City Of Greeley

Lawn Installation and Permits

Greeley has watering restrictions. The Water Department grants variances and permits for residents/businesses who have a reason to water outside of the established restrictions. Residents, owners or property managers must apply for these variances and post them in a front window or other visible location. All permits are subject to approval by Water Department staff. Once the paperwork is completed, visit our office at 1100 10th Street, 3rd floor to receive your permit.

Watch the video to your right to learn more about lawn installation.

New Lawn Variance/Permit
What is Compost?
Compost Calculator
Purchasing Bagged/Bulk Compost
Backyard Composting Handbook (pdf)
Watering a New Lawn
Large Property Watering Permit
Other Permits

New Lawn Variance

Greeley residents must get a permit (variance) when planting new seed or sod to water the lawn outside of the watering restrictions. If a permit is not granted, residents must follow Greeley’s watering schedule or risk getting violations and fines. Permits must be obtained when landscaping a new home or planting seed or sod in an established yard.

Greeley requires residents to prepare the soil with compost (organic matter) to acquire a permit. When soil is properly prepared with organic matter before planting, the landscape needs less water. Properly prepared soil retains water and diminishes runoff from the lawn onto paved surfaces. Soil in Greeley is mostly clay with pockets of sandy soil. Both sand and clay are minerals that lack organic matter. Compost is a mixture that consists of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning soil. Compost promotes microbiological activity in soils necessary for plant healthy growth.

To apply, the homeowner or landscape installer must bring the following items to our office:

  • an original receipt/invoice for seed or sod
  • an original receipt/invoice for compost (not top soil or fertilizer)
  • a photo of rototilling or receipt of tiller purchase/rental
  • a sprinkler permit number (if applicable )
  • There is no fee for a variance

The permit will be issued at the time of application. A member of our staff will perform a visual inspection of the new lawn within two days. If the lawn installation is found to be in non-compliance, the variance will be revoked.

Compost must be added at a minimum rate of 4 cubic yards per 1000 square feet of area. Let our Compost Calculator do the math for you.  If you need help calculating how much compost you need, the table below will help you convert cubic feet to cubic yards. It will also help you gauge how many truckloads you need if you buy your compost in bulk. Another helpful feature is table with common square footages and the amount of compost you will need to meet City of Greeley requirements.

The compost must be spread evenly on top of the existing soil and then rototilled in to a depth of 6-8 inches. The compost must be spread evenly on top of the existing soil (approximately 1.5 inches deep) and then rototilled in to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Additional lawn establishment benefits are attained by adding up to 6 cubic yards per 1000 square feet and/or adding super phosphate or triple super phosphate for root growth. Phosphate should be spread on top of compost immediately before tilling in to the soil.

Variance Application in English
En español

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This photo shows what a properly composted yard should look like. Compost is very dark brown and
should be distributed evenly in the yard.
The chart shows the relationship between the amount of compost and the amount of water retained.
What is Compost?

Compost is a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning soil. Compost is 100 percent natural organic material and it can include yard clippings, leaves, yard trimmings, and kitchen vegetative waste. It can be purchased or made at home by recycling yard prunings and clippings.

Compost promotes microbiological activity in soils necessary for plant growth .Organic matter in soil is important for a number of reasons, including retention of water.

Soil amended with compost requires less water (as much as 30 percent less). When you properly prepare your soil, it will retain water while diminishing runoff from the lawn and onto paved surfaces. Once water is stored, it's slowly released back into the soil for sustained plant growth. The result is healthier plants and the need to water less. Soils differ in their capacity to hold moisture. Heavier clay and silt soils hold more moisture. Sandy soils can lose moisture through leaching as it runs through the root zone and down into the subsoil. Grasses with well- developed, deep root systems add sufficient organic matter to help hold moisture in the soil and thus prevent leaching.
Poor or sparse vegetation cover, weeds, and the constant need for water are signs that your soil is low in organic matter. Compost (which is high in organic matter) is easily added to the soil and is an excellent storage system for moisture. Lack of initial soil preparation is a major reason for subsequent lawn failure.

