When it comes to gardens, knowing how to plant grass seed is a skill every homeowner should learn. It can be a way for you to save some money or a way to show off your new landscape design. Grass seed can give your garden a lush, green look and enhance the overall look in a few steps. In this guide, we will show you how to grow a lush green lawn in a few steps.
How to Grow Grass?
The number one factor when it comes to grass is to get the right grass seeding. The grass must be compatible with the climate and the location you will plant.
You can find warm-season grass and cold-season grass. The warm season grasses match well the southern climates (the germination time occurs mostly during the summer). The cool season ones are a great fit for northern climates (they grow during the winter). They might get a bit dormant during the summer, but they stay lush and green throughout the entire year.
Regarding the location in your yard, consider whether you will have shade or full sun exposure. If you have more shade, you might need to consider grass seeds that are made for low-light conditions (tall fescue, St. Augustine grass, perennial ryegrass). The same applies to sunny locations — you will need to consider grass seeds that are fabricated for bright light (bermudagrass, Kentucky bluegrass, zoysia).
Once you are done with the selection, you will need to prepare the soil for the new seeds by following the steps below:
For the seeds to thrive in their new location, the soil needs to be prepared to support new turf growth. Here’s what you need to check:
- Check the overall pH quality: You might need to take a few soil samples to check the pH levels of the soil. You will need a range of 6.0 to 7.5. The samples can be sent over to your local county office for further testing. The pH meters at home won’t be able to measure exactly the range as the county office can. They will give you a detailed analysis of nutrients, the overall quality, and what you need to change.
- Improve the soil’s pH: Depending on the test results, if the soil is found to be alkaline (high pH outside of the normal ranges), you will need to correct the pH levels. Sulfur is usually the best way to do it. Lime is another suggested soil amendment you can use.
- Fertilization is the key: The county office will also include all the tips and recommendations they can give you regarding nutrients. Lawn fertilizers will be necessary to create an ideal environment for the grass. (Make sure to follow their recommendations since some states need to follow the law regarding fertilization. If your state allows you to use a wide range of lawn fertilizers, phosphorus-based fertilizers are a great way to go!)
- Consider the overall soil structure: Having a very heavy, compact, and sandy topsoil won’t be beneficial. To ensure the success of seed germination, create good air circulation, thorough water supply (penetration), and remove heavy rocks. Organic compost is a great way to create a soft, full-of-nutrients structure. You can add it at a 2-4 inches depth before you plant the seeds.
Planting Grass Seed
Following the seeding rates and the seed package's guidelines is important to get the desired result. You will have to choose the right spreader for the seeds based on the size of the area. There are two types of spreaders that you can use: the drop spreader and the rotary spreader.
The drop spreader drops the seeds down using the width of the spreader as you move across the lawn area. It is a great choice for small lawn areas (under 5,000 square feet) that need precision towards the seed placement. The rotary spreader works mostly like a fan, spreading the seeds in all directions as you move, creating a uniform coverage. It is mostly used for large lawns, but the downfall is that they don't provide the precision the drop spreaders provide.
Once you are done with the seed placement, you will lightly bury the seeds (¼ inch is a great depth). Don't indulge in burying the seeds completely since they need enough sunlight for germination. Over time, you might need to perform some overseeding (adding grass seeds to an existing lawn). This improves the overall health, while it can fix any damaged areas. Nothing changes when it comes to overseeding; you can follow the same instructions.
Watering the Seeds
To achieve great results, you will need to keep the seeds moist. You can do this by watering the newly seeded areas 2-3 times a day, by a light spraying of water. Sometimes you may notice that puddles can form on the soil surface — this will be your clue to stop watering. When the seeds germinate and you see new growth, you can start watering less, but it will still need thorough watering.
Observe How the Seeds Establish
Once the seedlings germinate, it will take a maximum of 21 days to notice any sprouts. Your new grass needs an additional 4-8 weeks (sometimes 10) to root successfully and become established. Let the grass grow for a full season and become steady before stepping on it frequently. When the new growth reaches at least 1 inch in height, it is a good idea to look for bare spaces you might have missed. Repeat the overseeding process until you have the result you like.
Mowing and Maintenance
Once the grass grows and reaches 3 inches in height, you can start mowing it. Depending on your chosen grass, you will need to follow the recommended mowing height. Generally, it is best not to remove more than ⅓ of the grass when you mow it. This will weaken the growth and create exposure to lawn weeds and disease.
Avoid stepping on it since it is still tender and sensitive. Make sure to water it frequently, so in addition to the rainwater, it can get an overall 1 inch of water per week. If your lawn is cool-season, you can fertilize it after germination (4-8 weeks later) until November. If your lawn is warm-season, you can begin to fertilize it again the following spring.
How to Seed a New Lawn?
Let’s summarize the needed steps in a list so that you can refer back to it when you need to:
- Prepare the ground: Remove hardy rocks, debris, and even low surfaces. Spend as much time as you need to ensure the soil has small particles and looks like a mat that can welcome the compost, the seeds, and the added water.
- Add nutrients: Use elemental sulfur or lime to adjust the pH levels and lawn fertilizer to help the new seeds establish.
