Starting A New Lawn

The best time to seed a lawn is late summer (mid-August to mid-September) due to favorable conditions for germination and growth. In addition, fewer weed seeds are germinating that might compete with the grass seedlings. Lastly, there is ample time for the plants to become well established before winter. Seeding can also be done in early spring. However, weeds and high summer temperatures often reduce the chance of success.

  1. Select the right seed
    In the upper Midwest, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue and some of the perennial ryegrass cultivars are recommended. However, before a seed mix is chosen, the site location and your expectations should also be evaluated. Factors to consider include the amount of shade present and how much wear and tear the lawn will receive. Another factor to consider is the level of maintenance you are willing to perform.
  2. clover.pngPrepare the soil
    Till or drag the area you plan to seed. Be aware that when you till the soil, weed seed that was dormant can now germinate. Testing the soil to check the pH will help determine if any additional nutrients are required to balance the pH. Consider adding lime to help make the soil more water and air soluble. For sandier soils, consider adding a layer of topsoil to help maintain nutrients and water. The grass seed should smother most of the weeds if proper care is given.
  3. Prepare the seed bed 
    Smooth out the soil with a hand rake or drag to make the soil as level as possible. Be sure to remove any stones, debris or existing weeds. Don't pack the soil too firmly before seeding.
  4. Apply a starter fertilizerBCA Premium Lawn Starter 18-22-6
  5. Apply the seed as directed
    Consider cutting the spreader setting in half and making two passes for better coverage. Rake the seed lightly into the soil and use a roller if available. For larger areas, you may want to consult a lawn care professional to seed your lawn or rent a seeder. A mulch coverage will hold seed in place and enhance germination.
  6. Water
    Once seed is planted, make sure that the soil is kept evenly moist although slight drying between watering is not detrimental and may even be beneficial. Light frequent watering is the most important step. Moisture is critical once seeds start to germinate. Water just until puddles start to form. South-facing slopes and other parts of the yard exposed to hot afternoon sun may dry out more rapidly and require additional watering on a more frequent basis. Once the grass is growing, water enough to keep soil moist.

A lawn seeded in late summer (mid-August to mid-September) should be usable the following spring. Your lawn should be established in 6 to 12 weeks. Mow the lawn once it reaches a height of 2 ½ to 3 inches. Cut no more than one inch off, otherwise you will slow the establishment process. Mowing regularly in this way encourages deep rooting and helps maintain good growth. When seeding in the late summer or early autumn, a pre-emergent herbicide should not be needed. Post-emergent weed control in a newly seeded lawn will have to wait until it's been mowed several times to allow the plants to become well established. Always check the specific weed control product label for how soon after seeding and germination that particular product can be applied to a new lawn without the likelihood of injury occurring. Also, many of the troublesome annual broadleaf weeds that appear during the early establishment period will disappear once a regular mowing schedule has begun.