Compost is an effective and economical method of holding water in the root zone - where it is most needed. Compost helps breakup compacted clay soils to reduce run-off. In sand, compost slows down percolation.

Adding compost considerably increases its ability to hold water. The best time to use compost is when preparing new lawns, flowerbeds, planting trees and shrubs. You can even add compost on existing lawns or flowerbeds as a top dressing to increase water efficiency. It saves money and conserves water. It helps make your lawn, flowers, trees, shrubs, and garden look great while remaining efficient.

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Purchasing Bagged/Bulk Compost

While there is little difference in the quality of bagged compost and bulk compost, we suggest you buy compost in bulk. Bags are sold in cubic feet and not cubic yards. A new lawn in Greeley requires 4 cubic yards per 1,000 square feet.

If you are buying bagged product, here are some helpful conversions from cubic feet to cubic yards.
It takes:

27 cubic feet to equal 1 cubic yard
54 cubic feet to equal 2 cubic yards
81 cubic feet to equal 3 cubic yards
108 cubic feet to equal 4 cubic yards

or, you can multiply the number of cubic feet by .0370 to obtain cubic yards

Read packages carefully, as organic soil amendments (compost) come in containers of various sizes; and are often measured in cubic feet rather than cubic yards. The table below lists some commonly found container sizes and the number that it would take of each to meet the variance requirements of 4 cubic yards of compost for every one (1,000) square feet of lawn.

Container Size
(in cubic ft)
Number of Containers
(bags/bales) Required
Establishment Area
(in square feet)
1.00 108 1,000
1.25 86.4 1,000
3.8 28.42 1,000

If you are purchasing your compost in bulk at one of the landscape yards or nursery here is a reference guide of approximations in a pick up truck. These are not exact measurements, but are helpful to gauge how much compost you need.

Full size pickup filled to bed level= 3 cubic yards
Full size pickup filled to cab level = 5 cubic yards
Small or short bed pickup filled to bed level = 2 cubic yards
Small or short bed pickup filled to cab level = 4 cubic yards

The table below provide a quick reference for the number of cubic yard of compost needed for square footages.  Or try our Compost Calculator.

Lawn Area
(in square feet)
Organic Soil Amendment
(compost in cubic yards)
250 1
500 2
750 3
1,000 4
1,500 6
2,000 8
2,500 10
3,000 12
3,500 14
4,000 16
4,500 18
5,000 20
10,000 40
15,000 60
20,000 80

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Watering a New Lawn

How you water your new lawn will depend on four factors :

• Soil Type
• Sprinkler Type
• Seed or sod
• Temperature and natural precipitation

The purpose of the compost and soil prep is to give your lawn the best start possible and eventually conserve water. You have made a big investment in your landscape and you want it to look its best and be healthy. The soils in Greeley are primarily clay with pockets of sand and silt. By incorporating compost into the soil, you can improve its physical properties such as water retention, permeability, water infiltration, drainage, aeration and structure. The goal is to provide a better environment for roots to grow.

These are guidelines for weaning your lawn off of the water needed for establishment. They are no substitute for common sense. If your lawn is drying out add more minutes a couple at a time until it is looking better. If water is running off your property, you are watering too much and may be cited for waste and/or have your variance revoked. Be vigilant paying attention to the seams of the sod; that is where it will dry out first.

Hand watering dry areas is encouraged as long as your hose is equipped with a shut off restrictive nozzle and NOT your thumb.

Day of installation:
Landscape may be watered thoroughly and immediately after installation. Make sure there is good sod to soil contact especially on the edges of the sod. You may want to roll it with a sod roller or walk on it especially at the seams.

First Week (2-5) days:
Space irrigation evenly throughout the day, watering 3 + times per day. Use a hand held hose equipped with a shut off nozzle to water areas showing signs of wilting caused by high winds, high temperatures or poor sprinkler coverage. Watch the edges of the sod for excessive dryness and look for wilt in new seedlings. During the spring and fall you may want to water at 10am, 2pm and 6pm. During the summer (which isn't the best time to install cool season turf), you may want to run them at noon, 2pm and 4. During this first week you will want to apply ½ of water per day. Use the sprinkler gauges and put them in your spray pattern and let it accumulate for the entire day.

