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How Do I Seed a Lawn?

When seeding a new lawn, here are a few things to consider that will help you plant your grass seed successfully.

1. Choose the time of year when grass seed will germinate easily.

The time of year you plant will depend on the region where you live. In cold regions, such as the northern part of the United States, early fall is the ideal time to plant grass. The ground is warm enough that the grass seed can germinate, but the days are sufficiently cool and rainy to prevent the seed from drying out. Plant early enough in the fall so the grass has a good start before winter comes.

The second option for planting in northern regions is springtime. Wait until temperatures during the day are between 60 and 75 degrees F. Spring sunshine and rain create right growing conditions for new grass.

For the southern part of the United States, the ideal planting time is spring and early summer. Wait until there is no danger of a late frost before planting your grass seed.

2. Choose a seed that fits your region’s growing season and environment.

There are many varieties of grass seed available to match your growing conditions and environment. Research these types of seed to find the one that fits your needs the best. Do you need a seed that can thrive in the shade? Should you choose a grass seed that withstands heavy foot traffic? Do you need warm season grass or cool season grass?

3. Prepare the lawn for seeding.

If there are any clumps of grass or weeds growing on the site, dig them out with a sharp shovel. If you are reseeding a yard and want to clear out old grass and roots, consider borrowing a sod cutter to help you get the job done.

The top 2 to 3 inches of soil need to be loosened. You want the soil loose enough to allow air to enter but not too fine that it doesn’t hold the water and nutrients necessary for optimal growth. Break up large clumps of dirt and remove any rocks and debris from the soil. Use a tiller to loosen compacted soil.

What size should your dirt clumps be when you are finished? The goal is to have soil that is pea or marble-sized.

Level the ground, filling in any holes or low spots. Gently slope the lawn away from the house to drain water effectively. A garden rake is a useful tool for smoothing the ground.

If you want to be proactive about a healthy lawn, you can test the soil to see what nutrients it needs. You can buy a basic soil test kit that will determine the lawn’s pH. Most grasses need soil with a pH between 6 and 7. If the soil has a pH under 6, it is too acidic and may need limestone added to it. If the pH is over 7, the soil’s alkaline level is too high, and it may need compost or sulfur. Don’t forget to check labels and follow all product warnings and instructions!

4. Plant the seed.

When spreading grass seed, distribute it as evenly as possible. If you only want to seed a small area, you can spread the seed by hand. For larger areas, find a seed spreader that works well for your type of seed. The seed mix comes with instructions of how much seed to plant per surface area so that the seeds aren’t too crowded or too few.

After planting, work the seed into the soil to about ¼” deep. You can work it in with short light strokes, using the backside of a plastic garden rake. Finally, go over the newly seeded area with a roller to make sure the seeds are firmly in the soil and will germinate well.

5. Water the seed.

At first, new grass seed needs to be watered lightly two or three times a day. As the grass begins to grow, you can start to water less often and more heavily. As the grass matures, taper off watering as it can survive with normal rain or irrigation.

6. Tips to Remember When Caring for Your New Lawn

  • Keep off the grass! New grass can’t handle heavy foot traffic for the rest of the season. Stay off the grass and give it a chance to get a healthy start. Germination can take up to 3 weeks, and after that plan another 4 to 10 weeks till the grass has strong roots.
  • When the grass is an inch tall, take note of any bare spots and reseed them.
  • At 3 inches tall, your lawn is ready to mow. Place the mower blades at a high setting to keep the yard thick and lush. If you cut the grass too short, it becomes weak, and the weeds creep in.
  • A lawn needs about 1 inch of water each week under normal circumstances.
  • You may want to fertilize your lawn occasionally to make sure the soil has the nutrients it needs.

    Seeding the lawn can be a family project, and won’t the youngsters be delighted to see the grass peeking through the ground? So many life lessons are learned in the great outdoors as children and parents work together!