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Lawn Care Tips

Basic Lawn Care

Turfgrass accounts for the majority of square footage on most home lots and a well cared for lawn provides many environmental as well as aesthetic benefits. We have provided lawn care information on our website on how to get grass to germinate and how to care for your lawn.  This information is designed as a starting point for knowledge on certain questions you may have.

We have provided for your convenience some helpful tips for Newly Seeded Lawns and Newly Sodded Lawns. Please click on one of the links below to find additional information about your topic of choice:

Newly Seeded Lawns

Compost Seeding Method

We are excited to offer our new environmentally responsible compost seeding method. We create our own compost from brush, yard clippings, and biodegradable wood waste from Veridian homes that normally end up in a land fill.

We use approved techniques and continually monitor the temperatures of our actively working compost to ensure a product high in nutrient content and virtually weed seed free.

The Bruce Company’s compost seeding method involves applying a layer of our prepared compost over the native soil. This provides a layer to reduce weed seeds in the topsoil from germinating. The compost is also a superior medium to soil for lawn seed germination.

Through the use of our Blower Trucks we apply a combination of our premium seed mix, a starter fertilizer and a product that we call Poly Plus Hydro™ (PPH) over the native soil. The PPH absorbs water and then slowly releases it as the surrounding compost needs it. This helps to ensure that the lawn seeds receive timely and adequate moisture and that the water you are applying is being efficiently used on your lawn.

Watering

Temporary irrigation is installed on the lawn for three weeks following the installation of the compost and seed. The irrigation is on a timer and is set to turn on 2-4 times per day depending on sun, wind and temperature. Watering is the most important aspect of seed germination; the seed bed should not be allowed to dry out. Spray should be gentle. Avoid puddling, which dislodges seed and causes washouts.

Newly seeded lawn

When the temporary irrigation is removed, you will have to water daily depending on temperature, wind, and exposure. Keep checking to be sure the upper 1/4-1/2 inch of soil is constantly wet. Sprinkle dry spots. Keep the surface moist until seedlings are up (4-6 weeks or longer, depending on seed varieties.)

The watering program has to change once seeds have germinated. After grass is up and roots are down, the intervals between irrigations should be father apart. When the seedlings are 1-2 inches high, irrigate every other day, depending on weather. Allow the surface to dry between watering. Damping-off diseases can kill seedlings under high moisture conditions, especially warm temperatures.

After germination Water deeply to encourage root growth

After establishment, increase length of watering time for greater soil moisture dept. This will encourage grass to form a deeper root system. Water in droughty summer months.

If possible, avoid watering late in the evening or setting automatic irrigation systems on night watering. Turf that is wet during cool or humid evenings is more prone to foliar diseases. Water during early morning so the sun will dry the blade surface and not allow fungal spores to germinate and develop.

Weeds and Grass Coverage

Weeds do not come from the seed mixtures but from the soil. Weed seeds often lie dormant for a long time and germinate under conditions where soil has been turned over and are more exposed to water and light.

Do not spray with a broadleaf weed killer until after the fourth mowing because it will injure the grass. Many kinds of weeds such as velvet leaf and lambsquarters are common and will be eliminated once moving begins and later with chemical control. If annual grasses such as foxtail, crabgrass, and barnyardgrass germinate with your new seeding, wait until the following spring to apply a pre-emergent product. Pre-emergent products prevent the germination of new seedlings.

Barnyardgrass can be an aggressive annual weed that germinates during hot periods and overgrows the desirable grasses that need cooler temperatures to germinate. Fortunately the coarse barnyardgrass will be killed by the first frost in the fall. The coarse brown gras decomposes in the spring and the desirable thin bladed grasses fill in the area with fertilizer and spring rains.

Broadleaf weed control is much more effective if applied in the fall. Avoid the temptation to apply herbicides in spring, especially on newly seeded lawns.

It takes about two years to develop a tight, satisfactory lawn. Generally, in the first year, coverage is about 50 percent. The grass consists of single, straight stalks. The second year has about 90 percent coverage. The bluegrass rhizomes fill in and form a solid, dense turf if proper care has been given.

Mowing

Do not allow the grass to get much longer than the height at which it will be maintained. Kentucky Bluegrass and Red Fescue should be mowed at a 2.5-3 inch height. Mow when the soil is firm and dry and the grass well rooted. Mowing on a wet soil will pull out seedlings and cause ruts.

Fertilizing

At the time of seeding, the lawn was given an application of starter fertilizer. After the first mowing or two, apply a complete (N-P-K) fertilizer. Use an organic fertilizer or slow-release chemical fertilizer. A young lawn can be easily burned and should not be treated with a quick-release fertilizer.

