Planting Grass Seed

Jeanne Grunert
Grass seedlings

Whether you choose to plant sod or tackle planting grass seed, both methods require similar site preparation and maintenance. The advantages of planting grass seed, however, are numerous. Seed costs less, is easier to plant and in the end may establish a healthier lawn. Even beginners can plant grass seed with simple tools and techniques.

Tips for Successful Planting

Establishing a healthy lawn begins by choosing the proper type of grass. Although most grasses look alike to the average homeowner, horticulturists have bred different strains of grass that thrive under very different conditions.

Steps to Choose the Right Seed

Follow these steps to choose the best grass seed for your planting conditions.

  • What gardening zone are you in? Determine your garden zone to narrow down grass choices.
  • Visit Great Landscaping Ideas and review the various seed varieties and blends. The site includes a grass hardiness map with recommendations for various seeds that thrive in different climates.
  • If you have seed in the garage or shed, check the expiration date on the bag. Opened bags and seed past its expiration date often has a lower germination rate than new seed. Why go to all the trouble of planting and watering seed if it won't germinate? Buy new seed if yours is old.

Steps to Planting Grass Seed

If you're confident you have the best quality seed on hand, follow these steps to establish a lawn from seed on areas of bare soil.

Prepare the Soil

Begin by preparing the soil. If you're not sure of the soil's pH, take a sample to the local garden center or state cooperative extension office to determine it. Many soils need amendments, such as lime, to achieve the optimum pH level to germinate and maintain grass lawns. Lawns thrive under neutral to slightly acidic pH, from 6.0 to 7.0. Depending on the results of the soil test, you may need to add lime or other amendments as recommended by the testing agent.

Remove debris from the area to be seeded. Pick up large rocks and sticks. Remove weeds by hand. Never use a weed killer on areas you're about to plant with grass seed, since the chemicals in weed killers may also prevent germination or kill young grass seedlings.

Till the soil to a depth of four inches, and then rake the top smooth. Any clumps larger than two inches should be broken up by hand or by tilling. Don't worry about making the soil perfect. Some small clumps are inevitable and won't hurt the seeds. If you don't have a machine to till the soil, you can also use a pitchfork and simply turn over the soil by hand until the bed is prepared.

Planting Seeds

When planting seeds on bare soil, you can scatter seeds by hand or use a mechanical seeder. Scattering by hand is easiest for small areas. Simply open the bag of grass seed and gather up a handful. Gently scatter it across the bare soil. The easiest way to ensure good coverage is to use a sweeping motion. Don't throw it around too quickly. A gentle back and forth scatter provides more even coverage. Look for spots you've missed and sprinkle more seeds onto the soil.

Mechanical grass seeders may be hand-held or pushed. Some can be towed behind a lawn tractor or utility vehicle. Depending upon the size of the lawn area, you may be able to sow seeds by hand or with a simple seeder purchased at a home and garden store.

After Planting

After planting the seeds, be sure to cover them with soil. Sprinkle soil onto seeds or rake soil on top of the scattered seeds. Moisture is perhaps the most important ingredient to successfully planting grass seed. Water the seeded area daily, but don't flood the area with water. Light, frequent watering is best. Keep the area moist until the grass is about two inches high. Then you can resume your normal watering schedule.

Other Helpful Hints and Resources

For those interested in further information on planting grass seed, the following websites provide useful resources and information.

  • Greenview Fertilizer provides detailed information on selecting cool season grass as well as links to information for those growing grass in warmer temperatures.
  • This Old House answers questions about grass seed, including when to plant seed.

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Planting Grass Seed