Replacing Grass - Knowledgebase Question

Lauderhill, Fl
Question by quitecute03
January 28, 2010
I have trouble keeping my grass healthy. It dies in some areas and turn brown in others, therefore I would like to dig it all up and replace it with new grass. I would like to know:

1. What steps I should take before and after the old grass is replaced to ensure a healthy start?
2. When should I fertilize the new grass?
3. How often should I fertilize the grass each year?


Answer from NGA
January 28, 2010


I wonder if your existing lawn just needs a little renovation rather than replacing? Starting from scratch has its benefits, but the same amount of labor it will take to tear out and replace your turfgrass could be used to breathe new life into the existing turf. Browning areas can indicate insect or disease problems but they are often caused by compacted soils or even a result of thatch build-up. You can rent a core aerator will remove one inch by three inch plugs from the lawn. Leave the plugs on the lawn and they will dissolve in rain or water from the sprinklers. After aerating spread a thin layer of sand or compost over the area and water it in well. The sand or compost plus the soil from the plugs will work their way down into the holes left by the plugs and provide a place for moisture to go and roots to expand. Sometimes aerating is all that's necessary to renew a lawn.

If you decide to redo the entire lawn, start by rototilling the area to break up the soil. Remove any debris (stones, sticks, weeds, etc.) and then spread 4-5 inches of organic matter over the area and rototill it in, then rake the area smooth. Sod produces an almost instant lawn because the grass is mature with a healthy root system. After laying the sod and watering it down well, it only takes a week or two to become firmly established. Seeding takes a little longer, but the results are eventually the same - a lush, thick, healthy lawn. If you decide to seed your lawn, choose a bermuda variety such as Tifgreen. If you lay sod, you can use St. Augustine, Bermuda, Centipede or Zoysia.

Here are some general guidelines for helping your new sod become established: Your lawn should be watered immediately to moisten the soil and the sod. Water thoroughly, providing about an inch of water over the entire lawn. The sod will require consistent moisture for the next 7-10 days to ensure good, even root development. Water the lawn lightly to keep the sod moist at least twice daily; 15-20 minutes is sufficient. Once the sod has begun to "knit" to the soil surface, gradually increase the duration and decrease the frequency of your waterings until you are watering once a week for 45 minutes to an hour (long enough to provide one inch of water). This schedule can be adjusted for the weather, of course, with more frequent applications during the early stages if we experience hot, dry, or windy weather. Less water is needed during periods of rainy or cold weather. Watering is best done during the overnight hours. The hours between 10:30pm and 2:00am are best. This limits the amount of time the grass blades are wet, thus reducing the threat of disease establishment. Do not water from 6:00am through the remainder of the day. Watering during the heat of the day will not damage the grass, but too much of the water is wasted through evaporation loss before the grass ever has a chance to use it. Sod is a very perishable commodity. It can dry out very quickly in sunny, windy weather. Until the roots have grown down into the soil, it is critical that the sod not dry out. As long as this doesn't happen, your results should be excellent.

Your new lawn should be fertilized with a slow-release fertilizer 3-4 times per year. The most important application is in early September. A second application is November is the next most important. Sometimes an additional application in October is made for an even higher quality turf. If this application is made, the November application is bumped to December. Just remember the "SOD" rule: September, October, December. Spring fertilization is not recommended. This has been shown to enhance fungal disease activity during the Summer months. Besides, the largest portion of the energy is directed into top growth. This just translates into more frequent mowing. Who needs that?!

Mow your lawn as soon as the new sod is well rooted enough to permit the mower traffic without damage. Allowing the new grass to become too tall is detrimental and can result in loss of some of the new stand. Always set the mower at 3 inches or above and mow frequently enough that you never remove more than one inch at a time. Keep mower blades sharp for the cleanest, safest cut. Lawns cut with dull blades loose moisture more rapidly, are more subject to disease, and take on a lighter, almost grayish cast. This comes from the shredded ends of the grass blades drying out and turning a pale brown in the sun. Best wishes with your new sod.

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