Wetmore's Gardening Advice - Preparation, Care, and Maintenance of Your Lawn




When you prepare to install a new lawn, you have to start with the soil. 



A GOOD BASE: Good Topsoil is essential!


We recommend at least 15 cm (6 inches) of topsoil under the sod or seed; preferably more if placed over sandy fill. This depth is needed to retain moisture and reduce drying out and browning during the dry periods normally experienced in July and August. If the site already has a loam base, you may require only one or two inches of imported material to help levelling.


If the topsoil has been spread with a shovel, it may be lightly rolled to firm up loose areas. To do this properly, roll the soil after it has been leveled, then rake out the low spots and roll it again. Lime should be appled at this time, then the area re-raked to a level surface. Take a little extra care to get the full depth of the loam next to sidewalks and foundations. This will help eliminate browning caused by thin soil in these areas. Make sure that your soil slopes (at least gently) away from your home; surface run off in heavy rain and spring thaw is a leading cause of flooding in a home and damage to foundations.


Heavily packed or compacted areas should be worked up or roto-tilled before the new soil is placed. These steps ensure a healthier lawn by allowing soil moisture to move up to the new grass without restriction, as well as encouraging faster rooting. If you are installing sod, never sod over old grass; always till it up first.



New Brunswick soils mare generally acid (PH reading 5.2 - 5.5) and require ground limestone to neutralize this acidity to give grass roots a comfortable growing medium (pH reading 6 - 7). As a rule of thumb, 1 pound of lime per square yard (1 kg per 2 square metres) should be applied to the soil, and raked in well to avoid a possible reaction with fertilizer. This application and a top dress annually - spring or fall - of a half pound per square yard (1 kg per 4 square metres) will maintain the acidity at a good level.



If you are using seed or hydro-seeding, and you have a good crop of weeds by the time you do your first mowing, you can be assured that you have good topsoil and you will therefore have a good lawn. Most of the weeds will be killed by mowing and by competition from the grass. Any remaining weeds can be removed by various means after a year or so, if desired.


What's this business about weeds and topsoil? Topsoil is the top 20 - 30 cm (8 - 12 inch) layer of earth in the fields where it came from. It conatians organic matter, traces of mineral elements (as essential to plants as vitamins are to us) and bacteria and other "bugs" which pre-digest food so plant roots can absorb it. Without these things, the grass literally sits there starving, unless it is spoon-fed, for several years.


Topsoil contains all this invisible good stuff, as well as years of accumulated weed seeds, which are very definitely visible in short order! Weeds are therefore a very practical indicator of topsoil, and your assurance that your grass is planted in good soil.



Apply your fertilizer after your lime has been well raked into the soil. 6.5-26-26 is a great starter, applied at 8 kg per 100 square metres (15 pounds per 100 square yards). Because of summer heat and dryness, halve this rate after July 1 to reduce possible drought stress. Make sure you fertilize evenly with a good spreader. If you are sodding your lawn, you can apply the fertilizer after the sod has been put down. Hydro-seeding has the fertilzer already pre-mixed, so no fertilzer is required.






A good quality lawn seed mix can now be applied ata rate of 1.5 - 2.5 kg per 100 square metres (5 pounds per 100 suqare yards). A broadcast spreader can be used to give an even coverage of seed - use a very small opening on the spreader and apply half of the seed walking one way and the other half walking criss cross or at right angles (Checker board fashion).


The seed should be buried in the soil slightly ( have good contact with the soil). This can be done by raking very lightly with a leaf rake or by running a one quarter full roller over it.




Some landscape companies offer a service sometimes referred to as hydro-seeding. This process gives you an even application of a grass mixture, a lifetime supply of phosphate and potash fertilizers and a touch of nitrogen to help the grass off to a fast start. It is mixed in a special mulch which ensures good contact with the ground and helps keep birds off. Hydro-seeding isn't magic, however, and what happens from here on depends on two things: the care you give it in the next three or four weeks, and whether or not you have weeds. If you have lots of weeds, you have topsoil, and you will ahve a good lawn. Hydro-seeding is done by professionals and is more costly than seeding alone. We currently do not offer hydro-seeding as part of our landscaping services.



