Installation of a lawn is quite simple. The following in-order steps are a synopsis of how to install a lawn.

The actual post care is elaborated in each of the titles following these steps.

1) If installing grass seed in an area already containing turf, scarify or work up the soil to a 1-2” depth.
2) In larger areas or with new topsoil, grade the soil to ensure proper water flow. This should be at least a 4% grade (4” drop in 100” of run.) Level the area with a 4 foot grading rake or similar. Small depressions can be taken care of later by core aerating the area.Avoid using bagged soil mixes. These contain a great deal of humus and little actual soil. Once the humus decays, you are often left with a depression. Grass does not require humus rich soil to grow.
3) Broadcast the grass seed at 1 pound per 150 to 175 square feet. More seed is not good as it will germinate, then crowd out each other and rot. You will be left with a dead empty patch. Avoid the frustrating recurring cycle of planting grass seed too thick.
4) Apply lawn starter fertilizer without any herbicide according to the directions on the container.
5) Lightly work the grass seed and fertilizers into the soil. Don’t bury the seed more than _” as it typically kills it.
6) Lightly mulch the seeded area with straw, composted rice hulls or similar. This helps maintain moisture for the germinating and developing seed.
7) Roll the area to tighten the mulch and soil.
8) Water the area immediately.


                  It is important to provide a new lawn IMMEDIATE and CONSISTENT attention. Sod requires thorough watering to a depth of 6-8". Apply ¼" of water over the entire area on a daily basis if the temperatures are above 85°F and sunny. If the highs are less that 75°F and sunny, water every 2-3 days. Overcast days expand the watering timeline. Light sprinkling does more harm then good. Watering is especially important near edges, corners and sidewalks, as these areas are the first to dry out. If the sod is allowed to dry out, the strips shrink ‑‑ leaving gaps that remain for many months or even years.  THOROUGHLY water during the first few days. After a few days, allow the soil to dry very slightly between watering. Be careful the soil does not dry out too far -- evidenced by soil cracking. Continue watering until the root systems become well established and the sod roots into the topsoil. This is noted by lifting up an edge near the center of the lawn. Avoid lifting edges on the periphery. Please keep traffic to a minimum especially if the areas are soft under foot. Occasional and infrequent walking on the sod may begin after one week if the soil has solidified underneath. Allow a month to pass before medium use and 2‑3 months before normal use.

                  Watering is accomplished by either of two methods, an oscillating fan sprinkler or a pulsating sprinkler. An article in ORGANIC GARDENING compared different brands and types of sprinklers, evaluating the uniformity of their water coverage. The oscillating types performed consistently better then most other types. The stationary circle sprinklers were rated inferior to pulsating sprinklers, which were just below the oscillating types. My best recommendations are the high-end GARDENA or NELSON oscillating sprinklers.

                  While it is impossible to state how long a sprinkler should be kept running, on a given area, to provide adequate moisture, I can tell you how to measure it. Temperature, sunlight, wind velocity, humidity, water pressure, hose diameter, and brand of sprinkler all influence the sprinkling time. In the area to be watered, strategically locate open coffee or similarly shaped cans/tins. With the open end up and level, these act as inexpensive rain gauges. Turn on your sprinkler(s) and after an hour, measure the water in the tins. When ¼" of water is measured, you now know how long to sprinkle and, if you used many tins, the sprinkler’s distribution of water.

                  The sprinkle--spray should be fine and gentle. Avoid ponding, which dislodges the seed, causes uneven germination and washes away the seed. If ponding is noticed, stop watering for 20 minutes and then begin again until a good soil moisture level is obtained. Water 1‑4 times a daily more on hot and windy days. The upper 1/8" to 1/4" of soil must be consistently MOIST but not water logged or wet. Avoid soggy, swampy conditions, as you will drown and rot the seedlings. If a green slime, algae, forms on the top of the soil, you will kill the developing seed.

