Post Installation Lawn Care
Treat your newly-installed lawn with care.
With lawns started from seed, it’s best to keep all traffic, other than maintenance, off the young turfgrass for the first 2 to 4 months, until the lawn area has filled-in fully.
For lawns started from plugs, sprigs or stolons, low traffic may be acceptable within 2 to 4 months, though that depends on the turfgrass variety. It may take a full year, or even longer, for the turfgrass to support normal use.
While turfgrass sod is not as fragile after it’s properly installed, some caution is necessary. Avoid heavy or concentrated use of your newly sodded lawn for the first 3 to 4 weeks.
This gives the roots an opportunity to firmly knit with the soil, and ensures that the lawn will remain smooth. Any lateral movement or shearing (such as running around on the sod by humans or dogs) should be avoided for the first 4 to 6 weeks on newly sodded lawns.
No matter which method of installation you select, you will need to mow the young turfgrass as soon as it is rooted and reaches mowing height for that species. Then mow regularly during the establishment period, making sure the mower blade is sharp, and removing no more than one-third of the grass blade in any one mowing.
Mow in the evening, or early in the morning, prior to watering the young turfgrass. Walking across any new lawn when it is soggy can compress the soil, resulting in compaction. Too often, it leaves a series of depressions in the lawn that may never fully recover.
While many factors will be included in long-term post-installation care, initial watering is the most important concern. Water is essential to all life - too little water and we die, too much and we drown. The same is true of the turfgrass in our lawns.
Proper watering immediately after installation and during the first few weeks following will ensure the turfgrass gets established. It will also have an impact on how well the lawn continues to flourish for years to come.
Though watering needs vary when establishing a lawn depending on the method of installation, these irrigation issues apply to all newly installed lawns.
Whether working with an in-ground irrigation system or above-ground, hose-end sprinklers check for uniform water distribution all across the new lawn. Dry spots may take several days to appear, and if you aren’t looking for these problems you could have dead grass in those areas. Overly wet spots could drown out the young turfgrass or lead to disease issues.
Weather conditions will dictate the amount and frequency of watering the newly installed lawn. Be certain that your new lawn has enough moisture to survive in hot, dry, or windy periods.
You will need to water more frequently in areas beside driveways, sidewalks and other hardscape features, and near buildings, because these reflect heat that dries the turfgrass.
Water as early in the morning as possible to take advantage of the daily start of the turfgrass’s normal growing cycle. There usually will be lower wind speeds and lower temperatures, reducing water loss to evaporation.
If the temperature approaches 100°F (37°C ), or high winds are constant for more than half of the day, reduce the temperature of the turf surface by lightly sprinkling (syringing) the area. This syringing does not replace the need for longer, deeper watering, which will become even more critical to continue during adverse weather conditions.
Runoff may occur on some soil types and sloped areas before the soil is adequately moist. To conserve water and ensure adequate soak-in, turn off the water when runoff begins. Wait 30-minutes to an hour and restart the watering on the same area. Repeat this start and stop process until proper soil moisture is achieved.
Lawns seeded by broadcast application using a lawn spreader have the highest water needs because bare soil dries quickly. While application of a light covering of topdressing, or lightly raking the seed into the soil surface, helps seed to soil contact, it still results in bare ground.
Lawns seeded with a commercial slit seeder will have good seed to soil contact, with the seed deposited into a furrow with the soil pushed back around it. This method also results in bare ground.
Keep a newly seeded or sprigged lawn moist, but not soaked, during the germination process. Too much water can cause poor germination and seedling disease. A light application of mulch over the seed or sprigs will help keep the soil moist.
As a new lawn begins to grow, lower the frequency of watering and increase the amount of water. After 4 to 6 weeks, treat watering of the new lawn the same as watering of an established lawn.
Hydroseeding requires specialized equipment which applies the seed within a hydrated material that forms a protective barrier. For post-installation watering, follow the instructions provided by the hydroseeding company.
For newly-installed turfgrass sod, begin watering within a half hour after it is laid on the soil. Apply at least 1 inch (2 to 3 cm) of water so that the soil beneath the turf is very wet. Ideally, the soil 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) below the surface should be moist.
To check the moisture level, pull back a corner of the sod and push a screwdriver or other sharp tool into the soil. It should push in easily and have moisture along the first 3 to 4 inches (7 - 10 cm). If it is hard to push in the probe or the soil appears dry at the 3 to 4 inch (7 – 10 cm) level, you need to apply more water.
As the turfgrass sod starts to knit its new roots into the soil, check soil moisture depth by pushing the sharp tool through the turfgrass and into the soil.
For two weeks following the sod installation, keep the below-turf soil surface moist with daily watering, or more frequent watering if weather conditions are drying.
No matter what type of installation method was used, once the new turfgrass is well established, most lawns will grow very well with a maximum total of one inch (2.5 cm) of water a week. This amount may come either from rain, applied water, or a combination of the two. This amount of water, properly and evenly applied, will saturate the underlying soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm).
For established lawns, Infrequent and deep watering is preferred to frequent and shallow watering because the turfgrass roots will only grow as deeply as their most frequently available water supply.
Deeply rooted turfgrass has a larger "soil-water bank" to draw moisture from and this will help the grass survive drought and hot weather that rapidly dries out the upper soil layer.
Once your new lawn is well established, you’ll want to develop a long-term maintenance program. Knowing when and how to mow, fertilize, aerate, control thatch levels, monitor and control weeds, insects and diseases, and irrigate your new lawn is important.
Each species of grass has its own “care and feeding” requirements, so match these procedures to the specific needs of your lawn under your seasonal growing conditions.
Check out the links here for more detailed information. Additional resources for site-specific information are your county extension agent, the turfgrass specialist at your local garden center, or your professional regional sod producer.