The lawn seed is in the ground, tiny grass plants are growing, it’s being watered, now what? Good question.
The three biggest follow up actions to take to facilitate the development of a successful stand at this point are:
- Keeping the soil moist, not soggy or dry.
- Applying starter fertilizer to encourage rooting and eventual shoot growth
- Weed control
Keeping the soil moist, not soggy or dry. This often is easier said than done. Dragging hoses and sprinklers around a newly seeded lawn can be tedious and time consuming. After all, the goal is to provide several light sprinklings each day rather than a twice a week deep watering which is recommended for an established lawn. If an in-ground sprinkler system is in place, it’s much easier, but still, hot spots and/or gaps in coverage often lead to over and under-watering. Setting out empty tuna or cat food cans in the sprinkler pattern to identify the location of problem areas helps with fine-tuning.
A starter fertilizer with a ratio of 1-2-0 will provide the phosphorous that is needed to help build a healthy root system. In the great majority of eastern Nebraska lawns, phosphorous is not needed for established lawns, but it’s really difficult for new plants with tiny roots to pull enough out of the soil to fulfill the initial need, so it’s recommended to apply a phosphorous rich product soon after seeding.
Weed control efforts after seeding will limit the competition between the new desirable grass plants and undesirables such as crabgrass, purslane and spurge. Mowing after the new grass reaches 3 inches will help with some of the larger weeds, but especially if the lawn has a large seed bank, the application of a product such as mesotrione will help suppress a wide variety of weeds without damaging fescue, bluegrass or ryegrass seedlings. Some newer products contain a combination of mesotrione and starter fertilizer for convenience.