                  KEEP THE AREA MOIST UNTIL THE SEEDLINGS ARE NOTICED, this is usually within two weeks, but continue for 4‑6 additional weeks to insure more thorough germination. The blue grasses require longer germination periods then ryes and Fescue. When 80‑90% of the seedlings are 2" high, water to prevent dryness and small cracks from appearing in the soil. Water as often as needed. The better your watering job, the faster your grass develops and the thicker it becomes. Almost all uneven germination, dead spots and poor lawn establishments can be traced to improper watering.

 Adding more seed or applying too much seed gives immediate appeal but ultimately causes areas to rot. Too much seed in an area creates an ideal environment for fungus problems. Avoid the temptation to add seed. I know it is hard, but be patient. Seed can always be added later. I would not touch up any areas that are less than 12 inches in diameter during the first 8 weeks.

                  When dealing with a newly seeded area, do not drag your hose(s) over the area. Once you have located the sprinklers and watering has begun, PLEASE avoid walking on the soil as it is VERY, VERY, VERY soft. Sinking in the soft soil damages the lawn's surface. If it is necessary to walk on the soil, temporarily place boards over the grass, acting as bridges. Remember to remove the boards, as the grass dies under them.

                  Generally, a well-established lawn requires no more then 1" of water per week, applied in two ½" increments. Of course, this greatly depends on the weather. Any natural precipitation, over 2/10", should be taken into account when calculating the frequency and amount of supplemental watering.


                  When 90% of the seedlings are 3" high, mow to a height of 2‑3". DO NOT remove the straw or rice hull mulch. If erosion-controlling netting was installed, remove to mow and relay if necessary. Mulching mowers are the best. Use sharp mower blades, preventing the tearing of the tender grasses. Since the first mowing is often very tender and sensitive to clumps of clippings smothering the new grass, I recommend bagging the first few mowing.


                  A young lawn can be easily burned by quick release and early heavy fertilization. At the time of installation, feed with a slow release, 6‑12 week, lawn starter fertilizer. After two months, and upon careful examination, the lawn can be feed again. Once established, regular maintenance of your lawn is recommended.


                  With newly (within two months) seeded lawns, Autumn leaves should be blown off, mowed off with a catcher or removed with a lawn sweeper. Do not rake. On sodded lawns, wait about two weeks after the sod has been installed and the soil under the sod has solidified enough to walk on. After this period, sodded lawns may have the leaves removed in most any fashion.


                  PRE‑EMERGENT herbicides MUST NOT BE APPLIED within 6 months before and following lawn installation. Pre‑emergent herbicides prevent the germination and development of the seed. Landscape Designs, Inc. cannot assume liability for lack of germination and proper development of turf grass when pre‑emergents are used within the developing time of your lawn. Soil tests are capable of detecting the presence of pre‑emergents.

                  DO NOT TREAT A NEWLY SEEDED LAWN WITH A WEED CONTROL for up to one year after installation. The weeds should not be pulled as weeding uproots many grass seedlings. Mowing during the first year checks their growth. The weed seedlings shade the soil reducing water evaporation. Cut them off at 3‑5" if they grow too large during the initial establishment of the lawn.


                  When grass seeds first germinate, they are single leafed plants. During the first few weeks, they develop leaves but no runners or stolons. After 2 months, stolon production knits the lawn together and fills the smaller voids. Voids smaller then dinner plates often fill quite nicely during the first growing season. Larger areas may require reseeding. The knitting process makes a lawn into turf. Often reseeding is due to lack of consistent watering.

                  Patience and understanding are great attributes when installing any lawn area. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us any time.


                  The following 9 steps provide you with the basics for developing a quality lawn. Recommendations are based upon research at The University of Wisconsin ‑ Madison, other fine institutions and personal experience.

                           1)         Plant improved grass varieties. Not all grasses are created equal. Use the best varieties for your particular yard's ecology. Establish shade tolerant grasses in area where there is shade. Blend varieties to make them appear as continuous carpets. Hundreds of lawn grass varieties have been established over the past few years, many superbly suited to Southern Wisconsin.

