One of the biggest causes of early-onset lawn death is improper watering. Many lawns never make it out of the gate because they lack enough water. Whether you’re filling in a bare spot (like the picture below) or seeding an entire yard, it’s important to get the watering just right.
Quick seed establishment review
Once you have tested your soil, prepared your seed bed, selected the right seed for your situation, and finally have it planted – it’s time to make sure that you water it properly to get it growing and established. Here’s a quick review of the steps leading up to watering:
1 – Fertilizer and lime according to soil test recommendations; work material into top 3/4 inch of your top soil.
2 – Firm the seed bed with a roller.
3 – After firming, loosen top inch with a rake.
4 – Broadcast your grass seed.
5 – Lightly rake seed into top 1/4 inch of soil.
6 – Protect the seed with straw, erosion netting, or pelleted paper mulch.
Ready to water
Your initial watering should be heavy, wetting the soil a good 6-8 inches deep. This will allow developing roots to better penetrate the soil and be a good base for continued watering over the coming weeks. Do your best to avoid run off or puddling, although some of this in unavoidable.
The first three weeks
During the first three weeks after planting your grass seed, you should be watering daily. The objective is to keep the surface moist at all times. The amount of water you’ll be using is small; just be sure you’re keeping the surface moist. In hot weather, it may be necessary to water your yard two-three times daily.
During the fourth week of watering your lawn, it’s not as big of a deal if the surface is allowed to dry. However, the root zone should be kept moist. The best way to do this is to change from daily light waterings to heavier watering every other day.
During the fifth week, two heavy waterings should suffice to maintain soil moisture; this will allow for continued root development plus be a benefit to other seeds that may have been a little slower in germinating.
Week six and beyond
Once you get to week six, it’s just like taking care of an established lawn. What this means is that you’ll only need to apply one inch of water per week. That may come in the form of a steady rain, or it may be from your sprinklers.
How fast will my grass start to grow?
Of course, the weather will be a big factor in how quickly your lawn gets established. How warm is it? What’s the soil temperature? How much rain are you getting? But in general, here’s what you can expect:
- ryegrass – usually around 7 days, sometimes as fast as 3
- fescue – usually within 12 days or so, sometimes as fast as 7
- bluegrass – usually in 21-28 days
How soon can I mow?
If you’re interseeding into an established lawn, you’ll just mow as needed. However, it is recommended to bag the clippings, so that they don’t smother out any newly growing seedlings.
If it’s a brand new seeding, you’ll likely be out there in three or four weeks – especially if the temperature is right, you’ve been watering, and you used a starter fertilizer.
When can I kill weeds?
New seedlings are susceptible to chemical damage. And keep this in mind – it’s normal to see weeds when the soil has been disturbed. The store DID NOT sell you a bag of weeds. Once the lawn is firmly established, it’ll be able to handle some chemical applications – if they are necessary (usually after the lawn has been mowed 6 or 7 times.