Maybe you’re starting from scratch, or maybe your old lawn needs some new tricks to fix the bare or brown spots that are forming. Is there more involved in how to seed a lawn than you may think? Let’s take a look at the best way to establish, or re-establish, a beautiful green lawn for your home or business.
New or Redo?
Before we figure out how to seed a lawn, we need to look at what kind of grass seed we’re using. Are we going to fill in a few patches or plant an entire lawn? We’ll use different techniques and approaches for each. For either situation, fall seeding will give you the best chance of a well-established and beautiful lawn by spring for cool-season grasses. If you live further south, following up with a seeding of warm-season grasses in the spring will help give you a beautiful, lush lawn year-round.
Starting from Scratch
New lawns seem easy, just spread some grass seed out, right? Not really. What happens when that migrating flock of birds thinks all that seed you thoughtfully laid out for them makes a great on-the-go buffet? Will rain wash the grass seed away? Here’s how we go about establishing a new lawn:
- Get a soil test done. This will help you establish whether you need to incorporate particular nutrients, additional organic matter or adjust the pH prior to seeding.
- Take care of problem areas. Are there problematic weeds or compacted areas that need to be tilled? It’s also a great time to incorporate anything the soil test said you needed. This is one of those areas where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- Put that seed down! On the ground this time, actually – we’re finally at the seeding part of how to seed a lawn! Using a rotary or drop spreader, put half the seeds going across your lawn one way, north and south as an example, and then put the other half on in an east and west direction.
- Mulch it! Spread a bale of straw over 1,000 square feet of warm-season grass or one to two bales over the same area of cool-season grass. Why not hay? Hay has seeds in it that will compete with your grass seed. Either roll or water the mulch to keep it in place.
- Keep it damp. The top 1/2″ of soil should remain damp by lightly watering two to three times daily for two to three weeks.
Filling in Thin Spots
If there are areas in your lawn that don’t grow well, let’s figure out why before seeding. Is it shaded for part of the day? Seeding shade-tolerant grass to fill these areas makes more sense than putting down more grass seed that won’t do well. Long, skinny strip across the yard? If you’re in southern climates, you may have a pipe crossing your lawn there that keeps the grass from putting down deep roots, causing it to die back in the summer. Try a more drought-tolerant variety.
If areas of your lawn have died back completely, asking how to seed a lawn with what kind of grass seed isn’t as important as finding out why the patches are there. Reseeding an area having problems supporting plant life without fixing the problem won’t fix your lawn, it’ll just waste seed.
Is the soil acidic because your neighbor’s dog thinks it’s the perfect spot to pause in his morning constitutional? Amending the soil with quick lime to alkalize it will help to bring the pH back into range quickly, and spreading crushed red pepper in the area may convince Fido (or at least his nose) to take his business elsewhere.
Did Uncle Fred leave his RV parked there last winter? Soil compaction can keep plants from putting down good roots, leaving bare areas where the tires pressed the ground flat. Try using a hoe, rake or shovel to break up the surface so that the roots have a place to penetrate.
When Reseeding Isn’t Enough
If you really need to start from scratch, there’s a wonderful article on removing sod, adjusting the pH and mixing nutrients and sand aggregate into the soil. Just don’t make the mistake a couple friends of mine did a few years ago; in attempting to incorporate sand and organic matter in the form of straw into their clay soil, they ended up with an adobe yard!