A simple fertilizer schedule to follow is called the “Holiday Schedule”. The first application should be made on or around Memorial Day. The second application should be made on Independence Day. The third application follows on Labor Day, the last application should be made around Halloween or after the last mowing of the season.

A yearly fertilizer program on an established lawn includes 3 to 4 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet, which is applied in several spring and fall applications. Nitrogen (N) is the nutrient needed in the largest quantities, followed by potassium (K) and phosphorus (P). Avoid fertilizing unirrigated lawn in the heat of the summer. A slow release fertilizer will reduce danger of fertilizer burn and over stimulation of top growth.

Fall fertilizer applications are the most important. Feeding at this time helps the grass make use of this season of ideal sunlight, moisture, and temperature. This is when turf grasses are growing most actively, strengthening their roots, and tillering to develop new plants, which will fill in weak areas of the lawn. Lawns such as these are more resistant to all pests. According to University of Wisconsin research and our experience, fall feeding is essential.

Late fall fertilization:

New shoot growth has stopped at this time of the year but the grasses’ roots are storing up food reserves. Fertilizer applied now provides the energy for grass to survive Wisconsin’s harsh winter conditions and recuperate in spring with a healthy, gradual green-up.

Erosion Mats

Do not remove any straw matting used to prevent erosion that was applied during seeding. All erosion mats used by The Bruce Company will break down naturally. Depending on the degree of erosion expected, erosion mats may be used to stabilize the soil. They are designed to break down after enough time has passed to allow the grass seed to become established and therefore stabilize the slope. Removing the erosion mats before seed is established will remove a significant percentage of the seedlings.

Traffic and Use

The roots of immature grass are easily harmed by heavy traffic, even during the winter months. Keep traffic off the lawn as much as possible during the first few months of growth.

Disease and Insect Problems

The roots of immature grass are easily harmed by heavy traffic, even during the winter months. Keep traffic off the lawn as much as possible during the first few months of growth.

Diseases and insect problems are hard to diagnose and advice should be sought from an expert. Do not apply chemicals haphazardly before the problem is identified.

There are two conditions that can lead to or contribute to lawn problems and diseases. One is over-fertilization. Do not add more fertilizer than the recommended rate, especially in hot, humid weather or in early spring. Over-fertilizing promotes excessive, fast, top growth and may accentuate disease development.

Mature Lawns

Thatch is the matting of undecomposed dead stems, leaves and roots in a layer just above the soil surface and below the green, vegetative growth. It is not grass clippings. Too much thatch keeps water from penetrating the soil and the root zone. Roots tend to grow into the thatch rather than deeply into the soil. Insects and diseases can easily establish themselves in the thatch layer.

Lawn Aeration

Thatch layers 1/2 inch or more thick should be aerated to begin to break down this excessive thatch layer. Aeration by machine removes cores of thatch and soil. These plugs of soil deposited on the turf surface contain bacteria that begin to break down the thatch layer. Core aeration also opens up hardened, impenetrable soil and allows water, air and fertilizer to reach the grass roots.

Newly Sodded Lawns

Watering

Keep the sod constantly moist until the first cutting.

How Often:

In hot, dry weather, this will mean sprinkling each area daily. In cool, moist weather, sprinkling may be necessary only every second or third day.

How Much:

It is important to give a newly sodded lawn immediate and constant attention. The sod has to be thoroughly wet down to the soil beneath. Light sprinkling does more harm than good. Soak the sod so thoroughly that when any corner of the sod is lifted, it will be dripping wet. Make this test several places in the lawn and especially on the edges near borders and sidewalks. These are the sod pieces that dry out first.

If sod is allowed to dry out, the strips will shrink and leave gaps which will not return to their original size. The sod must make contact with the soil beneath. Water heavily for ten days, then reduce the amount of watering.

Make frequent inspections to determine the moisture content of the soil. Gently lift an edge of a sod strip. If it is making good contact with the soil, you will see many strong white roots and lifting the strip will be difficult.

Although lawn establishment is faster with sod than with seeding, it is not “instant”. Care must be taken to keep traffic off the new lawn until sod starts to root as it can cause sinking in and uneven contact. Light walking across the lawn can begin after one week but wait a month before heavier usage.

If possible, avoid watering late in the evening or setting automatic irrigation systems on night watering. Turf that is wet during cool or humid evenings is more prone to foliar diseases. Water during early morning so the sun will dry the blade surface and not allow fungal spores to germinate and develop.

