Generally it is recommended that you mow your lawn often enough that you are mowing 1/3 of its growth off. So if you like a 2 ½ inch lawn mow it when it gets 3 ½ inches long.
Do not mow your lawn the first time until it is well established and make sure your soil is dry so you do not make wheel ruts.
Mulching Mowers – If you mow your lawn often enough mulching mowers work good and the clippings can be beneficial to the soil up to a point. If you bag your clippings try to compost them and not fill up the local landfill.
Dethaching – Some lawns build up a thick thatch that prevents water and nutrients from entering the soil. If this is the case with your lawn dethaching is very beneficial.
Aerating – Can also help water and nutrients get to the roots as well as reduce soil compaction and promote new root growth.
After all your hard work you can enjoy a beautiful, luxiourious lawn that will be the envy of your neighborhood.
Disclaimer: The above recommendation are based on the best information available but they do not guarantee a perfect lawn. Some unforeseen events or conditions that cannot be controlled may occur or be present that will affect the out come of your lawn. Because of this Stevenson Intermountain Seed Inc. makes no guarantee for the results of these recommendations.