                           2)         Mow high and with a SHARP mower blade. Finally, after many years of squabbling and probably more to come, The University of Wisconsin ‑Extension suggests a mowing height of 2 to 3". Mowing should be timely, so no more then 2" of grass is removed at any one time. During drought, NEVER mow a hot dry lawn as permanent damage to the growth crowns may result. Crown damage retards new growth and may result in death. If mowing is required during this time, water heavily two nights before, then mow early the next morning. The last mowing of the season should be no different in height then any other mowing.

                           3)         Water once or twice a week for a 1" total. Let Mother Nature supply as much of it as possible. Rain is always better then tap water.

                           4)         Control pests and diseases before they get out of hand. Properly identify them before treatments. DON'T GUESS!!!!!!!! Its puzzling to see an in-field lawn care specialist identify the problem when a plant pathologist has to take it back to the lab and identify it under a microscope.

                           5)         Never rake a lawn before the first Spring mowing. Damage, to the developing young shoots and roots, often occurs reducing your grass's ability to `knit'. A lawn's organic debris releases nutrients and minerals back into the soil. Waiting to rake, and raking is NOT always required or recommended, enhances the grass's future resistance to stress, diseases, pests and drought. Prairies have never been raked and yet the grasses have flourished for millennia.

                           6)         Do not roll your lawn unless installing new turf. Rolling rarely levels an established lawn. Rolling presses out the air and may enhance your need for aeration (an additional expense you would like to avoid). If you feel VERY strongly about rolling, please do it after the second mowing and never when the lawn is VERY soft.  Having your lawn core-aerated will help in evening out the roughness. It may require a number of aerations, but this works very well. Use the largest and deepest core-aeration available. You might have it done two or three times the first time. Don’t rake up the cores. They will slowly migrate into the valleys and fill them up while the mounds collapse down due to the cores being removed.

                           7)         Fertilize correctly and timely. Spring feeding should be completed in MID TO LATE MAY with a 5‑1‑1 to 10‑1‑1 ratio feed. Never feed you lawn before the second mowing. Before the first fertilization, you want to encourage deep rooting and not just lofty leaf growth. Most any Nitrogen source produces greener grass. What is so new about that? Those of you who have a dog or cat will readily testify to this. Timely fertilizing improves heat and stress tolerance during the hot dry summer months. Fertilize again in MID SUMMER (optional), sometime in July, (if there isn't a drought or the temperatures are not consistently above 85°F), MID-SEPTEMBER (with an herbicide) and EARLY NOVEMBER with a similar ratio fertilizer. Generally, three times per year is all that is needed.

                           8)         Apply weed killers when the weeds are actively growing. This coordinates nicely with your fertilizing schedule. Spring herbicides should be applied during the mid May or preferably as an Autumn application in MID SEPTEMBER or VERY EARLY OCTOBER. Autumn herbicide treatments are superior and more effective due to weeds actively growing in the Autumn. The desirable trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals have completed their growth for the season and little environmental damage will occur. Most lawn herbicides volatilize at warmer temperatures, 82°F and above, harming tender young Spring and Summer growth, and pollute our air with chemical vapors. These vapors often lift off the treated area and travel considerable distances, causing damage as they drift along. PLEASE be respectful of the environment, neighbors, desirable plants, your family and yourself.

                           9)         Apply a pre‑emergent crabgrass herbicide in EARLY APRIL. Water must be applied within 1‑3 days of application to trigger the effectiveness of the pre‑emergent. If this is not done, the application will have reduced affectivity and a post‑emergent application will be necessary. Pre‑emergent controls are probably the best but some new and ecological post‑emergent controls are now available. Pre‑emergent means a developing seed is killed before it can mature into a foliated seedling. Timing is very critical on both types of treatments. Temperature controls the germination of crabgrass and many other weeds. Crabgrass germinates when soil surface temperatures reach approximately 55°F. Applying a pre‑ emergent when soil temperatures reach 55 degrees, followed by a minimum ¼ inch of rain, results in good control. If the precipitation is inadequate for triggering, many pre‑emergent herbicides fail, as they did in 1987. Avoid using a fertilizer with the pre‑emergent herbicide, as your lawn does NOT require fertilizing at this time. If possible, apply the pre‑emergent only where it is needed ‑‑along walks and drive ways.


