Seed a Lawn Like a BOSS!
People waste a lot of time and money trying to get a new lawn going, patching lawn dead-spots, and maintaining a healthy-looking lawn. There are a lot of expensive, gimmicky products on the market that claim to solve your problems, with grass seed, fertilizer and moisture containment all-in-one, or “the best grass seeds ever”. The truth is with the right preparation, the right seeds, and consistent care after seeding, you can start a new lawn yourself that will be the envy of the neighborhood. Grass seed is expensive! Let’s get you started out on the right path so to speak.
Here’s how to plant grass seed yourself for a beautiful lawn:
Before you begin, it is critically important to prepare your lawn area or you will be ruining your chances for a great lawn. Just like other plants and seeds, grass will not germinate and grow healthy without nutrient-dense soil.
For a new lawn, remove any existing grass or growth with a sharp shovel or sod cutter, and remove any larger rocks or other debris. Even out your surface, avoiding any peaks and valleys, by filling in low spots so water won’t pool and high spots won’t be deprived of moisture. If you are planting over older, compacted earth, spread a good layer of loam for the right bedding. Always buy quality, pH tested loam which will contain a rich blend of composted materials, creating an excellent seed-growing environment.
Your goal is to break down and prepare the soil to pea-sized particles at most, so your new seed has a welcoming mat to settle into and grow.
What about pH?
The ideal soil pH for most grass types is between 6.0 and 7.0. You can test the pH of your soil yourself so you know what you are working with. If your soil is too acidic (pH under 6.0), add ground limestone to the soil. If your soil is too alkaline (pH over 7.0), add some compost. At Dirt Direct, we test all our loam for proper pH so you know you are buying the BEST product for your yard and garden!
Grass Seeding & Feeding
Once your soil is prepped, it’s time to seed your new lawn. Choose the right grass seed for your lifestyle, location, and sun exposure. Choose a high-quality seed that is recommended for your conditions (fussy golf-course grade seed won’t survive your three dogs running across it daily). Grass seed is not the place to try to save money if you want a healthy lawn, go to a reputable dealer so you know seed hasn’t been on the shelf too long. Fact: NO grass grows in complete shade, consider other options such as shade gardens or mulch.
Beyond small patches, investing in a grass spreader is a good choice for even, sufficient grass seed disbursement. If this is a one-time thing, a hand-held spreader may do the job, but push-behind models work great for larger areas and overseeding and fertilizing down the road, and have several settings for how much seed they are releasing and for adjusting for different areas and products. Most grass seed and other products have directions on the bag for spreader settings so refer to this important information first!
Spread your new seeds to the perimeter first, then fill in the rest of the area. Like mowing, spread your seed and feed in a slightly overlapping pattern so you know your coverage is good from the start. Avoid getting seed or fertilizer in any garden beds or walkways.
Your new grass seeds need the proper feeding to give them a proper start. ALWAYS choose an appropriate fertilizer designed specifically for new grass seed. Many fertilizers contain ingredients that are either too harsh for new growth or that can kill grass seeds, so always check your product specifications. Some lawn food is specifically formulated to apply the same day as your new seeds, and some call for other feeding times. Be sure the list of fertilizer ingredient additives do not have “PreEmergent” listed as this will kill new grass seed.
Never store your grass seed near fertilizer that contains a PreEmergent, herbicides that kill weeds at their earliest stages. Unfortunately, they will kill the germination properties in new grass seed as well! If you find you have used a PreEmergent, you must wait approximately 12 weeks before expecting new grass seeds to grow in those areas.
Before you grab that lawn chair to admire your hard work, protect your new seeds from drying out in the hot sun, or becoming dinner for birds and other pest, by laying out a cover of straw. NEVER use hay to protect your new seeds! Hay is full of the seeds of many plants and will add unwanted weeds immediately into your new lawn – always, always use straw.
Watering is where most new lawns fail. After all that investment in loam, seeds and fertilizer, and spending all that time spreading your new grass products, DO NOT get lazy or cheap with your watering! Grass seed will germinate fast and healthy when it’s watered 2-3 times per day in 20-minute intervals. And continue to water daily for 3-4 weeks for the best root growth. We know this sounds like a lot, but consider the times you have been left with brown, patchy spots after seeding a lawn area, or driven by a new lawn installation only to see it looking desolate and ugly. Getting your new lawn off and rocking depends on watering, trust us!
When is enough is enough? Put a tuna can out in the middle of your seeding area, and when it is about ¾ full, you can stop.
Mowing a New Lawn
Wait for all the seeds to germinate and show healthy sprigs before mowing. This can take several weeks to up to 2 months before they are ready to be mowed.
A Note on Repairs and Overseeding
Many people make it an annual custom to overseed – spread new grass seed over an existing lawn – to fill in grass for a thicker lawn. When it comes to repairing sparse lawn areas or overseeding, it’s not as simple as just throwing some new grass seed down and walking away. This technique can be successful, but you want to prepare the area first. Always give your lawn a good mowing to a fairly short height before overseeding, then rake and bag or compost all the clippings as well. This will give the new seed the best chance of making it through the current lawn to the soil level for germination. Lastly, loosen the soil of the area you are overseeding with an aerator tool or a hard-tined rake so the seeds have pockets of soft soil to fall into and germinate from. After you overseed, follow our tips on watering and mowing so your new seeds continue to grow healthy and strong!