Sprinkler run times: popup spray heads and hose end sprinklers –water up to 5 minutes. Rotors and impact sprinklers--water up to 16 minutes.

Tips for watering new seed: You will want to water more frequently but shorter run times. You want to keep it evenly moist without causing run off. This is critical until the seed germinates. Then you can lengthen the run times and decrease the frequency. You still want to keep a consistent soil moisture in the top inch of soil. The key is moist not soggy!

6-14 Days after installation:
Water two times per day but for longer times than last week. Once at 11 am and then at 4 pm.

Sprinkler run times: popup spray heads and hose end sprinklers –water up to 8 minutes. Rotors and impact sprinklers--water up to 20 minutes.

Tips for new seed: If the seed has germinated, start watering longer to keep the top inch to two inches evenly moist.

15-21 Days after installation:
Water once per day in the morning by cycling the water. Cycling your watering can be an effective way to water and reduce runoff. You shorten your total watering time by ½ or 1/3 and cycle through the zone 2-3 (respectively) times. Make sure there is a non-watering time of 30-60 minutes before repeating a zone. This gives the water time to soak in and thus making the next cycle more effective. This can be accomplished by using the multiple start time feature on your clock.

Sprinkler run times: popup spray heads and hose end sprinklers –water up to 10 minutes, cycle the watering with two 5 minute cycles. Rotors and impact sprinklers--water up to 25 minutes.

Tips for new seed: Keep the top 2 inches of soil moist watering daily, morning would be best to get it through the heat of the day. Look for bare spots and spread more seed if necessary.

22-30 Days after installation:
Water every other day before 12 (noon) or after 5:00 pm

Sprinkler run times : popup spray heads and hose end sprinklers –water up to 16 minutes or two shorter cycles of 8 minutes each. Rotors and impact sprinklers--water up to 40 minutes (Full circles will need longer than ½ or ¼ circle rotors.)

Tips for new seed: Check the grass daily in the morning; you will probably still need to water daily unless it is cool or overcast.

31 Days after installation:
Your lawn watering variance expires. Please remove it from your window and follow the current watering restrictions.

Tips for new seed: You should be able to skip a day between watering. Continue to hand-water dry spots or areas that you had to reseed. If you need more time you can call in for a two extension on your variance, and we will come back out and check it.

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Large Property Permit

If you manage a homeowners association, apartment, trailer park, business, educational institution or other large commercial property you may be eligible for a large property watering permit. Your property must be larger than 4 acres and you are not able to sufficiently water with in the allotted days. This program is not available to individual homeowners.

Some government properties and quasi-government areas such as UNC campus, Aims campus, School District 6, parks, golf courses, County facilities and other City properties have made arrangements with us and/or have applied for large property permits. This is largely due to the fact that they have large areas of turf, they can not physically accomplish watering within the established schedule. These sites have heavier traffic and sometimes lawn irrigation needs to work around scheduled activities.

If you would like to apply to this program, please print and fill out this worksheet and return it in person to the City of Greeley Water Department: 1100 10th Street, Suite 300 or by fax 970-350-9805.

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Special Circumstances Variances

The City of Greeley gives other permits to customers who are unable to follow the established watering days. These permits don't give applicants additional watering days, but alters the schedule to accommodate special needs. Applicants must follow all watering regulations and follow the schedule per their application. Below are common reasons to apply for the variance:

  • Long or short term medical hardship
  • Watering schedule conflicts with worship days
  • ET controller/other sprinkler clock issue
  • Scheduling conflict (extended absence, business hours/days, sport field schedule)

Special Circumstances Variance Form

Once printed and completed send to: 1100 10th Street, Suite 300 Greeley, CO 80631. You may also fax the forms to our office (970) 350-9805 or e-mail a scanned copy to Upon approval the City will send the applicant a sign to hang in the front window.

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