New Homeowner Lawn and Landscaping Care

The first year is a crucial time for newly transplanted trees and plants, so they require regular homeowner maintenance.

Maintenance Tip: To help your plants thrive, take care to water them thoroughly and deeply.  It may be necessary to water daily during warm, dry months.

Water new plants thoroughly and frequently in the absence of rain.  Roots develop and grow with water, air and nutrients.  Light, shallow watering keeps roots shallow and exposes plants to damage in hot weather.

If you choose to add plants or shrubs to your yard, use local resources to research and determine the best plants for your geographical area and yard’s sun exposure.  Proper planning will pay off in the long run and ensure the plants you purchase thrive.

Keep in mind that if your lot has a street tree, you are responsible for its watering and feeding, as well as care and maintenance.


Watering New Sod

New sod should be kept moist at all times during the first two weeks.  On a hot summer day, it may be necessary to water 3-4 times a day for 15-30 minutes each time; on a cool dry day, 1-2 times for 15-30 minutes is recommended.  In hot weather new lawns need water all the time. For new sod it may be necessary to water in the hot sun or in the evening when typical watering is not recommended.  You can alter this watering schedule with rain, as watering may not be necessary.  After the first two weeks, sod should be watered every one or two days


Here are some tips to make the most of your watering:

  • Water during daylight hours. Morning is the best time because cool morning air will help prevent water from evaporating. Avoid late evening watering, as wet or damp lawns at night are more susceptible to fungus and disease problems.
  • Sandy soils dry quickly and need water more frequently. Clay soils dry slower but need more water to penetrate to the desired depth. With clay soils, it may be necessary to water in intervals to avoid wasteful runoff.
  • Avoid deep saturation or puddling of water by the foundation. Point sprinklers away from the walls of the house. Sandy soils dry quickly and need water more frequently.


An established lawn needs approximately 1 inch of water per week.  To test your lawn’s absorption rate, place a number of shallow containers at regular intervals running out from the sprinkler.  Turn on the water and note how long it takes to fill the containers 1 inch.  When you know how long it takes your sprinkler to discharge 1 inch of water, multiply by the number of inches you want.  The result equals the sprinkler’s run time.


Fertilizing Trees & Shrubs

Feed plants twice a year, in March and November, with the appropriate fertilizer. The fertilization needs of a plant will vary according to species, soil type, pH, amount of rain, etc. Read directions thoroughly and determine your plant’s needs once established.  If a tree is healthy and vigorous, it may only need to be fertilized every other year. A 3-1-1 (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) ratio fertilizer is recommended. The best time to fertilize is early spring, but you can also fertilize in late fall and winter. To keep new sod green and beautiful, you need to fertilize on a regular basis.  Fertilizing not only helps grass grow, but it also helps prevent disease and weed problems. The thicker and healthier your grass, the less room there is for weeds.

The three major elements of a complete fertilizer are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus:

  • Nitrogen – The primary element most needed by your lawn. It promotes root and blade growth and makes the grass a healthy green; lawns grow more slowly and become yellowish without enough nitrogen.
  • Potassium – It is the second most important element. It strengthens the grass and helps it withstand stress associated with foot traffic and periods of drought.
  • Phosphorus – It helps the early formation and growth of roots. New lawns require more phosphorus than established lawns, which need very little.


The series of numbers on a fertilizer bag represents the percentage, by weight, of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the bag.  A ratio

of 16-4-8 represents 16 percent nitrogen, 4 percent phosphorus, 8 percent potassium and is recommended for established lawns.  For new lawns consider using a Triple 16 (16-16-16) ratio and then switch to a 4-1-2 ratio.

Fertilizers with a ratio of 3-1-2 in their formulas are also suitable for northwest lawns.  Lawns should be fertilized every 6-8 weeks from February through November.  An application of lime each year in November helps balance the acidity prevalent in northwest soils.  It is strongly recommended not to use harsh weed or moss killers on your new lawn for a period of one year as they can kill new grass.  Be careful with iron fertilizers as they can stain concrete.

Green Living Tip: Organic and slow-release fertilizers activate more slowly and are less likely to leach into streams and rivers. For best results, fertilize in September and May.


Mowing Tips

A lawn that is mowed frequently and correctly resists weeds, insects, and disease and appears lush and healthy.  A lawn mowed infrequently removes too many grass blades at one time and may result in a lawn that looks thin and uneven.

Maintenance Tip:  New sod should NOT be mowed until well rooted. A lawn may take up to 2 weeks to root sufficiently for mowing, and up to10 weeks during dormant periods. Walking on a wet lawn can leave footprints that will not go away.

For Best Results:

  • Mow high and mow often. Setting your mowing height between 2 and 2 1/2 inches ensures better root development and crowds out weeds.  Mowing once a week during the spring and early summer saves time and is less stressful on grass.
  • Try not to cut wet grass. It’s easier to mow and better for your lawn to keep the blade sharp and mow when it’s dry.  Wet grass blades don’t stand up straight and can cause an uneven cut.  Mowing a wet lawn can also lead to soil compaction.
  • Practice “grass-cycling.” Your lawn provides you with more than one-third of its own fertilizer.  By leaving grass clippings on the lawn to fertilize it, you help it grow greener and denser.  This method will not cause thatch buildup.  Use a mulching mower or push mower for best results.
  • Alternate mowing patterns. Mowing the same direction can cause wear patterns and also lead to soil compaction.


Drainage & Grading

Your home site has been carefully graded to allow surface water to drain away from the foundation.  Swales have been provided where necessary along property lines or in locations where natural drainage crossed your property before construction.

Maintenance Tip:  Be sure changes you make do not alter established grade and swales.  Drainage swales can also be changed by erosion if you do not promptly install landscaping.

It is important that you finish your rear yard landscaping within six months to one year.  Installing landscaping solidifies soil, reduces water runoff and erosion.  If you do not install landscaping right away, you are still responsible for correcting the effects of erosion on the grading of lot.

Here are some helpful drainage tips:

  • Be sure to maintain the proper drainage slope away from the house.
  • Normal settling may occur around the house and in utility ditches. Fill depressions with dirt, keeping the fill below the top of the foundation, and at least 6” away from siding to prevent water penetration or wood decay.
  • Maintain swales. Sometimes swales are accidentally filled in by homeowners or become filled by soil erosion.  If that happens, please clear them out.  Every homeowner is responsible to correct the effects of natural erosion and maintain their lot grading plan.
  • Avoid unequal soil expansion by watering evenly throughout the yard and avoiding water traps from additional concrete walks, patios, or flower bed edging.
  • Catch basin inlet grates should be kept free of debris and sediment.  Plugged inlets cause flooding and erosion.  Missing, loose or broken catch basin inlet grates need to be reset or replaced.
  • Buried drain pipes should be checked periodically and, if obstructed, cleared.

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