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  • Writer's pictureDarcy Morehouse

Step-by-Step New Lawn Install

By far my favorite job that we do is installing new lawns. It just so satisfying to see a patch of bare dirt transformed into thick healthy grass that will stand up to Upstate New York winters, August heat, and herds of teenagers & small livestock (maybe that's just us).

Before we started Grassroots, Kyle spent the first few years in our new house slowing rehabbing and installing grass in our yard bit by bit. He experimented with different techniques, seeds, and times of year until we had the best process for growing grass. Our lawn looked like a patchwork quilt of grass, all different colors, lengths, and thicknesses. Not going to lie, it was a little weird. But it worked.

If you've ever wondered how a full start-to-finish lawn installation works, check out these great pics of the process, as well as the steps we use to get there.

Step 1 - Topsoil. The native soil in the Adirondacks is naturally very difficult to grow grass in. It is sandy, compacted, and has difficulty holding water and nutrients. For most of our installs we bring in new topsoil to give the grass a really nice base.

Not all topsoil is created equal, though. Most topsoil is pretty sterile, so we always use a topsoil that is mixed with compost for added organic matter.

Step 2 - Seed. The most common options for growing a new lawn are laying sod, hydroseeding, and traditional seeding. We always use the traditional seeding method. Aside from being more expensive, we've found that sod and hydroseeding just don't give the same results. Their speed and convenience are attractive, but you usually pay for it in the long run with expensive repairs and supplemental products. It takes patience to grow grass with traditional seeding, but it just works better in our area.

Many lawns are made up of just one breed of grass, like fescue or Kentucky Blue (honestly, I didn't even know that there were different types of grass before I met Kyle). We use a blend of 6-8 different seeds formulated for our region. Having a mix is great because different breeds have different strengths, like resistance to drought, fungus, or certain diseases. So even if a disease takes out one type of grass, the majority of the grass in your lawn will stay healthy.

Step 3 - Fertilizer. As well as using a topsoil compost mix, we also enrich the soil with a starter fertilizer and an organic fertilizer that's high in nitrogen. We've found that most new lawns need that extra boost to get established. After about 6 weeks we'll do another feeding of both the standard and the organic fertilizer. If we're growing grass in the fall, which we normally do, that second feeding may include an extra boost of phosphorus to help winterize the new lawn.

Step 4 - Irrigation. This is a non-negotiable for new lawns. We have seen way too many lawns fail to germinate, or quickly die off, because of inadequate or inconsistent watering. The best solution we have found is a simple sprinkler and hose setup with an automatic timer. New grass needs water twice a day, for at least 15 minutes. A set and forget system guarantees that it gets what it needs, regardless of your schedule (or forgetfulness).

It seems like a lot, I know, but it's the single biggest difference maker when growing new grass. Once it's established, after 4 weeks or so, you can go down to watering only every 2-3 days or so. But when it's new it's almost impossible to water it too much. When in doubt, water it!

Step 5 - Watch it grow! A new lawn may need minor adjustments as it grows. You might discover a stubborn weed patch that comes in, or a spot that the sprinkler doesn't quite reach. Keep an eye on it and be patient. Like most adolescents, young grass will be scraggly, awkward, and sensitive.

After about 4 weeks, the grass will be ready to be mowed. We usually use a push mower for the first couple of mows, because it will still be a little fragile. In 6-8 weeks it will be fully established and ready for kids, pets, winter, whatever!

Now we get the pleasure of growing beautiful grass for homes all around the Sacandaga Lake region. It's such a fun process, and just magical to watch. You can see the entire install process, from start to finish, plus more great transformations here.

While you're there, check out our entire gallery of work too!


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