Planting a new lawn is like any good adventure: preparation and planning are key. No matter which planting method you plan to use, you need to prepare the area thoroughly to banish weeds and make sure soil won't immediately crust over or compact into lumpy ruts.

For a newly seeded lawn, water twice a day for 8 to 10 minutes only. Your goal is to dampen the seeds without causing runoff that might wash them away or mar the surface with gullies. After the seeds sprout and the new grass is a half inch tall, water once a day for 15 to 20 minutes.

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"Most people mow their lawns way too short, which stresses out the grass," says Paul James, host of Gardening by the Yard. The secret, he says, is do less, not more: "I'm a great believer in benign neglect." He recommends raising the mower to the highest possible notch so you're mowing only the top third of the grass when you cut. Taller grass promotes better root development, Paul says, as well as shading the ground so it doesn't dry out as fast.

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Even the healthiest lawn gets hungry and needs a solid meal. Twice a year, spring and fall, is the bare minimum most experts recommend for fertilization, though some add a feeding in the middle of the summer. But beware the common N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphate-potassium) fertilizers popular with most gardeners; they don't provide everything your hungry grass needs. Instead, we recommend a complete fertilizer that includes micronutrients such as sulfur, copper and iron. Just like you take a multivitamin, your lawn needs one too.

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