Prepare the soil as you would for a seedbed – rototill to a depth of 3 to 4 inches and rake smooth. Make sure the overall grade will run water to the boundaries of your property to eliminate water pockets. A light application of a fertilizer low in Nitrogen and high in Phosphorus and Potash will help root establishment.
GREEN SIDE UP! Actually there are no hard-fast rules in laying sod. Make sure all seams are snug and avoid laying sod over clumps or stones that create air gaps, which will dry out the sod quickly and hinder rooting. Rolling the sod after laying is not necessary, but it gives it that added touch of professionalism.
This is the most important and critical operation immediately after the sod is laid. Start watering as soon as you have an area big enough to water. If sod is allowed to dry out it may shrink, causing gaps between the seams. Water to a point so that the sod has a squishy feel to it. You can’t overwater on the first watering. Continue to water twice daily until sod has rooted. Gradually lessen the amount of water applied at each setting once sod has rooted, up to the point of mowing. A good rule of thumb to remember is that heavier, less frequent waterings are better than lighter, more frequent waterings. You need to keep the moisture deep in the soil so grass roots establish themselves deeper in the soil. After rooting has been established water only as necessary to keep the sod green and growing.
Depending on how fast your sod roots determines how soon you can mow for the first time, usually 1 to 1½ weeks. Reach down and gently pull up on the sod. If it has attached itself to the soil enough to resist the upward force of a lawn mower, it is ready to mow. Mow at the highest setting for the first mowing, then gradually lower your mower one setting at a time for subsequent mowings to a height you like, usually 1½ to 2 inches. REMEMBER: Never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade height at each mowing. To do so may cause the grass plant to undergo shock. A yellowish cast to the lawn is a telltale sign of mowing too low or removing too much of the grass blade at any one time. Another good rule of thumb is that the lower you mow the grass, the quicker it dries out and produces a shorter root system; likewise, higher mowing retains more soil moisture and produces deeper rooting. One more point: Since new legislation has eliminated the disposal of bagged clippings, be happy to know that those clippings you used to remove and discard are full of nitrogen, enough to supply 1/3 of the lawn’s nitrogen requirements for the whole season! If you mow often enough to keep the clippings short, they will decompose and become part of the soil.
Typically grass proliferates itself in spring and fall. This is the time to apply fertilizer. In summer, when grass roots are in a “just maintaining state”, little or no fertilizer should be applied. REMEMBER: Too much fertilizer in summer months causes too much top growth and puts a heavy load on the root system. Heavy amounts of fertilizer do not necessarily make grass any greener. In actuality, it may begin to start a layer of “thatch”. This layer, when in excess of ¾ inches thick, is very undesirable. “Thatch” is a layer of above ground roots and shoots that have grown in this direction due to the fact that too much high Nitrogen has been applied and/or not watered in deeply, too much compaction of subsoil or topsoil below sod, or improper topsoil blend (too much clay). So, what we like to advise is that you should apply fertilizer in small doses, enough to keep that nice green color you desire. We like to see most of the fertilizer applied early spring and late summer, or early fall, then a possible winterizer shot. 1½ pounds of Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in April, another pound of Nitrogen in early September, and an additional pound in late October is a safe program to avoid having excess fertilizer in the hot stress months of mid-summer. Another good rule to use: If your grass is actively growing and has acceptable color, there may be no need to apply any fertilizer whatsoever. The 3 to 4 pound Nitrogen requirement for bluegrass is not something that has to be adhered to. Different soil and climatic conditions may require smaller amount of Nitrogen to maintain vigor and color. Basically, use fertilizer only when needed. We have lawns that use the one spring application, and still maintain color for the entire year. With smaller doses of Nitrogen comes less thatch, and it leaves behind all of the related problems. Naturally, we don’t want to go to the other extreme and stress the plant with nutrient deficiencies. Good common sense is the key. Most bagged fertilizer will have the Nitrogen contents labeled on the bag as to correct application rates. You may not even need much fertilizer for the first year or so depending on how fertile your topsoil is, and don’t forget the Nitrogen you are recapturing from the clippings you are now leaving instead of bagging. If you have any questions on calculating the right amounts of fertilizer to apply, call us.
Other than sensible mowing, watering & fertilizing, one of the most beneficial things you can do for your lawn is Mechanical Core Aerification. This machine removes a solid plug of dirt approximately 3 to 4 inches in depth and ½ to 5/8 inches in diameter. What this does is create a passageway for oxygen, water, and nutrients to penetrate the soil and thatch layer, if there is any, to make a healthier environment for the grass plant. It also allows beneficial bacteria to break down thatch and grass clippings and turns these into soil. Ideally, no thatch is the best, and control measures should be taken when thatch is over ½ to ¾ inches. Along with core aerification, a process called dethatching is also beneficial for large amounts of thatch. This should be done in early spring before grass is totally green or late fall before freezing begins. This process physically tears out a percentage of the thatch layer and deposits it on top for pick up and removal.
We hope these guidelines help you in installing and maintaining the best looking lawn in your neighborhood for years to come. Please feel free to call us for any questions you have at any time.
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