Watering & Monitoring Newly Seeded Areas

A newly seeded lawn is like caring for anything, whether its a pet, child, garden...etc. Its a paradox because its simple yet complicated. People must follow strict guidelines for a month or so. They must water frequently and lightly for the first 3-6 weeks so seeds can germinate. People must monitor soil moisture and keep soils damp at all times for those first 3-6 weeks. Applying a seed starter fertilizer will help new roots to develop properly. A watering session might take 10-30 minutes to saturate a given area, it really depends on the size. Do not hand blast your water hose, or over water your newly seeded area, this can wash away seeds and leave bald spots. You want to shower the soil and seeds evenly with the irrigation system you have. If you see run-off or severe puddling, stop watering and move to a new area. People may water areas 1-4 times on a given day. You must pay close attention to temperatures, winds, humidity, slopes, sunny spots, shady spots, and birds feasting on your new seeds. The first signs of sprouting is the most crucial growing point. It will determine sweet success or total failure, remember 'Dry-Out equals Die-Out'

New sprouts and soil dry out faster than you think, so when in doubt - WATER. Watering in the morning is ideal. If you must water in the evenings do it rarely or fungal disease can occur. Limit all foot traffic as much as you can in the first month. People and pets can trample and tear areas fast. Have a friend or family member help monitor your lawn if you leave for a few days. Your new lawn will suffer great casualties the minute you neglect it, so get help if you need it. After the initial 3-6 weeks come to an end, you can relax and cut back on the watering. Watering 2-3 times/week for the next month should suffice and 1 inch/week after the turf is established. Don't be tempted to cut you newly sprouted grass either...control your temptations. If you mow your new sprouts to soon, you will undo all your hard work by blowing off un-germinated seeds and tearing out young rootlets. Riding mowers can also tear-up your new grass. They are much heavier and turning corners can pull out grasses, so try using a push mower for the first few cuts if you can. Understand your property will look aesthetically unpleasing for several weeks, but your patience will payoff. Once your grass reaches 3-4 inches you can cut it, please confirm mower blades are sharp and bag your first 3-4 cuts. Dull blades can bash and break young grass out of position, causing more stress and recovery time. Remember to cut the top 1/3 of the total grass height anytime you mow. If you see any bare spots 3-6 weeks after the initial growing starts, spot seed those areas, top dress and continue the same procedures above.  Provide another feeding with a balanced fertilizer after the first 3-4 cuts are completed, then water in the fertilizer.  Do not spray for weeds until you have cut 3-4 times and the seeds have matured.

Question: When is the best time to seed bare soil areas - spring, summer or fall?

Answer: The best time to seed is when you are ready and someone is home to care for it. All seasons have their pros & cons. If you are home to monitor, feed and water - the results should be more successful. Seeding an area and leaving for holidays will likely result is disaster, so remember 'Failing to Plan is a Plan to Fail'. Often people who say "Its grass...just leave it...it'll grow"  can fool themselves. The rain, temperatures and timing would need to be perfect every time someone decides to seed. Those scenarios are rare. This mentality will likely result in more failures than successes. 

  • Spring pros & cons are:  grass has a full season to mature, moisture is adequate, but temps are cooler so germination will take longer.
  • Summer pros & cons are: germination can occur in as little as 5 days,  fatality may occur when heat rises, people forget to water, more water and monitoring is required daily.
  • Fall pros & cons are: germination may occur late fall or not till the following spring, temperatures are lower, fatalities may occur in the spring due to snow molds.  


Things to consider before you over seed bare soil or patch large areas:

  • Do you require top dressing ?
  • Do you have the correct fertilizer?
  • Do mower blades need sharpening?
  • Is there good seed to soil contact?
  • Are weeds & foraging grasses eliminated?
  • Is there pest & disease problems which require correcting?
  • Does the soil need prepping or amending?
  • Does the watering system work properly?
  • Can you restrict foot traffic for the next 3-6 weeks?
  • Are you around when germination starts?
  • Do you have the time to water several times a day and care for the area?

If you can answer yes to these questions you should have minimal problems.