When to fertilize and what to use new sod lawn

kyle_sheaMay 18, 2014


I have a brand new lawn from sod on about 3/4 acre. It has been down for about a week and a half and is already rooted and looking quite nice! My question is WHEN should I apply my first application of fertilizer - and most importantly WHAT type/brand/formula should I choose? I'm going to need weed control as I already see dandelions popping up in areas, so can I find a product with this built-in or should I consider 2 separate applications of a fertilizer and then weed killer?

There are so many products out there I'm overwhelmed - any help would be most appreciated!


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Assuming you had it professionally installed, any pro worth their salt would have applied a fertilizer once it was down. If they didn't, you should apply a triple NPK fertilizer at a rate of of 1/2lb of N per thousand sq ft. every two weeks until mid June then apply it at the rate of 1lb N Sept. 1 and Oct. 1. Then winterize once the grass stops growing. Next year you should drop back to recommended fertilizer rates. As an alternative, you can apply Milorganite instead of triple NPK at a rate of 20lbs of product per thousand sq ft.
Water is critical. Water long enough to wet the subsoil and water regularly to promote rooting.
Pull weeds by hand until the sod gets established. Once established and you are down to watering just once or twice a week, spot spray weeds with Weed b gone.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 10:43AM
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Thanks! Indeed it's Kentucky Bluegrass. I did have it professionally installed, however they did not fertilize once it was down. They indicated that it's so heavily fertilized by the sod farm that it's not necessary for several weeks.

I keep hearing to use a "slow-release" formula for the new sod, and I'm not really sure what that is. Not sure if a product like Scott's Turf Builder w/ weed control is a good idea or not; but as you've advised to spot-treat weeds I'm thinking it's not :)

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 8:51PM
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I would suggest you not use any broadly applied herbicides or pesticides this year. No sense chancing stressing the turf. and at the very least check the label for advisories regarding applying.

A half pound/k of NPK every two weeks applied to dry blades and then watered in until mid June will be beneficial for the sod.
As far as fertilizing new sod or grass, what follows is the best advice I've ever found:

"The Philes Phertilizer Lecture follows:

These new KBG lawns are hungry for fertilizer. Very much like, (and if you renovated, exactly like) a sod farm, those guys that start with bare ground, throw some seed around, and by late July of every year, they are selling product: a deeply rooted, dense intertwined dark green carpet of lush (no bare spots) Kentucky Bluegrass. Now how do they do that every year? (And, of course, the implied question "How come you and I can't do it also?")

They do it with frequent, rather than heavy, applications of fertilizer. Literally, every two weeks, a light application of fertilizer. At seeding time, they start with an 8-8-8 or a 10-10-10. Upon the grass reaching the 'first mow' stage, they add Milorganite, and then it's Milorganite every two weeks, as the weather gets warmer. Every two weeks would seem to you (and in the old days, to me) as 'excessive'. It's not. Not only is it not excessive, it may well be Required.

There's only one difference between the sod farm, with that lush green grass for sale every year, and the typical homeowner here (I'm leaving out the general public: the public is a 2 or a 3, as you know, and you guys and gals are a 6 or a 7. Twice as good. But I'm trying to get y'alls up to a 9, which is where the sod farm is), and that difference is Frequent Applications of Fertilizer.

Especially with KBG, more fertilizer than you are used to putting down is good. A typical homeowner would fertilize once in the fall. Not the first year, but every following year, on these newly renovated (or overseeded) KBG lawns, two full applications are required in the fall.

Spring? A lot of people don't like to fertilize in the spring. A KBG lawn requires an application of big-first-number fertilizer, in May. A newly renovated KBG lawn requires yet another application in mid June. That lawn needs the nitrogen, for all the growing, both above, below, and across the ground, that it's wanting to do, and will do, if you feed it. Density? It requires nitrogen. Color? Requires more nitrogen. Aggressiveness? You already know what it requires.

Even an old KBG lawn, the Merion sods of this world, needed more nitrogen than they received. As proof, drive through the subdivisions of ten or twenty years ago, and look at the lawns: those lawns were not exactly treated like a sod farm, were they? If you want your new lawn to turn out just like that, here's all you have to do: fertilize once in the fall, and once in the spring. That's it. The results are guaranteed.

By now, somebody is saying (and should be), "Is it possible to OVER fertilize a lawn?" Yes, it's possible. But not what you'd think. The 'typical' overfertilize stripes that we all seem to fear came from the old drop spreaders, when the rows were overlapped. That overlap caused a doubling of the fertilizer along that narrow, overlapped row, and it was all delivered in one day. What most people forget, while imagining the scorn of neighbors and children, is that those bands of over fertilization did not last until fall, they went away in less than a month. Repeat: the so called over fertilization went away, in less than a month. The homeowner had not created another Love Canal toxic zone, the homeowner had instead managed to put down more than the grass could handle all at once, but in fact the lawn handled it, and probably even needed it. The lawn just didn't need it all at once. Nor in summer's heat. Disaster? No. Bad delivery technique? Yes. It wasn't too much fertilizer, it was too much fertilizer all at once, and there's a difference, isn't there?

These days, with the rotary far-flinging spreaders, a more evenly spread application of fertilizer is the norm. Now that we want to emulate the sod farms (and their turf success), we know that there's no sin in putting down a half application, in one direction, and putting down the other half application, in the other direction a week later. Now that we want to emulate the sod farms, we will want to feed the lawn during summer, rather than letting it starve while it battles the hot summer sun. So Milorganite, or other organic fertilizer is required, rather than a big-first number fertilizer. At least once in summer, but if you've renovated, or over seeded, that new KBG needs two applications. It needs the food.

So there's my recommendation for the renovators and overseeders: two applications in the fall (not the first year, on the seedlings, they can't use the food yet, as they haven't grown enough yet) at least one application in the spring (two if you renovated or overseeded. That application we skipped last fall goes down the following spring), and you must feed the lawn in the summer: that new KBG needs the food.

So here we are, end of August. You know you are going to fertilize in the fall, probably twice, and perhaps didn't do enough during spring or summer. You can do a half application right now, of big first number fertilizer, or a full application of Milorganite. And still do the regular fertilizing when fall gets here. But your lawn likely needs the meal, and if you provide that light meal right now, before fall gets here, I think you'll love the visible results.

Good luck with it."

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:26PM
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Slow release fertilizers spread the release of N out over a period of time (3-4 weeks). Synthetics do this by covering the N prills with a coating that decays/disloves at different rates releasing the N over time. Organics use the slow processing of the OM by microorganisms to spread the release of the N over time. Triple NPK almost always contain fast release.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 10:03PM
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