It’s construction season: Will you need to manage new boulevard turf?

By Kristine Moncada

a patch of bare soil next to a residential street
Figure 1. The patch of soil left after public works was done stump grinding (April 2020). Dandelions in the image have since been removed!

In 2019, the city where I live removed a tree from the public boulevard adjacent to my property.  So in the early spring of 2020, the public works department came back to grind the stump, leaving what they called a “disruption” in the lawn. I was a little surprised at how much of the boulevard turf was “disrupted” (Figure 1) in the process of grinding a smallish, 12-inch-diameter stump. However, I was not surprised to learn that I was now responsible for caring for the public boulevard turf reestablishment (Figure 2). 

paper hangtag with instructions to water new lawn
Figure 2. Hang tag from the public works department.

Consequently, the city left me with a bag of turfgrass seed (which contained high amounts of annual ryegrass and “variety not stated” perennial ryegrass, but that’s another story!) and these instructions:

The City has removed a tree stump from the boulevard next to your property and has completed restoration. Please follow the lawn establishment guidelines below to establish your lawn. Lawn Establishment Guidelines - It is the resident’s responsibility to maintain the grass within the boulevard area. In order to re-establish your lawn, it is suggested that you water the disturbed area at least once a day for up to 3 weeks. You may need to water more or less depending on dry or wet weather conditions. The recommended water dose is ½” daily. Thank you for your cooperation.

The instructions were not very detailed so I wondered what happens when people with little plant knowledge (unlike me who works for the UMN Turfgrass Science team!) need to manage a restoration such as this. I imagined many people would have questions about the establishment process, in addition to how much to water, such as:

  • When should the seed be planted? 
  • How should the seed be planted? 
  • What seeding rate should be used?
  • When should mowing start?
  • When should it be fertilized?
  • What should be done about the weeds?

Fortunately, we have answers to questions such as these!  We know that other homeowners have been in a similar situation and that is part of the reason why our team created educational materials for homeowners on establishing roadside turfgrass. On our Roadside Turf website, we have a section specifically devoted to homeowner education. It includes videos on topics such as planting, watering, mowing, fertilizing and controlling weeds. We also have a handy calendar guide that shows each step of the maintenance process. You can review all the materials in order or jump to a certain topic if you have a specific question. So don’t forget to visit if you need help with your lawn “disruption” (Figure 3). Best of luck with your turfgrass establishment!

green lawn on boulevard next to residential road
Figure 3. The same spot in early spring the following year (2021). Incidentally, I substituted a fine fescue mixture instead of the city-supplied seed.