It seems like planting grass should be a simple task, right? Drop some seed, water it a little and watch it grow? In this article, we’ll tell you how to plant grass seed to establish or renovate your lawn, providing years of low-maintenance enjoyment.
Start at the Bottom
You’ll want to remove as many large rocks, weeds and old turf as possible. There are a variety of lawn tools available from rental companies including turf removers, aerators, rollers and seed broadcasters to help make the job easier. If your neighbors are looking at doing the same type of work, you may be able to split the cost among several families. I would also invest in a quality leaf blower.
The first thing you need to look at is the condition of your soil and to have it tested. Especially on a new planting, getting a quality soil test done will tell you what improvements you’ll need to make to the soil. This includes the amount of organic matter in the soil, what type of soil it is (sandy, loam, silty or clay), what fertilizer recommendations are and pH. This type of testing can be done at the county extension service office for a fairly low cost, usually $20-30.
Once you’re received your soil test back, you can begin putting additive into the soil, including amending it with sand or top soil, adding compost or fertilizer and adjusting the pH with sulfur or lime. For longer-term results, you can use a pelleted lime that will stay around longer; if you only treat with quick lime, you’ll find yourself needing to adjust the pH again.
What Type of Grass?
Selecting the best grass seed isn’t as simple as going to your local home improvement or garden center. You’ll want to select a variety that will meet your needs, including how often it will need mowing, how thick it grows, how fine or wide a leaf blade, how much watering it needs, what its fertilizer requirements are and what time of year it will grow. If lawns in your area tend to brown up either in the winter or summer and you desire a year-round green lawn, you’ll want to select seed for both warm and cool season grasses, which grow at different times of the year. For best results, you’ll need to plant warm season grasses in the late spring and cool season grasses in the fall, starting with one and overseeding with the other as time passes.
Planting Grass Seed
Now that you’ve got your soil amended and prepared, we’re on to the exciting part – how to plant grass seed! Using a broadcast seeder, distribute the seed at a rate appropriate for its variety, usually two to three pounds per 1,000 square feet. You’ll want to go over the area twice, in different directions each time, in order to avoid thin and thick bands where the distribution is different. If the particular grass you’ve selected has a low seeding rate, mixing in cornmeal or sand can be used to help get the proper distribution. Starter fertilizer may be included on the seed coat or may need to be applied after sowing.
Protecting the new seedlings
After the seed is down, use a rake to lightly cover the seeds, leaving some visible. You’ll want to put down one bale of straw per 1,000 square feet to help protect the seeds from birds, provide a more hospitable micro-climate for the young seedlings and prevent soil erosion. If the wind moves the straw or mulch into piles, it should be spread again or removed. If the ground isn’t too soft, using a roller to help press the seed and mulch into place can help keep it from moving too much and helps even out any high spots that may have formed while preparing the seed bed.
If you’re putting in a lawn that mixes cool and warm season grasses, you won’t need to go through this entire process again, just cut the established grass back to 1.5″ to 2″, remove any thatch that has formed and broadcast the new seed, rolling or raking it to keep it in place. Keep the established grass at a height of 1.5″ to 2″ until the seedlings have reached the same height.
Now that you know the details on how to plant grass seed, go make your dream yard happen! With a little bit of work, you should have a lawn you’ll enjoy for years to come.