August 7, 2020
How to Plant Grass Seed
There are several ways to start a new lawn, but none more satisfying than creating it yourself. Planting the seeds with your own two hands and observing the grass grow into a beautiful lawn is not only extremely gratifying, but it's also the easiest on the budget. However, it is a challenging task that can be a bit overwhelming, especially for the first-timers.

How to Plant Grass Seeds

For those in doubt what to do and when to do it, we broke down the route to a new lawn in several easy-to-follow steps.

Step 1: Figure Out When to Plant the Seeds

The Best Types of Grass USA Map

Perfect timing depends on several factors, mainly the area you live in and the type of grass you plan to grow.

Generally, the best time to plant seeds is early spring or late summer/early fall.

These are the times of the year when your fresh lawn will profit the most from moist weather and frequent rainfalls.

  • Planting in the early autumn, before October, will give grass plenty of time to grow stronger and take roots before the cold winter months. 
  • Early spring is also suitable, but be aware that most of the weed treatment products are applied in this season and they may harm your new lawn.

To grow properly, different kinds of grass need to be planted in different seasons.

The types that are most suitable for northern regions, such as Tall Fescue or Kentucky Bluegrass are best planted in colder weather. 

These cool-season plants grow and establish best during the fall and winter. Planting them during the early fall will have them strong and ready for first frosts.

On the other hand, if you live in the South, warm-season grasses are your best bet to have a lush and healthy lawn.

Centipede Grass or Bermuda grass are the ones you might go for. The best time to plant them is during the warm days of spring or early summer.

They will enjoy soil warmth and spring showers, and they love the sun.

Make sure that the dangers of spring frosts are behind you and that the temperature has stabilized at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

For More Info on this, see my blog post: The Best Types of Grass for Your Lawn

Step 2: Choose and Buy the Seeds

Types of Grass Seed

Besides making sure that they suit the climate and growing conditions, choosing the right kind of seeds is also important for aesthetical reasons.

After all, you want your lawn to look nice.

Some sorts grow closer to the ground, some are tall, and some grow in clumps.

You'll be surprised how many shades of green your lawn can have depending on the seeds you pick.

Furthermore, some grass varieties require less of your attention than others, so keep that in mind if you don't plan to spend a lot of time carrying for your lawn.

For example, Tall Fescue is famously low-maintenance, durable, and heat-resistant. Another option is choosing several different varieties and using a seed mixture.

  • As with anything else, a higher price means higher quality. More expensive seeds are purer and will provide thicker and healthier lawn. 
  • Investing a little more will bring numerous benefits in the long run.when it comes to the quality of the grass.

If you're still unsure which way to go, read our blog post The Best Types of Grass for Your Lawn.  

If you're STILL stuck, check with your garden center, they should be able to help you determine which type and quantity of seeds are the right ones for your conditions and what you're trying to accomplish.

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Step 3: Make Sure You Have Everything You Need

Sod Roller

There's nothing worse than realizing, with a half a job already done, that you don't have everything you need to complete it.

The best way to be fully prepared is to create a checklist of stuff needed and not start until you have everything crossed off.

Besides grass seeds (obviously), you'll need soil amendments, fertilizers, and mulch.

You can use weed-free manure or fine-screened compost.

The next thing on the list is the equipment necessary to perform the task ahead of you.

  • Make sure you have a shovel and wide landscaping rake which you will use for soil leveling. 
  • A Leaf rake will come handy for mixing the seeds into the topsoil level.
  • To properly prepare the ground you'll also need a lawn roller. If you don't have one borrow it form a more equipped neighbor, rent it, or get your own.
  • The same goes for the seed spreader. A hose with a hose-end nozzle and quality sprinkler will be used for initial watering. A good idea is to get some tape, stakes, and string to mark and restrict the seeded area.

Since you'll probably be working under the sun, make sure you dress appropriately, wear a hat, and apply sunscreen.

