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Maintaining a New Lawn


Watering guidelines for new lawns differ from those of older lawns. Keep the new lawn damp and do not allow it to become completely dry, especially once the seed has begun to germinate. Because seedling roots are restricted to the immediate vicinity of the soil surface, shallow, frequent irrigation cycles are more efficient than deep, infrequent cycles. Also, refrain from watering lawns in the evening to reduce the incidence of disease.


Do not mow young seedlings until they have reached a height of 4 inches. The grass should then be mowed to a height of 3 inches, and when it has grown to 4 inches, it should be mowed again. A sharp mower will give an even cut and will not pull young seedlings from the soil. After five or six mowing cycles, the mowing height may be lowered to 2.5 inches for Kentucky bluegrass. In general, a mowing height of 3 inches is best maintained for cool season grasses to promote root development. Lawns that have been sodded, however, may be mowed to the desired height as soon as adequate fresh growth is obtained. The newly seeded lawn will not require additional fertilizer for one year. Once sodded lawns begin to grow actively, they may be considered as established lawns and fertilized accordingly.

Fertilizer Application

To maintain an attractive and healthy lawn, it is often necessary to provide supplemental fertilizer. The following recommendations are intended as guidelines for annual lawn fertilization. It is always good practice to have the soil tested before fertilizing or liming the lawn. This fertilization plan is based upon limited applications of nitrogen resulting in moderate grass growth. This level of lawn vigor should not require bagging of clippings, thus allowing the nutrients to be recycled in the yard. If the soil test indicates higher applications of nutrients than provided by this recommendation, contact your county’s WVU Extension Office for more information.

It is important not to over-fertilize your lawn because this may lead to turf maintenance problems such as thatch buildup, disease incidence or environmental problems. Proper mowing height and sharp mower blades are also important factors in maintaining a healthy lawn.

  • Spring (March-April): Apply ½ to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet using a complete fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. This fertilizer, which should contain at least 30 percent slow-release nitrogen, should be applied when grass begins to “green-up” in the spring. This fertilization enables earlier and more vigorous grass growth, while providing slow-release nitrogen throughout the spring season.
  • Summer (June-July): Apply ½ pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. This should also be slow-release nitrogen, which reduces the potential for burning the lawn and losing nitrogen through volatilization. This fertilization helps to maintain growth and vigor of the lawn and minimize disease development.
  • Fall (October-November): Apply 1 to 11/4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, using a complete fertilizer with at least 20 percent slow-release nitrogen. This fertilizer application must occur before the dormant phase or about the time of the first frost. This fertilization is very important in promoting strong root growth over the winter months. This improved root structure enhances resistance to disease and drought for the next season and promotes earlier “green-up” in the spring.

Controlling pests

In newly seeded cool-season grasses, two pre-emergence herbicides are labeled to selectively control certain weeds prior to germination. They are siduron (TUPERSAN®) and mesotrione (TENACITY®). Refer to the label for timing, rate of application and spectrum of weed control provided. Certain insecticides and fungicides may also be applied during lawn preparation.

Contact your county WVU Extension Service agent for the latest recommendations on pest control.

For more information email Rakesh, WVU Extension Service Weed Science Specialist.

Author: Rakesh Chandran, WVU Extension Agent, Integrated Pest Management
Last Reviewed: May 23, 2017