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Putting in Lawns and Lawn Care

Click here for illustrated info on caring for and planting a lawn


How to grow a lawn

While a small temporary lawn can be started on about any outdoor growing surface, a permanent lawn represents an investment in time and materials.  Planning is the most important step in starting a lawn.  Don't forget to look up!  That little sapling you just planted may  shade the whole area five years from now or be in the way of second base.  Lawns require lots of water so in the long run a rock garden or planted mound may be less expensive.  Choose a sprinkler system that matches you water flow.  Sprinklers can be matched to your water pressure and volume.

Till the entire area to be planted.  Rake the surface smooth and remove rocks and large clods.  With a mattock cut in all water line trenches. Lay out and test the sprinkler system to determine if it will give adequate coverage.  Fill in and rake the surface smooth again.  You can rent a roller which when filled with water compacts and evens out the lawn.  After carefully selecting your lawn seed evenly seed the growing area using a seed broadcaster.  Lightly rake the seeds into the soil with a steel rake.  At this point you can roll out peat moss onto the planted area.  Peat moss holds moisture much better than soil alone and helps create a mat for root development.  You may also want to put a starter fertilizer on your lawn during this stage to stimulate growth.  Don't use weed and feed or high nitrogen based products at this point because they can burn the tender young shoots.  Keep your lawn damp, not flooded, through the germination period.  A light hand watering is best but if impractical use the sprinkler system several times a day until it is obvious there is grass growing.  Back off on the water prior to mowing the first time.  After about a month reseed any trouble spots and check your sprinklers for coverage.


Tips for a healthy lawn

Aerate lawn in spring and fall to help reduce thatch problems.

Add a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of finely screened organic matter annually to enhance soil life under turf.

To recycle nutrients (particularly nitrogen), leave lawn clippings whenever possible.  A thatching blade for your mower will grind up the grass clippings so small that you won't even notice them in your lawn.

When you water, water deeply. Most lawns require about an inch of water per week. Avoid watering daily to prevent shallow root development.

In the spring, mow the lawn short to help stimulate the grass. In the summer and fall, allow your grass to grow higher. This will help shade the lawn and crowd out potential weeds.  In the late fall, lower the height again.

Feed your lawn every fall. Even if you only feed once a year, be sure to feed your lawn in the fall!

Lawn FAQs

How do I plant grass seed?

Start with top-quality grass seed. Work the soil up a little with a rake. If you are overseeding consider using a slicing machine. Evenly sowing larger areas by hand is difficult, so use a spreader. Cover the seeds by raking a little soil over them. Fertilize and mulch only if it's on a hillside. Use very little mulch. Water, water, water.

How often should I fertilize my lawn?

In early spring, apply a fertilizer with a pre-emergent herbicide. About six to eight weeks later in late spring apply a fertilizer with a post-emergent herbicide. In late summer, apply a fertilizer with insect control. In early fall, apply fertilizer to stimulate root growth. In late fall, apply a winterizer fertilizer that builds resistance to the cold and provides nutrients to extend the green period in the fall and green up quicker in the spring.

When is the best time to plant grass?

In late winter or early spring as soon as weather permits. Another good time is around Labor Day.

What is the best way to water a lawn?

Once a week for an extended period (slow watering) rather than more often for shorter periods of time. This allows moisture to go deeper into the soil.

Are lawn mower blades specific to particular mowers?

Yes, you need to know the brand, width of the cut and whether it is a mulching mower. Some blades come with adapter kits that allow them to be used on different brands.

How much ground will lawn fertilizer cover?

Lawn needs are usually based on nitrogen needs and vary from 1 to 6 pounds needed per 1,000 square feet per year. Specific amounts depend on the type of grass. Leaving grass clippings on the lawn usually reduces this number by 1 pound.

I have some bare spots in my lawn. What do you recommend for starting grass growth?

There are lawn patching products that are specifically formulated for these situations. It is a mulch that contains seed and fertilizer. You apply the mulch to the bare spot and keep it watered.

I want to fertilize my lawn and prevent crabgrass, but I just seeded my lawn. What should I use?

There is a product specially formulated as a pre-emergent that prevents crabgrass but allows grass seed to germinate.

What is lawn thatch?

It's a layer of stems and the crowns of dead grass just above the soil. While clippings decompose quickly, thatch decomposes slowly. When it builds up, it creates a problem. Either use a de-thatching machine or a core-aerating machine to fix the problem.

How short should I cut my grass?

About 2" or 3", but never more than about 1/3 of its length.

I used a shade-tolerant grass seed in a shady area, but I am still having trouble getting the grass to grow.

Make sure you keep this area well watered, and do not cut it as short as the rest of the lawn. In addition, rake the leaves in the winter. If you still have a problem, you may have to trim the branches on a tree that is blocking the light or cover the area with mulch.

What should I look for when buying a lawn mower?

For a mulching or self-propelled mower, you need plenty of horsepower. Look for one that has a 5- to 6-horsepower engine.

How do I maintain my mower after each use?

After each mowing, wait until the engine cools and then use a hose to spray the clippings and grass debris that may be clinging to the underside of the mower deck. Some people recommend that you get your blade sharpened about once a month.

What about annual maintenance on my mower?

If you are going to store your mower for the winter, disconnect the sparkplug and drain the fuel from the tank. Then, reconnect the sparkplug and run the engine until it runs out of gas. This keeps aging fuel from going bad inside the engine. In the spring, change the oil in the mower if you have a four-stroke engine. In addition, replace the spark plug, fuel filter and air filter.