June 1, 2021
Plant Grass Seed on Hard Dirt

In this post I'm going to go into another common request/issue we get in the Lawn King Email Box: The Best Way to Plant Grass Seed on Hard Dirt.

It is not uncommon for homeowners to give up on their dream of a lush green garden when met with a yard full of hard dirt.

The compact nature of hard dirt makes it impossible for air, water and nutrients to reach the seeds, thereby making it difficult for seeds to enter the germination phase.

Fortunately, growing grass on hard dirt is not as difficult as it seems -- this is a problem with many solutions.

In this article, we answer a question:


If hard dirt has been your garden's bane, follow these simple steps to solve the problem.

#1 Choose the Right Time To Plant the Seeds

Best Time to Plant Grass Seed

Image Credit: OutSidePride.com

It does not matter how much work you put in every day, the grass won't grow if you choose the wrong season to sow the seeds.

Cool-Season Grasses

The seeds of cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue, must be sowed in either summer or early fall.

Warm-Season Grasses

On the other hand, for warm-season grasses, such as centipede and bermudagrass, the seeding process should happen at least a month before the first snow of the season.

#2 Choosing The Right Seed

Types of Grass Seed

The next key step in the process is understanding which kind of grass and seeds will grow well in your area.

The answer to this will depend on several factors, such as location, climate, soil condition, etc.

Since you are dealing with hard dirt, you will have to find a grass variety that is resilient and grows well under tough conditions.

#3 Prepare The Soil & Area

Thatch Patches in Lawn

It, most certainly, is challenging to grow grass on hard dirt. Thus, you will benefit significantly from spending some time on your soil. To start with, make sure to remove all large rocks and debris that might obstruct the movement of water and nutrients to the seed. After this is done, use a tiller to loosen the soil. Do not stop until the dirt has broken down into pea-sized particles.

#4 Work on Soil Quality

improve soil quality for grass

We have all heard of homeowners who unsuccessfully went through ten different types of grasses, all of which registered absolutely no success with hard dirt.

This is because the problem of hard dirt cannot be solved by focusing on the grass -- the only way to grow grass seed on hard dirt is to work on the dirt itself.

To improve the quality of soil or dirt, the first thing you must do is get some good quality topsoil and use it to cover your garden.

Once this is done, rake the topsoil so that the new soil gets mixed with the dirt and there is no clear demarcation between the two.

#5 Seed & Fertilize Your Lawn

Seed Spreader

The next step in the process is seeding and fertilizing. To sow seeds evenly, you should use a seed spreader (like this one), especially if you have a large lawn. However, if you have a small lawn, you can go ahead and sow with your hands as well.

Once you have successfully sowed the entire area, the next thing you must do is fertilizer this area.

If you are using a spreader for seeds, you can use the same spreader for the fertilizer as well. However, more often than not, seeds and fertilizers require different spreader settings for ensuring optimal coverage.

So, make sure to spend some time understanding the recommended spreader setting for both the seeds as well as the fertilizer.

Moreover, when you begin with the process of fertilization, always remember to start from the edges and move towards the centre. This way you will easily cover the entire area.

Since you are dealing with hard dirt, simply seeding and feeding your soil won't be enough.

Finish the process of seeding by adding another layer of soil at the top. This top layer soil will protect the seeds from getting washed away or drying out.

#6 Water The Area

Water Your Lawn

It is really important to water your lawn right after seeding and fertilizing. More importantly, since you are dealing with hard dirt, the soil will require slightly more water than is normal to promote seed germination.

However, one must water the soil very cautiously as excessive water can cause the seeds to wash away. In general, you should give enough water so that the top one inch of the soil gets moist but not soggy.

Once your seeds have germinated, you will have to increase the amount of water given to the seeds in such a way that now the top two inches of the soil remain moist.

You will have to continue to water this way until your grass reaches about three inches. Once it has reached that height, watering your grass twice every week would be enough.

10 Tips & Tricks To Make It 10-Times Easier!

Here are a few simple tips that will help you see success with plant grass seeds on hard dirt.

1. Soil test: Testing soil can help you understand which nutrients are lacking for lawn growth. Collect 3-inch deep samples from a dozen different areas in your yard. Mix these to create a sample for testing. The results will indicate which fertilizer to choose. Make sure you till the fertilizer 10–12 inches into the soil.

2. Compost: Increasing beneficial microbial activity in the soil can benefit lawn growth. Loosen dry soil to a depth of 6 inches with the help of a rototiller and till compost to 18 inches. Take note that the compost should ideally weigh as much as 25–50% of the soil. Don’t forget to level the soil once you’re done.

3. Sprinkle at two different angles: How you sprinkle the grass seeds impacts how evenly the grass is sown. Ideally, you want to divide the grass seeds into two sets, and then, sprinkle both sets separately at a right angle to one another. This method of sprinkling seeds ensures a more uniform spread. Once you’re done, make sure you lightly rake the soil to help the seeds gain root.

4. Planting season: Cool-season grass, such as tall fescue, should be planted in fall or winter to promote faster growth. On the other hand, warm-season grass, such as bermudagrass, should be planted between late spring and summer.

5. Mixing the seeds in soil: Grass seeds need to be mixed well with a quarter-inch of the topmost soil to enhance lawn growth. An easy way to do this can be using a piece of plywood that is about 0.75 inches thick. On one end of the plywood, drive more than a dozen long nails. Run the final tool through the soil about three to four times to help mix the seeds well.

6. Fertilizer: Fertilizers help add essential nutrients to the soil and enable lawn growth. You want to use a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer for the best results. Add fertilizer to the soil/lawn four times a year, starting in the growing season. You will need about 0.5–1 pound of fertilizer for every 1,000 sq. ft. of the lawn.

7. When to mow: How the grass is mowed greatly impacts how even it looks. Mow your lawn when the grass is about 3 inches tall, and take care to use new lawn mower blades for a good finish. In the case of cool-season grass, mow till about 2 inches tall, and in the case of warm-season grass, mow till about 1–2 inches tall.

8. Aerate the soil: It’s important to aerate the soil to ensure grassroots have access to air, water, and nutrients. Use a core aerator twice a year when the soil is dry. Take care to aerate the soil till about 3 inches deep to promote vigorous lawn growth.

9. Keep the seedbed moist: Grass seeds require a humid environment to germinate. Thus, new grass needs to be watered regularly. One way to ensure optimal conditions for planting grass seeds on hard dirt is to create a thin straw layer on the soil surface. Alternatively, you can also use hay mulch. You will need about one small bale of straw/hay per 1,000 sq. ft. of soil. The straw/hay layer helps retain water on the soil’s surface, promoting faster germination of grass seeds. Make sure you water the seeds often. In warm weather conditions, water them several times a day, especially late evenings and early mornings.

10. Good Topsoil: If you’re not up for the effort of all or some of the above pointers, you can go ahead and buy topsoil. This could prove expensive in the start, but the results are almost guaranteed with minimal effort. Remember, you’ll need enough topsoil to cover the entire yard, and it will need to be 6–8 inches deep. It’s also a good idea to remove any weeds in the existing soil before adding the fresh topsoil.


While it is tough to grow grass on hard dirt, it is not an impossible task. We hope the process elaborated in this article, as well as the tips discussed here, will help you get a green lawn even if you have hard dirt in your yard.

By the way, if you're still looking for a new Lawn Mower, or Lawn Mower Reviews, we have several buyers guides on this website dedicated to helping you with that decision, so have a look around!

Daniel Simmons

About the author

TheLawnMowingKing.com brings my 25 years experience as a professional gardener and landscaper to you!

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