Mowing

A newly sodded lawn will not produce much top growth at first and does not need mowing right away. Newly laid sod may not have a firm base and should not be mowed when the soil is saturated or soft. The mower height should be set at 21/2-3 inches A lower setting could produce scalping and put the grass in a condition of shock. Riding mowers and lawn tractors should not be used when the new sod is soft. A sharp blade on your mower is always beneficial to your turf. Care should be taken not to leave a mat of grass clippings on the new sod. Mulching mowers work well or rake off mats of grass clippings to avoid smothering tender sod.

After the First Cutting:

Continue to keep the soil slightly moist until the fourth cutting at which point you may treat it pretty much like any established lawn. One inch of water per week in the form of rain or sprinkling is about right. It is better to apply this 1-inch in two to three applications rather than several light sprinklings.

The object is to keep as little moisture as possible on the surface where the shallow rooted weeds like to grow. At the same time, the grass roots are forced to penetrate deeply to seek moisture.

Fertilizing

A healthy lawn is one that has a balanced proportion of top growth to roots. Roots of newly laid sod have been sheared and, therefore, re-establishment of a solid root system is very important. Do not apply a fertilizer, which is high in nitrogen. High quantities of nitrogen encourage heavy top growth rather than root development. Without a well-developed root system, grass is more prone to diseases and stress during adverse weather conditions.

Before placement, your sod had been grown under optimum conditions with proper fertilization and at the time of placement, the topsoil beneath was treated with fertilizer. Immediate fertilization, therefore, is not needed.

After 4 to 6 weeks, apply a complete (N-P-K) fertilizer, which contains slow release nitrogen.

A yearly fertilizer program on an established lawn includes 3 to 4 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet, which is applied in several spring and fall applications. Nitrogen (N) is the nutrient needed in the largest quantities, followed by potassium (K) and phosphorus (P). Avoid fertilizing the lawn in the heat of the summer. A slow release fertilizer will reduce danger of fertilizer burn and over stimulation of top growth.

Fall fertilizer applications are the most important. Feeding at this time helps the grass make use of this season of ideal sunlight, moisture, and temperature. This is when turf grasses are growing most actively, strengthening their roots, and tillering to develop new plants, which will fill in weak areas of the lawn. Lawns such as these are more resistant to all pests. According to University of Wisconsin research and our experience, fall feeding is essential.

Late fall fertilization:

New shoot growth has stopped at this time of the year but the grasses’ roots are storing up food reserves. Fertilizer applied now provides the energy for grass to survive Wisconsin’s harsh winter conditions and recuperate in spring with a healthy, gradual green-up.

Weed Control

Weed Control: Annual Grasses

If foreign, annual grasses germinate from seed in the disturbed soil below the new sod, they are noticed as paler-green, faster-growing grass in the seams between the rolls of sod. Mowing will even the appearance of the turf and these grasses only live until frost in the fall. The density of the turf will be thick enough next spring to inhibit the germination of annual grasses such as foxtail and goosegrass. If the new sod was not watered sufficiently and the sod pieces shrunk, it would be advisable to use a pre-emergent annual grass preventive treatment in the spring. Pre-emergent products do not allow annual grass seeds to germinate and should be applied in late April or early May.

Weed Control: Broadleaf Weeds

Generally, the density of the turfgrasses in new sod is so thick that broadleaf weeds cannot compete. If broadleaf weeds such as dandelions do germinate, they can be controlled by applying a granular weed and feed product or liquid spot treating of the weeds.

Disease and Insect Problems

Diseases and insect problems are hard to diagnose and advice should be sought from an expert. Do not apply chemicals haphazardly before the problem is identified.

There are two conditions that can lead to or contribute to lawn problems and diseases. One is over-fertilization. Do not add more fertilizer than the recommended rate, especially in hot, humid weather or in early spring. Over-fertilizing promotes excessive, fast, top growth and may accentuate disease development.

Thatch is the matting of undecomposed dead stems, leaves and roots in a layer just above the soil surface and below the green, vegetative growth. It is not grass clippings. Too much thatch keeps water from penetrating the soil and the root zone. Roots tend to grow into the thatch rather than deeply into the soil. Insects and diseases can easily establish themselves there.

Thatch layers 1/2 inch or more thick should be aerated to begin to break down this excessive thatch layer. Aeration by machine removes cores of thatch and soil. These plugs of soil deposited on the turf surface contain bacteria that begin to break down the thatch layer. Core aeration also opens up hardened, impenetrable soil and allows water, air and  fertilizer to reach the grass roots.

All sodded lawns should be aerated annually after the first full year of growth.

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The Bruce Company Garden Center
2830 Parmenter Street, Middleton, WI 53562

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