The most common way to start a new lawn is seeding. Planting grass seed is a smart and efficient method of getting a beautiful lawn, and you can do it all on your own without having to hire an expensive team of professionals. So we put together this comprehensive guide on how to prepare and plant your lawn with grass seed. We will go through each part of the process step-by-step and talk about any special tools you may need.
Here is a quick list of the tools you will need to plant grass seed in your lawn.
- Hand trowel
- Garden hose
- Broadcast spreader
- Soil rake
In addition to the above, here are a few more tools that are not necessary but may make the process easier
- Poly film
The above tools are not required, but a rototiller can help you turn over the top layer of soil, and poly film can help your locks moisture into the lawn so the grass can grow. A rototiller is a machine with rotating blades that churns soil and breaks up large clumps of dirt.
Seeding a lawn is a relatively straightforward process that starts with picking the right time of year to plant your grass seed and ends with maintaining a healthy lawn. Here's how to seed a lawn in 5 steps.
Step 1. Pick the Right Time of Year to Plant
One problem many people run into when seeding a lawn is they pick the wrong time of the year to do so. Different species of grass have different peak growing months, and if you plant the wrong grass seed at the wrong time, it will never establish properly and will not grow. Proper timing helps ensure that your grass seed will germinate and remain healthy throughout the year.
The right time to plant grass depends on your specific location and the kind of grass seed you choose. If you live in warmer climates such as the south and southeast, you will want to choose a warm-season grass and plant during the late spring or early summer. Warm-season grass will not have time to establish if you plant it too late, and it will die in the winter.
Alternatively, if you live in a colder climate, you will want to choose a cool-season grass and plant during the late fall. Cool-season grass will not handle heat very well, so if you try to plant it in the early spring or summer, it will dry out and die quickly.
If you live in transition zones, then you have the most flexibility of what kind of grass to choose and when to plant. For those regions, the best time to plant is probably during the early spring. The slightly warm temperature and occasional rainfall are good for lawn health.
Step 2. Prepare the Soil
The next step is to prepare your soil for seeding. The soil must be given the right kind of nutrients so the grass can germinate and grow. To prepare your soil, you will first want to test the soil’s pH level. Most grasses grow the best when soil pH is between 6.0-7.5, so right about in neutral pH levels. If your soil is too acidic or basic, then it can prevent the grass from growing properly. You can buy a soil testing kit from your local lawn & garden store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot.
If your soil levels are off, you can fix them by using soil amendments and adding nutrients. Soil needs nitrogen and potassium to grow grass, so fertilizers with large quantities of these substances are good choices. Make sure you are up to date on any environmental restrictions your state may have that affect the fertilizers you can use.
To prepare the physical soil:
- Use the rake and hand trowel to upturn the top 1-2 inches.
- Break up any large clumps of dirt and remove any rocks, weeds, and existing grass.
- After turning the soil, use the rake to smooth it out and make it even. You can add another layer of compost or fertilizer at this point.
Step 3. Spread the Grass Seed
The next step is to actually plant the grass seed. You can do this by hand, but it is recommended that you use a broadcast spreader. This device has wheels and a spreading mechanism on the bottom that spreads seed as you walk the length of your lawn. If you do not already have a spreader, you can buy one for fairly cheap at a local home & garden store.
Starting at one end of your lawn, roll the spread and make sure to get even coverage. Try not to plant the seed on a windy or rainy day as the wind and rain can blow the seeds away, then all of your hard work will be wasted. Most grass seed has recommended amounts on the bag, so make sure you follow those directions based on the size of your lawn.
Once you have given the yard even coverage, take the rake and gently mix the seed in with the soil. You want to try to bury the seeds under at least ¼” of soil. Be careful not to bury the seeds too deep or else they will not get adequate sunlight and will not grow properly.
You can then go over your lawn with a lawn roller to press the seeds into the ground. This step is optional and not necessary, but it may be a good idea if you have hard soil. Make sure that you minimize foot traffic on your lawn during and after this process. Foot traffic can disturb the soil composition and prevent the seeds from taking root.
Step 4. Watering
After you have planted the grass seed, it’s time to water it for the first time. No matter what kind of grass you have, it will require a lot of water initially. You should cover your lawn with about 2-3 inches of water until the soil is damp and soft to the touch. You can test the water level by inserting a screw into the soil. If the entire thing comes out moist, then there should be enough water in your lawn.
You will need to water your lawn at least once every day initially, possibly twice daily, depending on the type of grass you have. Make sure that you do not overwater your lawn. You can tell your lawn has too much water if puddles start to form or the soil is slushy. If you put too much water in, it will drown the seeds, and they will not grow.
After about 2-3 weeks, you should see your seeds starting to sprout. You can then reduce watering to once every other day. After 4 weeks, your grass should be fully grown. Depending on the type of grass you have, you may only have to water once per week by then.
Step 5. Maintain
Maintenance is a crucial part of keeping your grass seed lawn healthy. After the grass has grown to about 3 inches high, you can cut it for the first time. How much you should cut off depends on the type of grass that you have. Cool-season grass should be kept longer than warm-season grass.
Ensure that your mower blades are sharp when you cut for the first time, and you should not take off more than 1 inch of grass. If you cut off more than that, you run the risk of pulling the grass out by its roots. Also, make sure that you remove the clipping from the first mowing session. If you leave the clippings, it can make the underlying thatch layer too thick, and this can affect that lawn’s ability to absorb moisture and retain nutrients.
If you have a cool-season grass, then you will want to fertilize it again about 4 to 8 weeks after the seeds germinate. For warm-season grasses, you should wait until the following spring to re-fertilize. Ideally, you should try to fertilize your lawn at least twice a year, more if you have poor quality soil.
Growing your own lawn from scratch is a rewarding process. You will love seeing a lush, thick, green turf grow from bare soil. If you plant your grass seed properly, then you will have a healthy lawn that is perfect for activities for you and your family. Overall, from preparing your lawn to resuming regular maintenance, the whole process should take about 6-12 weeks. While you could just pay a professional to seed your lawn for you, there is something rewarding about doing it yourself. Just follow our step-by-step guide and make sure you have an understanding of the kind of grass you have and your soil quality.