You’ve just planted your new Grass Plugs! Now your yard looks like a patchwork grid of grassy tufts amid a sea of soil. At the moment, it looks less than stellar … but only at first. Soon those grassy tufts will begin to establish and expand out into those bare areas and become a lush green lawn!
Now it is up to you to ensure those fresh new plugs are well cared for so they can establish and begin filling in. But don’t let this new responsibility make you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into! It will take you just a few easy steps, performed regularly while your new lawn establishes and it is oh-so-easy!
Over the next few months, you’ll need to baby and regularly care for your new grass plugs as they get those roots established. This includes watering, fertilizer, and weeding all are important to help the grass plugs grow.
The following steps are very important in a successful Grass Plug after-care routine!
If you are planting on a hillside or have a slope you’ve planted your plugs into, take steps to slow water runoff and prevent erosion. Right after installation, install a lightweight erosion control mat or layer of straw that is biodegradable over the surface.
This not only controls erosion, and slows water runoff, but it also maintains a more regulated moisture level and prevents the sun from baking the plugs and also helps keep weeds under control. It will not interfere with the growth of the plugs.
You’ve no doubt watered your yard very well before planting, during and after planting. Then provide deep watering every day, even if you’ve had rain. Deep waterings encourage deep root growth and therefore healthier grass plugs! Watering amounts will depend on your natural rainfall and temperatures, as well as your soil type.
Keep the area very moist for the first two weeks, then gradually reduce watering, keeping the ground consistently moist. Continue watering this way for the next 2-3 weeks or more in very hot dry weather. After week four, soak the area once or twice per week until the plugs have completely covered the area. This additional keeps the plugs actively growing and spreading as quickly as possible. Afterward, you can reduce the frequency to every other day for the remainder of the growing season (until the ground freezes).
This is easier if you have installed irrigation systems, but be sure to always check the soil's moisture levels a few inches below the surface after each watering. That way you’ll know for sure it has soaked in deeply, or if it is only staying on the surface.
Be careful while walking around your new lawn so as not to compact the soil. Use narrow boards or stepping stones to disperse your weight. Avoid walking and standing directly on the soil, especially when it is wet. Whenever possible, only treat and spray from the perimeter of your area and avoid walking through it.
4. Weed Control
Once you can walk safely, maintain a weed-free site, removing any intruders carefully removing weeds by hand without disturbing the grass plugs and their developing roots. Immediately after planting, apply Pre-Emergent Weed Control according to the label directions. These are readily found at local garden centers. Repeat at a half rate at the 8-week mark.
During the summer months, hand-pull broadleaf weeds can be controlled after they emerge, or sprayed with a Broadleaf Weed herbicide. Be sure to select one without 2-4D or a granular weed and feed.
In areas with poor soil and mild winter climates (where you won’t expect a winter freeze), a third fertilizer application without pre-emergent may be applied mid-summer and a fourth application can be applied in early fall.
After installation, if you didn’t add fertilizer at the time of planting, saturate each plug with a mild, general-purpose fertilizer or a sod/seed starter fertilizer. After their first month in the ground, fertilize your new lawn again with an all-purpose fertilizer geared for lawns or a sod or seed starter fertilizer style fertilizer.
Spray liquid fertilizer (diluted according to package directions) on the ground around the new plugs, and the plugs themselves. Then fertilize again that summer and again in fall. For Bermuda grass, Zoysia and Buffalograss (not Bluegrass) one last fertilizing should be done as soon as the plants turn brown in the autumn when the plants stop growing for the year. That way, the fertilizer will be there for the plants when they start to grow in spring.
Add supplemental water as needed to keep these new young plants stress-free and growing well, and allow them to become fully established during their first growing season! Once the plants are growing well, reduce watering frequency, but when you do water, water thoroughly and deep to keep the roots growing down to find more water - as it makes the plant much more drought tolerant in the future!
After a month of regular care, weeding and fertilizing, it's time to give your establishing plugs their first haircut! Gently mow with equipment that’s as light as possible, so as not to compact the soil or compress the plugs into the ground.
Mowing is important during the establishment period to encourage the grass plug to spread out and to control weeds. Mow the area at 2-3 inches tall on a weekly basis, depending on the variety of grass and your climate.
In preparation for winter in Zones 6 and below, mow to a height of 2 to 2 ½ inches in late summer and early fall, and mow at an inch or so in early spring to remove much of last year's old grass blades as possible before the new growth begins for a nice clean start.
After 3-4 months, depending on your growing zone, you should see your plugs have expanded to fill in most of the soil between each other (also depending on how far apart you initially planted them). The farthest possible spacing may need longer to completely fill in.
By the next growing season, you’ll enjoy a lush new lawn that should only need a minimum of spot treatments and holes that need to be filled! Got some gaps around the edges that won’t take? Try some pretty alternatives to fill in those areas for now!
Continue feeding your new plugs beginning after they begin to grow again during their first spring. Now you can use a standard, all-purpose lawn fertilizer for your established grass!
You should be able to gently walk around your new lawn without too much worry about compaction, but be sure not to set anything large and heavy on it at all. Read more on soil compaction in our Garden Blog!
Once you've gotten into the swing of your new lawn care routine, you will soon reap the rewards of a lush green new lawn! Let Nature Hills Nursery help you get the lawn you can be proud of and show off to the neighborhood! Everything you need to get started, plus the help and support you need to assist you throughout the whole process!