Seeding And Sodding Lawns

The best time of the year to seed a new lawn is roughly between the last week of August and early October, when warm daytime temperatures and cool, dewy nights produce the best germination. Seeding can be done at other times (except winter), but hot or cold temperatures and dry weather reduce germination and may require a second "touch up" seeding later. Sodding can be done with good results at any time between April and early December, when the ground is workable and not frozen.

SOIL PREPARATION AND FERTILIZING

If the area to be seeded/sodded is covered with grass, weeds, or groundcover, you can removes them by: (i) grubbing them out using a grape hoe; (ii) using a sod cutter (available at equipment rental stores) to remove the grass; (iii) apply Roundup, a systemic, contact herbicide, which kills the entire weed plant, and does not leave active residues in the soil. (Note: For best results, Roundup should be applied at least 7-10 days prior to seeding or sodding, and only during periods when weeds or grass are actively growing, to allow for absorption through the foliage.)

After the grass/groundcover has been removed, rototill the topsoil thoroughly to a depth of 4-6". Remove any stones, roots or debris.

Use a steel rake to rake the lawn surface smooth, eliminate low pockets that will produce puddles, and remove small stones.

Spread evenly by hand or with a broadcast-type spreader approximately:

50 lbs. Agricultural Limestone for every 800-1000 sq. ft. of lawn
4 lbs. Espoma Lawn Food (18-0-3) for every 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn
1 lb. Triple Phosphate (0-45-0) for every 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn area*

Scratch in lightly with lawn rake.

Now the soil is ready for seeding or sodding.

  • Note: No person may apply lawn fertilizer between December 1st and April 1st in Westchester County per county law.

SEEDING

For sunny lawn areas (at least 5 hours direct sun), use a Sunny lawn seed (which has a mix of Improved Bluegrass, Fescues, and Perennial Rye). For shaded areas (less than 5 hours direct sun), use Shady Lawn Seed (which has a higher proportion of shade-tolerant fine Fescues).

Spread the seed evenly by hand or with a rotary spreader, following rates in container instructions.

Roll with lawn roller if desired.

Mulch lightly with shredded straw, which does not contain weed seeds. The shredded straw should be spread to give a light, fluffy covering. Avoid leaving heavy, matted clumps of shredded straw, which will reduce seed germination. The mulch will help retain soil moisture, reduce splashing and minor erosion, and keep birds away from seed. One bale of shredded straw should cover between 600-800 sq. ft.

Protect newly seeded areas with stakes and string or ribbon to keep off traffic. Keep children and pets out of newly seeded areas as much as possible until the ground is firm and the grass has become established.

After a couple of weeks, if grass does not appear to be growing thickly in a few spots, rake back mulch, reseed as required, and re-cover with mulch.

SODDING

Sod should be watered daily and used as soon as possible: If sod cannot be used immediately, wet down bare soil, driveway or wooded area and lay sod out. Do not leave sod stacked, because the interior of the pile will "heat up" and the sod will develop brown or dead areas. Water sod every day until used.

Lay sod by starting with a clear, straight lawn edge and laying sod strips perpendicular to  straight edge and parallel with each other. Use whole strips where possible. Where curves or changes in direction are required, use a sharp knife to cut sod to fit. For best results, use at least 1/2 strip sizes. Discard small pieces, which generally dry out very quickly and do not provide a uniform, even appearance.

Fit the edges of the strips closely together and press sod pieces firmly and completely into contact with soil. Fill any joints with clean, loose topsoil, and tamp lightly with fingers. When finished with laying the sod, water evenly and thoroughly to help put the sod in contact with the soil.

Put up a protective "fence" and keep off foot traffic until sod is established. Sod should root in to soil and become established in 4-6 weeks.

Watering - New sod should be watered daily with a hose sprinkler for 3-4 weeks, until grass is well rooted. Avoid creating standing puddles. A good soaking rain will suffice for a day or two. After the sod begins to root in or "take', cut back watering to 2-3 times per week.

MOWING

Newly seeded and sodded lawns should be mowed when the grass reaches about 3" in height. Set the mower on a high (2-1/2") setting for the first 3-4 mowings, to avoid lifting sod with mower. Afterwards, mow regularly to keep the grass healthy and growing well. Use at least a 2" setting to avoid "scalping" the grass, and to reduce water use.

ANNUAL CARE

Regular, frequent mowing (about every 7 days during warm months; 8-14 days during cooler spring and fall months) is important to produce a thick, healthy lawn. Mower blades should be kept sharp. For healthier grass foliage and roots, do not cut grass below 2" height. Water lawns during hot or dry periods. Fertilize with Espoma Lawn Food (18-0-30 or a similar product in spring and fall. Apply Agricultural Limestone each fall to reduce acidity and maintain soil pH at about 6.5-7.0.

For all lawns --

Helpful MaterialsHelpful Equipment
Agricultural LimestoneSteel Rake
Espoma Lawn Food (18-0-3)Lawn Rake
Triple Phosphate Fertilizer (0-45-0)Broadcast or similar spreader
Grape Hoe (for grubbing)
Wheelbarrow

For Seeding lawns --

Helpful MaterialsHelpful Equipment
Premium Sunny Lawn Seed Mixture, orRototiller
Sun and Shade Lawn Seed Mixture, orLawn Roller
Shady Lawn Seed MixtureWood Stakes
Shredded StrawString

For Sodding lawns --

Helpful MaterialsHelpful Equipment
Blend Lawn SodGarden Hose and Lawn Sprinkler

Books containing additional information on the topic of this Plantsman's Guide are available in our book department to the rear of the Nursery Center Store.

© Rosedale Nurseries, Inc. 1994, 2003, 2015
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