Starting a Lawn
Much More Than Dirt
Drainage troubles often stem from problems most easily corrected before seeding your lawn. Subsoil must be able to drain effectively. Gravelly subsoil is the best because spaces between small rocks promote good drainage. If you have a subsoil type that does not drain well, like clay, consider installing a properly designed and constructed drainage tile system.
Cover the subsoil with 6 inches to 1 foot loam soil, a mixture of sand or silt and clay. Too much of one soil type will lead to watering and drainage problems. Sandy soil cannot hold onto water or nutrients very long and clay soil increases runoff hazards because of slow infiltration of water. Adding organic materials such as compost or peat moss can improve soil structure, allowing for adequate drainage.
The last step to ensure healthy soil is proper fertilization. A soil test lets you know what nutrients need to be replaced and if the pH, or acidity, needs adjusting. If phosphate or lime needs to be added, this should be done before seeding. Other nutrients can be added before or afterwards.
Because watershed residents live in a sensitive area, soil tests are strongly encouraged to prevent excess nutrients from leaching into the lake. The following guidelines provide a margin of safety for the water, but applying fertilizers based on soil testing greatly reduces your risk of contaminating Lake Whatcom.
Apply a 19-26-5 or similar "lawn starter" fertilizer at 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 sq.ft. Two to four weeks after germination, apply additional fertilizer, up to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 sq.ft., with at least 50% slow-release nitrogen. Read fertilizer bags carefully to determine the percentage of slow release nitrogen.
Sod or Seed
New sod should be watered deeply, enough to wet the entire root zone, after it is installed and frequently until it is established. Deep waterings enhance root health. Mow as you would an established lawn, removing only one-third of the blade at a time. Aeration is suggested after the sod has firmly rooted to the soil.
Seed blends made of perennial ryegrass and about 20-30% fine fescue are recommended for most lawns because they complement each other well and grow vigorously in the Pacific Northwest. Follow package directions for seeding rates. It's best to distribute the seeds in a criss-cross pattern. For example, sow half the seeds in a north-south direction, and then seed the rest going east to west. Save some seed for patching up thin spots later. Gently rake the seeds ¼" into the soil and then go over with a lawn roller half full of water. For the next 7-10 days, keep the surface moist by watering several times a day for short periods. If seeds dry out, not as many will survive.
Any reproduction of photographic images on any portion of this website, including but not limited to the retention and/or storage in a retrieval system of any kind is strictly prohibited without prior express permission