How To Plant Grass Seed
Author: By Beth Sears
Your lawn is the first thing visitors see when they come to your house. Bare spots or wide expanses of dirt just aren't that attractive. If you want to grow a welcoming green lawn, the most economical way to do that is planting your own grass seed. If you follow some basic tips on how to seed a lawn and how to plant grass seed on existing lawns, you can be on your way to a beautiful lawn in just a few months. Here are some tips for getting started.
1. Choose the Best Grass Seed for Your Lawn
The first step toward a great lawn is selecting the best grass seed. Several factors go into choosing grass seed, including your desired look, the amount of time and money you want to spend on your lawn, and your location. When selecting grass seed, you can choose a specific grass variety, such as bluegrass or Bermuda grass, or you can select a grass mixture. Because they may contain some grass varieties that thrive in hot weather and others that thrive in cooler temperatures, grass mixtures often provide more months of green. Some grass seed mixtures are designed so they require less care, less watering, less weeding and fertilizing--and even less mowing. The best grass seed, though, is the grass seed that will grow in your hardiness zone. Some grasses thrive in warmer zones, while other grasses thrive in cooler zones. Selecting the best grass seed for your environment is key.
Cool Season Grasses
Cool season grasses, such as perennial rye, bluegrass and fescue, thrive where winter temperatures fall below freezing. They grow in the spring and fall, and often go dormant in the summertime. Usually cool season grasses have longer, finer blades and are mown at a higher level than warm season grasses. The best time to plant grass seed for cool season grasses is usually late summer through mid-fall, depending on your location.
Warm Season Grasses
Warm season grasses, such as Bermuda and Zoysia, thrive in areas that receive hot summers and mild winters. They grow in the summer and often go dormant in the fall and winter. Usually warm season grasses have wider, coarser blades and are mown at a shorter level than cool season grasses. The best time to plant grass seed for warm season grasses is usually the spring through early fall.
2. Prepare the Soil
After you've selected your grass seed and determined the best time to plant grass seed for your area, start preparing the soil. Don't underestimate the value of soil preparation in planting a new lawn. Grass seed has trouble germinating and establishing roots in rock-hard soil. Preparing the soil is time well spent when growing grass seed.
Planting Grass Seed on a New Lawn
Till or spade the top 2-3 inches of soil. The soil should be a fine, granular texture. Rake any dirt clods, sticks, stones or other debris from the seed bed. If possible, level out any areas where water may collect (it's easier to do this before grass is established in the area).
Overseeding an Existing Lawn
If you are overseeding an existing lawn, you want to create an environment where the grass seed will have contact with the soil. To do this, mow the grass as low as possible. Rake away any existing grass or debris. Aerate the lawn. If you have bare spots in the lawn, till or disc the soil.
Test the Soil
While most grass seed will grow in soil with 6-7 pH, a soil test will tell you if nutrients should be added to the soil. Use a soil test kit, such as the easy-to-use, Accugrow™ Soil Test Kit, or you can contact your local extension service about soil tests. If the soil is acidic, with a pH less than 6, then ground limestone may be added to the soil. If it's alkaline, with a pH above 7, then sulfur may be added to the soil.
3. Add Nutrients to the Soil
While compost can be added to the soil before planting grass seed, avoid adding any lawn fertilizers until after the first mowing. Also avoid using weed killers.
4. Begin Planting Grass Seed
When sowing grass seed, use a drop or rotary spreader. If the area that you're sowing is small, you can use a handheld broadcast spreader. Sow the grass seed at the rate recommended on the grass seed label. To obtain a uniform stand of turf, sow at ½ the recommended rate in one direction then sow the other 1/2 crosswise to the first sowing. This will prevent "rows". When sowing over an existing lawn, aerating the soil after seeding can improve germination.
5. Cover Seeds for Protection
After planting grass seed, lightly rake the seed into the soil (it should be no more than ¼ inch deep) or cover the seed with a thin layer of straw mulch.
6. Water Consistently
It's really important that you don't neglect the watering. The seeds need to be moist for germination. Plan to water the grass seed daily until the grass is at least 1-2 inches tall. Water enough to keep the seeds moist, but not saturated.
How to Grow Grass: Expert Tips
Once your newly planted grass is growing, here are some tips to keep it looking its best.
- Wait to mow the new grass until it's 3 inches tall
- Make sure your lawn receives enough water. In most areas, that's about 1 inch of rainfall per week during the growing season.
- Follow the 1/3 rule. Never mow more than a third of the height of the grass.
- Wait at least 6 weeks before applying fertilizer or weed control products to your new lawn. An all-natural, slow-release fertilizer encourages healthy root development and only requires two applications per year. If you want to fertilize and control weeds, consider WOW!® Supreme Pre-Emergent Weed Killer and Lawn Fertilizer, an all-natural herbicide and fertilizer
- If you want to use less fertilizer and avoid herbicides, consider growing White Dutch Clover. It grows vigorously, even in poor soil, and can suppress weeds. White Dutch Clover adds nitrogen to the soil and attracts pollinators with its flowers. You can interplant White Dutch Clover with grass or plant it as a lawn substitute.
- Inspect your lawn weekly for signs of moles and insect pests which can damage your lawn. If you see signs of pests, consider using lawn pest control products.
With a little planning and preparation, you should be on your way to growing a green welcome mat to your home. If you want to spend more time enjoying your lawn and less time maintaining it, consider the Gardens Alive! grass seed products. These grass mixtures are designed to grow beautifully--and not require lots of maintenance.
Beth Sears has worked in the garden industry for 10 years--and enjoys spending her free time in her Ohio yard and garden.