Establishing a New Lawn in Four Easy Steps

Edited By: Ruth Burke

The best time to establish a new lawn is late summer or early spring. You’ll get more satisfying results when you plant in these cooler months. For best results, contact your local agricultural extension office for information on obtaining a soil test for nutrient and liming recommendations prior to planting.

1. Till and fertilize the soil.

  • Till soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.
  • Broadcast lime and/or lawn starter fertilizer, following recommended rates, and mix into soil.
  • Rake, level, and smooth the soil - removing rocks, sticks and old sod clumps.
  • Roll the area with a heavy roller in two directions to settle the soil.
  • Rake again to level and loosen the surface.

2. Sow seed.

  • Evenly broadcast seed at rate recommended for your mixture - typically 3 to 10 lbs per 1000 square feet.
  • Use one-half the rate and seed twice at right angles to ensure uniform coverage.
  • Rake or drag lightly, to incorporate the seed into the top quarter inch of soil.
  • Firmly pack or roll the seedbed.

3. Apply mulch.

  • Evenly spread a clean, weed-free hay or straw mulch (or comparable product) at a rate of 50 lbs per 1000 square feet.
  • Mulch is important to retain surface moisture, prevent soil and seed from washing away, and protect seedlings from sun and wind.

4. Water.

  • Thoroughly water soil using a fine spray sprinkler to prevent seed and soil from getting washed away.
  • Keep seedbed moist to a depth of 1 inch during the germination period (14 to 21 days).
  • As seedlings sprout and become established, gradually reduce water, but don’t allow soil to dry out until grass is well established (45 to 60 days).
  • After 60 days, the lawn can be treated as an established lawn requiring 1 inch of water per week while actively growing.

Lawn Maintenance Tips:

  • Mow your new lawn when it reaches 3 to 4 inches.
  • Mow higher: Keep your mower’s cutting height set at approximately 3 inches.
  • Important: Keep mower blades sharp.
  • No more than a third of the growth should be removed with each cutting.
  • Fertilize and water at regular intervals.
  • Use weed prevention products as needed.