So, you’ve just bought a new home and that bare front yard is ready to become a lush green carpet of grass. Maybe you have a lawn that was decimated by a brutal winter, or maybe you just want to thicken a weakened lawn. No matter what the reason, you know you want to start putting down some grass seed and see a gorgeous sea of green in your yard. So, what are the steps you should take to ensure that you end up with the lawn of your dreams?
Test and Prep Your Soil:
Whether you’re over-seeding an existing lawn or starting from scratch, the first step in creating a perfect lawn is preparing your soil. Take a walk around the area that you have designated for your lawn, removing any debris and filling in any divots or low spots by evening out the soil with the back of a rake, or adding new top soil when necessary. This is also a good time to make sure that your soil is not compacted. The best way to test for soil compaction is to push a shovel into the soil. If it is difficult to push the blade in about halfway, then your soil is compacted and you should aerate it. If you notice that your soil is particularly sandy, which is often the case in this area, you may want to consider amending the soil with a lawn soil or top soil, but this is not always necessary.
Proper soil pH is crucial to the health of your grass. When the soil pH is too low, which is more common in this area, then the turf is unable to properly utilize essential nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. To test your lawn soil, go to multiple spots in the lawn area, 6 or 8 is usually enough, and with a hand trowel dig up a sample from each spot. Mix the collected soil in a bag or container and bring it to us. We’ll test your soil to determine if the pH level is too alkaline, acidic or neutral. If your soil is too acidic, you’ll need to add lime to get the pH to a more neutral level.
Selecting the Right Seed:
Some seed is great for sunny locations, while others will fail if exposed to too much sun, so knowing your sun conditions and selecting the right seed is essential for having a healthy lawn. Lawns that receive 6+ hours of sun per day are getting full-sun and will need a grass that is more sun and drought tolerant. Lawns that are getting less than 4 hours of sun will require a more shade tolerant seed. It’s also important to think about the long-term maintenance of your lawn. Will you be installing an irrigation system, or will you need a seed that can handle potentially long periods of drought in the summer? Is the lawn going to be in a high traffic area where kids and pets play, or is it going to see relatively little foot traffic? All of these factors are important when selecting the right seed for your lawn.
Once you’ve selected the right seed and your soil is properly prepared it’s time to put down the seed. Having good seed-to-soil contact is essential in getting your seed to germinate, so there are different ways of applying seed when you’re over-seeding than when you’re seeding bare soil.
Over-Seeding – If you have an existing lawn that you are thickening up by over-seeding, we recommend that you use a slice seeder rather than a spreader. Slice seeders will put the seed in direct contact with the soil rather than leaving it sitting on top of the existing lawn, where most of it will go to waste.
Seeding Bare Soil – When seeding a new lawn, or filling in bare spots in an existing lawn, the first step is to scratch up the soil. Take a rake and simply drag it across the soil to ensure that the soil is loose. Once the soil is ready, put the seed down with a spreader and press it into the soil. Using a lawn roller makes this task much easier, but for smaller areas you can usually just press it down with your feet.
Once the seed is evenly spread and pressed into the soil it’s time to apply your fertilizer. It’s important to use a fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen, such as Agway Greenlawn Lawn Starter Fertilizer or Jonathan Green Green-Up Lawn Food for Seeding & Sodding. A fertilizer that is too high in nitrogen can burn out the seed. If you care for your lawn organically you can use either an organic starter fertilizer such as, Espoma Lawn Starter, or an all season fertilizer as organic fertilizers have a lower Nitrogen level and will not burn the seed. Be careful not to use a fertilizer that contains weed killer, or a pre-emergent that is not listed for new seed as these will prevent the seed from germinating.
The final step is to water. The top inch of soil needs to stay moist. Seeding in the fall is ideal because the cooler temperatures and fall rains mean that you don’t have to water as frequently, but seeding in the spring can be done effectively if you water properly. Once your lawn has reached a mowing height you can cut back on the watering, but remember that even an established lawn needs to receive the equivalent of 1 inch of rain water per week.
Don’t mow your new lawn until it is about 3 – 4 inches high and remove only the top third when you mow. Mowing high for the first few mowings allows the lawn to thicken and thrive, it also reduces the presence of pesky weeds that can compete for vital nutrients.
Remember, we’re here to help you grow. So from preparing the soil, to selecting the seed and maintaining a healthy lawn our knowledgeable staff can help you every step of the way.