Why New Lawns Fail? – Turfgrass Science at Purdue University

Why New Lawns Fail?

It is increasingly common for newly-established lawns to thin or completely fail within a year. There are many reasons for this to occur but here are my top ten:

  1. 1. Poor soil – heavy clay in today’s subdivisions is not conducive for quality turf, so good soil preparation is required, see number 3.
    2. Poor planning – drain water from the roof and sidewalks, traffic from pets and people, poor growing conditions should all be accounted for during construction/.
    3. Poor soil preparation –Till to 3-4”, lightly compact with tractor tires or other suitable equipment, and rake to final grade is critical for lawn success, especially for sodded lawns. The bucket of a skid-steer loader is not the proper tool for creating the seed bed before seeding or sodding! 
    4. Wrong date of seeding – August and September are the best seeding months. Other seeding dates are doable, but more attention and labor will be needed for success.
    5. Bad choice of seed – Kentucky bluegrass or turf-type tall fescue are preferred, limit the perennial ryegrass to 10% or less in any seed mix. Fine fescue should only be used in the shade in Indiana.
    6. No irrigation after seeding – irrigate 2-4 times/day to keep the seedbed moist.
    7. Improper fertilization after seeding – fertilize with 0.75 lbs N/1000 sq ft every 4-6 weeks after seeding is required for maximum establishment
    8. Bad mowing – mow as soon as the first few plants reach 3” and then weekly after that. Most wait too long to mow.
    9. No or ineffective crabgrass control – Crabgrass will outcompete young lawns. A preemergence herbicide in spring or postemergence herbicides later in summer will help. Herbicides can be damaging on seedling turf so check the label before use.
    10. No aerification on sodded lawns – sod grown on silt loam will not root well when laid onto a dramatically different soil than which it was raised (like the clay soils in #1). Annual or more frequent aerification will help decompact the soil and help roots penetrate.

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