Follow Four Essential Steps When Starting A Lawn

Thomas J. Koske, Attaway, Denise  |  9/5/2007 8:30:12 PM

There are four distinct components to the establishment of turfgrass:

  • Clearing and grading to provide the desired contours and good surface drainage.
  • Soil preparation.
  • Planting.
  • Watering and maintenance.

The first element in soil preparation is to remove all debris from the area to be planted.

If you do extensive grading, remove the topsoil to a side and replace it after the rough grading. A 1- to 2-percent slope (1 foot to 2 feet of fall per 100 feet) away from all buildings provides good surface drainage.

If you're installing internal drainage or irrigation systems, the best time to do it is during this stage of soil preparation.

The subgrade may become compacted during construction and rough grading, especially if the ground is wet. Break up this compacted layer before proceeding.

Once the subgrade is established, respread the topsoil. Allow for at least 4 inches of depth after the soil has settled.

After the topsoil is spread and graded, add fertilizer and lime as indicated by a soil test. Thoroughly mix the lime and fertilizer with the top 3 inches of topsoil. A general recommendation for a starter fertilizer is 10 pounds of a fertilizer, such as 6-24-24, per 1,000 square feet of lawn.

If you use a soluble source of nitrogen, do not apply more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. If you use a controlled release insoluble source of nitrogen, such as ureaformaldehyde, you can apply 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet before planting.

After the soil is prepared, grass can be planted by seeding, sprigging, plugging or sodding. If laying sod, lay it tight together. Don't checkerboard the squares or you'll have a bumpy lawn. Then, be sure to follow through with watering and maintenance for two to four weeks after planting.

Be careful not to destroy the existing trees in the lawn. Cutting a large percentage of a tree's roots during soil tillage can severely damage or kill it.

Trees can be suffocated by covering the roots with 2 inches of soil. If soil is necessary at a tree base, construct a "tree well," which helps protect roots.

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