- Plant the seeds and cover them lightly: Once you spread the seeds, make sure to cover them lightly with just a ¼ inch of soil. The seeds need to be exposed to the sun to grow successfully. Make sure it has a loose density overall, like a dressing.
- Water them thoroughly: Be generous with watering and keep the top 2 inches moist for best results.
- Mow the grass and maintain it once it grows up to 1 inch: Once you observe the 1-inch growth, start mowing the lawn. Never remove ⅓ of the lawn while you mow. It exposes it to weeds and lawn diseases.
- Practice overseeding when necessary: Plant some extra seeds in the bare spots to achieve a lush, healthy look. Repeat as many times you think it is necessary.
How to Plant Grass Seed in Spring?
Spring is a great season to grow a new lawn from scratch, especially if your climate offers you prolonged spring seasons with cool temperatures (it helps with the overall gardening work). If you’re planning to do some grass growing during the spring, thoroughly water the seeds and the new growth until the fall. If you miss this step, you will most likely have many bare patches in the lawn area that will need constant overseeding and maintenance.
Planting Grass Seed in Fall?
Fall is usually the best season to plant a new lawn because the soil is warm due to the hot weather. Combining it with the starting cooling breezes as the season changes to fall creates an optimal environment for new root growth. The turf also becomes quite hardy, resistant to drought, and ready to welcome new nutrients (like organic compost). Since the new seeds will require frequent watering, rainfall can act as an extra helper to the new growth. You can consider the weather forecasts and apply the new lawn 2-3 days before the rain for great results!
Tips for Growing Grass
There are some important aspects to remember to ensure the good growth of a new lawn.
- Time is key: Choose the right time of the year to plant the new seeds. Each grass needs a specific season to grow. If you’re planning to grow warm-season grasses during fall, the success rate is pretty low since the seeds won’t grow and become established.
- Make the right grass seed choice: Consider your overall location, how much light the grass will get (or not), your budget and whether you have pets that will step on it frequently. The agriculturist at the local plant nursery can help you with the right plant selection.
- Test the soil: This step isn’t mandatory, but it can give you great insight into your soil’s overall acidity levels. If you don’t want to send soil samples to the local county, you can use a soil test kit to test the soil’s acidity. The ideal range is between 6.0 and 7.0. Remember that the local county office will also give you further recommendations about improving your soil.
- Prepare the soil well: Remove any hardy rocks and debris and take care of those low spots that might need filling with some sand. The overall goal is to have soil with sufficiently broken down particles that can act as a welcoming mat for the new grass seeds.
- Plant the seeds and feed them on the same day: Once you throw your new seeds in and cover them lightly, give them some food. Don’t wait until the next day to feed them — do it moderately, though. They need just enough to keep them going and establish themselves. The water will help distribute the fertilizer evenly to all the seeds.
- Cover up lightly: One common misconception is that when you plant new seeds, you must cover them deeply in the soil so they can be protected. Restrain the urge, and cover them lightly with a thin layer of soil. The seeds need to be exposed to sunlight to grow.
- Keep on watering: Keep the seeds moist but not soggy. You can mist the area once a day, and once the grass is grown, aim to keep the top 2 inches moist for best results. There are some important aspects to remember to ensure the good growth of a new lawn.
Following this checklist will help you succeed in this tricky endeavor.
How Long Does it Take to Grow Grass From Seed?
The growth rate is determined mainly by the variety of grass you have. The classic Kentucky bluegrass takes 2-3 weeks overall. The perennial ryegrass is the quickest to germinate, usually taking 3-5 days, while fescues need 10 days. Warm-season grasses usually need at least 30 days before you notice any visible growth.
The time that each grass needs before it germinates is useful when you want to use a variety of grasses together. No matter what you choose, water them thoroughly and give them time to establish themselves. They won’t germinate together simultaneously, but the result will be worth it.
Will Grass Seed Grow If Not Covered, If You Just Throw it Down?
The rate of success is pretty low. You might notice some sprouting grass, but the seeds won’t be germinated, and the growth will be diminished.
Will Grass Seed Grow on Top of Dirt?
In general, the seeds just need a coat of soil to grow. Since dirt doesn’t have the right nutrients to provide to the seeds, you may see some growth, but the seeds won’t get established.
Will Grass Seed Germinate on Top of Soil?
The soil needs to be loose for the seeds to germinate. Remember that they are seeds, meaning they don’t carry the strength of an adult plant. Germination won’t be successful in really compact soil.
Can You Mix Grass Seeds?
Of course, you can! Remember that they will grow at different rates since all varieties need different amounts of time to grow and germinate. Just make sure that the varieties match your location and climate!
How Much Topsoil Do I Need to Grow Grass?
You will need to provide at least 4 to 6 inches of topsoil, so the grass and the roots can have some room to grow. Make sure the topsoil is fairly loose and not compact — the seeds will find it much easier to grow there.
When to Fertilize New Grass?
You can add the compost and the fertilizer before you plant the seeds or after; you decide. What matters most is to offer the nutrients to the new grass and then water thoroughly so you can encourage the germination and the even distribution of the nutrients.