How to Take Care of the Lawn After Top Dressing and Over-seeding?

Due to harsh winter conditions or other extreme circumstances, an established lawn may need to have some areas repaired by top-dressing with soil and over-seeding with new grass seed. E.L.S. Landscaping has put together a few important tips for taking care of these lawn areas after topdressing and over-seeding has been done. If you should have any questions after reading this information, please contact our office at (262) 376-8727.


Water is the most important factor in establishing a lawn. After the initial deep soaking to a soil depth of 4" to 5", follow-up irrigation should be done daily. Soil within the top ½" should be kept consistently moist. Initially this may require early morning, mid-day and evening watering; of about ¼" to ½" each time. A good way to determine how much water is being applied to the soil is to place a container (i.e. a coffee can) in the sprinkler's path and time how long it takes to collect ½" of water. Daily irrigation (¼" to ½") should be continued for 3 to 4 weeks. During hot or dry conditions, you may need to increase the watering during the early morning and evening watering time to maintain moisture in the soil surface.

SPECIAL NOTE: To maintain a uniform watering schedule, a water faucet timer should be used to set the various watering times throughout these critical weeks. Remember - keep a consistent moist environment for proper grass seed germination.

After four weeks, your new lawn still requires a minimum of 1" of water a week for continued growth. The watering schedule, at this point of establishment, can be changed to twice a week before 5:00 P.M. with a deep soaking of ½" or more of water. But during hot or dry conditions, watering should occur during early morning hours until the lawn matures.


It is important to continue with weekly mowing throughout your property, however, it is essential that the over-seeded areas are not mowed over during establishment time. It would even be beneficial to stay away from over-seeded areas by 3 feet or more, so that the cover straw is not blown off during the mowing process.

The first mowing of all over-seeded areas should begin when the grass leaves reach a height of 3" to 3½", removing only ⅓" of the leaf blade. After this initial mowing, your lawn should maintain the overall height of 3" throughout your property. Cutting the grass shorter than 2 ½" to 3" will sacrifice root penetration down into the soil, and weaken your lawn. The root system accommodates the height of the leaf blade so that the higher the cutting height the deeper the roots develop for a thicker, healthier lawn. A longer cutting height also gives the added advantages of conserving soil moisture and less area for weeds to penetrate into the lawn.

SPECIAL NOTE: Remember to keep your mower blades sharp at all times. Lawns cut with dull blades loose moisture more rapidly and are subject to disease problems, and become dried out turning pale brown in the summer sun.


Fertilizer applications are critical for the development of a healthy established turf. Following the application of starter fertilizer (13-25-12), new seedlings need ½ lb. of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. every 4 weeks. This nitrogen level can be applied in various forms of fertilizer (19-3-7, 20-2- 7, etc) and will result in a much healthier, thicker lawn than a lawn not fertilized. The fertility requirements provide the nutrients for growth and the ability to fight off diseases, weeds and insect infestation. This means, a fertilizing application should be applied to your new lawn areas at 4 weeks and at 8 weeks after the installation date. Once the lawn has been established, a yearly maintenance program should be set up to maintain a healthy, vital turf stand within your property.

SPECIAL NOTE: PLEASE do not apply a weed & feed to your new lawn. The weed & feed combination is too strong and will burn or kill off the new lawn seedlings.

Weed Control

An application of liquid weed control or granular fertilizer (containing weed control) can be applied after your over-seeded areas have been mowed 8 to 10 times. A Crabgrass preventer should only be applied after your lawn has been in for a full year after over-seeding and no additional seeding is planned within 2 to 3 months prior to or following its application. The best time for crabgrass control is in mid May, or when Forsythia shrubs are just starting to bloom. The longer you can tolerate the weeds the better it is for new grass seedlings to become established.

Traffic Control

Traffic should be restricted on a new lawn for at least a month. New seedlings are damaged by foot traffic.

SPECIAL NOTE: Set-up sprinklers and hoses in over-lapping water stations so you don't have to walk over newly seeded lawn areas to move them.


Please be patient with the process of starting a new lawn. Seeding is by far the best way to establishing a lawn for the long term. With proper care, as outlined above, you will achieve a healthy, enjoyable lawn for years to come.

Seasonal Calendar for Lawn Care

March – April

  • Clean debris from lawn areas
  • Apply lawn fertilizer with Crabgrass preventative (25-2-4) before first cutting. (If you want to re-seed grass areas within four weeks of this application, do not apply a fertilizer with Crabgrass preventative. Only apply a lawn fertilizer (12-12-20).)
  • Maintain mowing at 3" height for lawn areas

May – June

  • Maintain mowing at 3" height on a regular basis
  • Apply Weed & Feed (22-0-10) granular fertilizer when lawn has dew on grass leaves (A liquid application of Broad-leaf Weed Control can be applied, as a substitute, for a granular weed control treatment. However, the lawn will not receive a fertilizer feeding with this application.)
  • Water lawn in summer if dry (at least 1" water per week)

July – August

  • Increase mowing height to 3 ½ " and keep mowing on a regular basis
  • Apply a non-burning, slow release lawn fertilizer (22-0-11)
  • Water lawn in summer (at least 1" water per week)

SPECIAL NOTE: If the lawn has gone into a dormant stage, due to drought situations, do not apply fertilizer and do not water your lawn during these months.

September – October

  • Clean leaf debris from lawn, as needed
  • Maintain mowing at 3" height on a regular basis
  • Apply Weed & Feed (22-0-10) fertilizer when lawn has dew on grass leaves - OR - only apply a Liquid Formulated fertilizer, if necessary.

November – December

  • Clean leaf debris from lawn, as needed
  • Maintain mowing height at 3" ( DO NOT cut lawn short before winter)
  • Apply Winterizer (12-12-20) fertilizer after final mowing

SPECIAL NOTE: Please read all fertilizer and herbicide labels thoroughly. Follow the manufacturer directions carefully, so you do not burn out areas throughout your lawn.