 When considering the health of your established lawn and its soil, the following conditions should be taken into account.

SOIL BINDING A condition resulting from the repeated heavy use and misuse of chemicals without fully analyzing the soil's physiology and chemistry, moisture regimes and light conditions. Binding, like SCOTCH GUARD, prevents adequate air, water and nutrient from entering the soil.

WATER PERCOLATION Soil binding prevents water from properly entering the soil and therefore remains on the surface for extended periods. Persistent surface moisture is conducive to moss and algae growth that feels slimy, greasy and is occasionally malodorous. A simple test decides water peculation rates. Take a coffee can and cut out both ends. Gently hammer one of the open ends 1" into the soil. Rapidly fill the can with water. Time how long it takes all of the water to percolate into the soil. If it requires more then five minutes, you have a potential problem and corrective measures may be required. Consult professional help.

NUTRIENT USE An inexpensive soil test is obtained from the SOILS TESTING LAB on Mineral Point Road at Rosa Road. Call them for advice. Fertilizing a lawn without knowledge of its requirements often results in expensive treatments.

AERATION Improper transpiration and respiration of gases from the soil results in anaerobic respiration leading to sour fetid soils. Soil aeration may be required. Earthworms are your best friends in aerating your soil, please don't kill them with improper use of chemicals.

ALGAE Many different species of algae live in and on our soils. Most rarely present any problems to a healthy soil biomass. Slimy BLUE‑GREEN ALGAE suggest inadequate drainage, high surface nutrient levels or soil binding. Improved cultural practices provide control.

MOSSES Many mosses survive on soils and other surfaces when conditions are suitable. Particular requirements such as: humidity, drainage, soil chemistry and composition, acidity/alkalinity and sunlight must be met before mosses flourish. Altering the above conditions may help the grasses win the battle.


                           Thatch is the buildup of partially or non-decomposed grass stems, usually not the leaves. To prevent the buildup of thatch, follow these recommendations: A) Follow the above nine items. B) Allow your lawn to establish itself under and by its own terms. Thatch results from not following A & B.


                           Mechanical aeration is necessary when the soil and lawn have been damaged by not paying attention to 1 through 9. Worms are our greatest friends in aeration. When we push & push to get the fastest results, worms generally die out and with them, failure of the soil's biomass that maintains our living earth. Core aeration works beautifully for alleviating surface compaction. Usually, winter’s penetrating frost to nearly four feet does a better job of core aeration than any mechanical system could ever hope to do. See note above for leveling lawns with core aeration.


                           Most lawn grasses do poorly when the soil's pH is drastically altered. pH is the measure of a medium's acidity ‑‑ less then 7.0, or alkalinity ‑‑ greater then 7.0. Neutrality is 7.0. Turf grasses prefer a pH of 6.5 to 7.5 pH with 7.0 being optimal. Rarely is a lawn too alkaline in Southern Wisconsin. Shady lawns with heavy leaf and plant litter occasionally develop excessive acidity over time. If a soil test shows excess acidity, treating the lawn with 20 pounds of limestone ‑ NUTRA NUGGETS® per 1,000 ft.² begins the correction process. Repeated bimonthly applications may be necessary, followed by regular annual applications. ALWAYS TEST FIRST ‑‑ and try to change the pH slowly to prevent shock to your lawn and its ecology.

For additional information contact your County Extension Offices (Dane Co. 608•266-9053).

©Copyright July 1, 1997, August, 1999 Written by Steve Lesch, President, Landscape Designs, Inc.




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