For hydration, prepare a lot of water, lemonade or ice tea (and a beer or two to reward yourself when you finish).

Step 4: Prepare the Soil

Soil Preperation

Before you get to preparing the soil, make sure that the area where you plan to plant your lawn is clear of any rocks, various debris, and remains of the previous vegetation.

  • If you can't do it by hand, use a shovel to dig out particularly stubborn rocks and plant roots. Then loosen up the soil by rake or a lawn aerator if you can get your hands on one.
  • After you've finished, you'll probably notice that the ground is full of dirt mounds, holes, and depressions. All of these need to be smoothed over.
  • Gather the excessive topsoil to fill up the holes and use a rotary tiller or roller to even out the ground as much as possible. 
  • Pay attention not to create too much of a slope but still try to keep it at 1 or 2 percent away from the building to ensure proper drainage. Use the landscaping rake for finishing touches.
  • Test the pH of your soil. For most types of grass, it should be between 6.0 and 7.0. If the pH of your soil is outside of this range, use soil amendments like lime, peat moss, or sulfur to balance it. Pick up a PH Tester at your Local Garden Center, or online.
  • Once finished, apply the starter fertilizer to the entire plot. You can use a rake to spread it out evenly. The kind of fertilizer you'll use will also depend on the soil test.

Step 5: Planting Time!

Seed Spreader

Planting seeds is probably the easiest and most fun part of the whole operation.

Before you start make sure to read all the guidelines regarding the seed you chose for planting.

Basically, you can just walk over the plot and toss the seeds around, Johnny Appleseed-style, but that's far from an efficient way to plant a neat looking lawn.

To make sure grass coverage is even throughout the lawn use drop spreader for smaller yards, or the rotary spreader if you plan on seeding the larger area.

Because the seeding rate varies for different kinds of grass, closely follow the instructions.

  • One of the ways to ensure even coverage is to start from the edges and work your way towards the middle.
  • When the seeds are spread, gently rake the topsoil layer over the seeds, working them to a depth of around 1/4 inch.
  • Digging them deeper in will leave them starved for sunlight and unable to germinate properly. If you have areas with poorer soil or fully exposed to the sun, cover the seed with mulch. This will provide some moisture and keep seeds where they are.
  • After you're done with the raking, you can go over the ground with the roller to provide good contact between seeds and the soil.
  • Once you're done with all of this, finish the process with light watering, moistening no more than the top 1 inch of the soil.
  • If you have a lot of birds around or a forest nearby, you can lightly cover the seeds with straw or similar organic material to keep them safe from those birds, or squirrels and other pests.

Step 6: Aftercare

Water Your Lawn

As your lawn grows, it's going to need frequent watering. Water it every day so the seeds are always moist, but not too soggy.

  • Be careful, because overwatering can damage the seeds.
  • Two or three light sprays a day should do the trick.
  • If you see puddles forming on the surface, consider it a sign to stop watering.

By the time seeds start to germinate decrease the frequency, but increase the amount of water for every session.

Pay close attention to the growth of your lawn. Germination period varies depending on condition and the type of grass and may take from 5 to 21 days.

It takes another 10 weeks or so for the roots to establish themselves.

To stay on the safe side, try to restrain from walking across the lawn as much as possible for the whole first season.

If you have prepared the stakes and tape, now is the time to use them.

Clearly mark the seeded territory to limit the foot traffic over the area. Inspect the lawn once the seedlings reach the 1 inch in height. If you notice any bare patches or missed spots, reseed that area.

Your lawn is ready for mowing once the grass reaches 3 inches. 

Check the recommended mower setting for your particular type of grass and never mow more than one-third of the blades' height.

Your mowing blade should always be sharpened to avoid tearing the plants instead of clean cutting.

You should start fertilizing cool-season grass about 8 weeks after fertilization.

The warm-season lawn should be fine without fertilizers until the following spring.

The best time to fertilize is after heavy rain when the lawn is evenly covered with water.

Daniel Simmons

About the author

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

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