How to Start a New Lawn

The best time to start a new lawn: In this area the ideal time is late fall just before the rains begin, but if you miss that chance, plant any time through winter or early spring. In late fall the soil is still warm and the grass plants are able to build a good root structure before the onset of the cold and wet winter.

Whether the lawn is to be seeded, planted to sprigs or plugs, or sodded, it is worthwhile to provide the best possible soil bed. You should cultivate the soil and mix in fertilizer. In some instances the old vegetation can be killed with Roundup or similar weed killer, and the surface of the soil then be scuffed and reseeded. Do not cultivate the soil so much that it becomes dusty; soil lumps, in thumbnail size, make the best surface.

Choosing a seed:

If you are going to use seed, choose a good blend. There is no sense in trying to save a few dollars only to end up with years of extra work because the seed was weak or the mixture contained many weed seeds. Visit a good nursery or gardening establishment in your search for a proper seed, and ask questions. It's their job to answer them.

You can tell what is in a seed mixture by looking at the listing on the outside of the package. The label groups grasses as "fine-textured" and "coarse kinds". Good blends are mainly or entirely bluegrass and fine fescues. Do not be fooled by a tall fescue, a coarse relative of fine fescues; it is sometimes included in inexpensive seed mixtures and can become a pest.

How much seed? For new lawns a bluegrass mixture is usually spread at the rate of about three pounds per thousand square feet. To thicken old lawns, use half that rate.


Spread seed uniformly; covering it with a light mulch helps the grass start more quickly with less sprinkling. If the soil was overly cultivated and is too fluffy, irrigate it before seeding and use a roller after seeding to press the seed into contact with the soil (so it can wick up the moisture). Once the seed has been wetted, it starts to respire and will die if it dries out. Keep it constantly moist until it has germinated and is growing well. With live starts, space them on equidistant centers. Do not let them lack for water until they too are well established.


This is for extra-fast results. In this case, someone else grows the grass and sells it to you in relatively mature condition. When such sod is professionally grown, it can be excellent. But it is not as economical as your own seeding, and often you are not sure of what you are planting. Old field sod may be full of weeds and off-type grass. Sod is especially useful for slopes, even if used only in strips across the top to prevent washing away of soil. It is best laid on soil prepared just about as thoroughly as for a new seeding.

After-care for New Lawns:

Be sure the grass always has enough water. Do not use weed killers or apply fertilizers until the grass is old enough to have been mowed a few times. Begin mowing as soon as the grass is slightly taller than customary mowing height. Fertilize in the future according to these recommendations.