The 5 tips I used to build the best lawn in the neighborhood

And why everyone wants to roll around on it.

Photo by Daniel Watson on Unsplash

Every time someone sees the lawn in my backyard for the first time, they say the same things…

“Wow! How’d you get your lawn to be so green and lush? I just want to roll around on it!”

or…

“Don’t be surprised if you come home and find me rolling around on your lawn sometime!”

or (and the best one yet)…

“Man, I want to come over here and have sex on this lawn!”

He was referring to himself and his wife, mind you. That was not a pick-up line… I hope.

Anyway, I never had a lawn worthy of these comments until my wife and I decided to landscape our backyard this spring and put down a new lawn. We were tired of our weed patch that we mowed and called a lawn and I really wanted to see if I could succeed at building and maintaining a gorgeous, lush lawn.

So, I did a bunch of research and followed these 5 important steps…

  1. Start with a great foundation — cliche I know, but it is true, and I’ll explain why below.
  2. Fertilize the soil before putting down any grass — again, building a healthy foundation.
  3. Use sod. High quality sod — and remember that sod is highly perishable!
  4. Water early and often after it is laid down — you want it to feel spongy.
  5. Keep it tall (very tall) for at least a couple of months — this may be the most important of all of the steps for maintaining a health lawn.

The Details…

Please remember that these tips are most useful for someone who is embarking on the journey of building a lawn from scratch. If you are trying to resurrect an existing lawn, that is a topic for another time.

  1. FOUNDATION: From my farming days, I know that the best foundation for growing anything in the soil is, well, the soil. It is super important to start with a base of high-quality loam. 4–6 inches is ideal. This is where your new lawn will get much of its nutrition, so it is SUPER IMPORTANT
  2. FERTILIZER: My dad used to tell me that if he didn’t spread fertilizer before he planted his crops, he felt like he was starving his poor little seedlings. Fertilizer is food and it is just as important for the grass in your yard as it is for the corn in a farmer’s fields. For a new lawn, Phosphorus is very important to get the roots established, so focus on this first. You can get lawn starter fertilizers that are primarily Phosphorus. Spread it on the loam according to the recommended rate on the bag and work it into the soil.
  3. SOD: It is more expensive than grass seed, but it is worth every penny if you want an amazing “insta-lawn”. I found out about a local farm that was known for high-quality sod, called them up on a Monday and they delivered by Friday. It came on 3 pallets (600 square feet per pallet) for my 1,800 square foot yard and each roll was 2 feet by 5 feet and could be carried fairly easily by one person. I had a couple buddies help me lay it down in a staggered pattern so no two end seems lined up and I used a box-cutting knife (you may need several blades) to cut it where needed. Oh, and remember, sod is perishable, so lay it down and water it on the day you receive it!
  4. WATER: Someone recently told me that the amount of sun your lawn gets is not nearly as important as the amount of water your lawn gets. I’ve found this to be completely true. I’ve got areas of of new lawn that never see direct sunlight, yet these areas are thriving because I gave them plenty of water early and they hold moisture in the soil well due to the shade they receive all day. In short, water the sod heavily right after it is laid down, until it feels spongy under foot. Continue to water (more heavily in sunny spots and less heavily in shady spots) every day or two for the first week to keep the grass feeling spongy. You can test by walking on it, but in general, stay off it completely for the first 2 weeks, until it has had a chance to establish good roots.
  5. TALL: This is a super-important step for the health of any lawn and one that I think most people never learn about or utilize. It is the RULE OF THIRDS. Quite simply, never cut more than 1/3 of the height of your lawn in the same day. If you are gone for a week and return home to a veritable “field of dreams” with 9-inch tall grass, you should cut it down to 6 inches the first time you mow it. The next day, you can then take another third (2 inches) to bring it down to 4 inches. The next day, you can take another third (1.33333 inches, or so) to bring it down to less than 3 inches, if you feel the need. Overall though, I’d recommend cutting your grass and keeping your grass as tall as you can handle (especially in the first season after it has been establish). This will allow it to soak up more sun and more nutrition and stay healthier and greener in general.

In Conclusion…

I never thought I’d geek out over a lawn, but I’m sure glad I did! There is something pretty magical about walking around on a lush, thick lawn in your bare feet on a summer day. My wife and I find ourselves using our yard more than ever now that we have a lawn we can be proud of. We sit on a blanket on the soft grass and appreciate life a little more. How nice.

Happy lawn growing and please, please; If you feel the need to roll around on your amazing grass with pride and utter abandon once you’ve established a gorgeous, lush-lawn paradise, go for it!

And feel no shame.

Thank you for reading!

Jason

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Jason Tuttle

A curious guy, sharing what I've learned about being strong, healthy, happy and productive.