University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring, Summer News Article


By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Whether seeding or sodding, the site you select for your new lawn must be properly prepared.

Start by using a suitable herbicide to kill existing vegetation or remove it by hand and hoe. This is especially important if problem weeds such as quack grass, tall fescue or bentgrass are present. Rototilling such weeds into the soil just spreads them around and will not kill them. The same procedure is needed to kill off an existing lawn prior to starting a new lawn.

If you are putting in a new lawn around a just-built home, be sure to remove any debris that may be left from construction. Debris buried just below the soil surface can result in localized dry spots that will be a problem once the lawn is established.

Establish the final grade, making sure there are no low areas where water can collect. Where the soil is packed down, cultivate as deeply as possible.

Many times topsoil is spread over the existing soil. To be effective, at least six inches of topsoil are needed. A one- or two-inch layer will probably result in poor water movement and a very shallow-rooted lawn. Either put on at least six inches of topsoil or don't add any. If topsoil is added, mix some of it into the top three inches of existing soil. This will promote water movement from the added soil into the existing soil.

Prior to planting, work fertilizer and lime into the soil as recommended by a soil test. Do not add lime unless soil test results indicate a need. If the soil is not tested, use 15 to 20 pounds of 12-12-12 or similar fertilizer per 1,000 square feet prior to seeding. When sodding, use 10 pounds of 5-20-20 or similar fertilizer per 1,000 square feet.

Work the fertilizer into the top three inches of the soil. Rake the soil to level the seedbed and establish the final grade. The soil should be one inch below driveways and sidewalks. You are now ready to plant your new lawn.

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