To calculate the amount of sod that you'll need to order, use this formula:


Find your total area in square feet and divide this by five. This will give the number of folds (sod is sold by the five foot square fold) of sod that you will require.


Our sod is sold in folds which are 16 inches (40.6 cm) wide by 45 inches (roughly 114 centimetres) long, equalling exactly five square feet.








For seeded and hydro-seeded lawns you should keep the ground moist (not soggy) for three weeks in order to get your lawn started quickly. This will mean sprinkling as often as four times a day on a hot windy day. Under these conditions green shoots will start to appear in five days or less and continue to sprout through 21 - 30 days until most of the seeds have germinated. If the ground dries out for two hours during this period, your grass will take an extra day to reach the mowing stage. If it dries out for a day, the grass will lose a week.


For sod you should start watering as soon as possible after laying the sod. Insufficient watering is the cause of most sod lawn failures. Finishing small sections allows you to water portions as you go. The new sod lawn should be fully saturated within 4 to 6 hours of laying. The ground should be soft enough for your foot to sink in. If you are using a sprinkler, make sure the edges of the pattern are as wet as the middle. It takes 1 to 2 minutes of sprinkler time per suqare yard covered. A standard tap must run between 2 to 4 hours to water 100 square yards of sod.


A sprinkler with skids will allow easy dragging over the sod without walking over it. It can be placed at the farthest corners, turned on, left, and then puilled to a new location with the hose, without having to walk up to it over the wet soft ground. Use a lawn roller to roll the sod after the ground has firmed up from the initial watering. This allows the sod to fully bond with the soil and removes small bumps. Saturate the lawn once a day for the next two weeks or so. A good 15 mm (one half inch) of rainfall will provide enough water. Lift a corner of a roll to guage watering times. If the soil is dry it needs watering. If the sod grass appears slightly dark and feels crispy, water immediately. This signals dangerous dryness.





With seeded and hydro-seeded lawns, it should be first mowed when the grass grows enough to look shaggy. Sod will need to mowed a week or so after you've installed it. Continue to mow as needed until it stops growing in the fall. We suggest mowing between 6 - 8 cm (2.5 - 3 inches) high - generally as high as a small mower can be adjusted. The higher mowing height reduces mowing frequency, encourages deeper roots and the grass is a lot happier during dry periods.


For seeded and hydro-seeded lawns the water program should be changed from sprinkling to heavy watering twice a week for the rest of the summer after the first mowing. For really fat grass, feed your lawn (2 kg per 100 square metres or 5 lbs per 100 sq. yds. of 25-3-3 fertilizer - applied very carefully) just after your first mowing. Ask us for instructions if you need help.


If the ground gets packed, the grass roots cannot grow well. For this reason all vehicles and people should be kept off your lawn until the first mowing. You can walk on your lawn to move the sprinkler, as long as you don't leave footprints. A sprinkler with skids (as mentioned under watering sod above) is the best type to use.


Please remember, the most important single thing in getting your new grass to the mowing stage is keeping the area moist - not letting it dry out - for the first two weeks for sod and the first three to four weeks after seeding.





The following recommendations are tied to the growth cycle of lawns in our area, producing maximum impact on the health of your lawn, and minimizing loss into the environment.


Feed your lawn regularly with 25-3-3 fertilizer starting one month after installation or next spring if installed after mid September. We recommend use of a slow release formulation for environmental friendliness. Fertilze twice each year, once in early May at 3 kg per 100 sq. m. (5 lb. per 100 sq. yd.) and once in early September at half that rate. Apply it evenly with a good spreader.


Don't fertilize in late June, July, or early August since the weather is normally hot and dry and the grass plants cannot utilize the fertilizer effectively. Fertilizing after mid-Spetember may contribute to winter damage to your lawn.


Lime your lawn each spring of fall as mentioned under ground preparation above. This makes the nutrients in the soil easy for the grass to use and difficult for the weeds, so it is very important for the overall health of your lawn! 


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