Michael is an avid writer and researcher in gardening and related topics.
Seeding a New Lawn
There is a widespread notion that the seeding of a lawn can only be done properly by professional lawn contractors, gardeners and landscapers.
This is absolutely untrue. If you have a new lawn, you can definitely be able to seed it yourself.
Whatever else you may have within your compound, your grass is the aesthetic highlight. It provides a verdant cover for the bare ground and keeps your area looking green and beautiful.
However, excellent grass does not appear by itself. Unless there is a deliberate and practical effort coupled with the proper timing, the results will be weeds and a host of other undesirable elements. How healthy your lawn will become has a lot to do with how you lay on the grass.
There are two methods that you can use to achieve this. One is to cover your lawn with sod and the other (which is the practical option for most people) is to plant seeds. The latter option is not only natural and cheaper, you determine the type of grass you will use.
When is the ideal time to seed a lawn?
The best time is between early April and early September. The first step, therefore, is to set aside some time between March and August to prepare the ground. The seeds need to be sown before the next heavy shower. This is because when the heavy rains begin, the soil begins to lose its tilth.
The best time is usually between late summer and early fall. The soil will not have lost its warmth yet at this time and will therefore be able to maintain the germination process and the establishment of a proper root structure.
It is possible to sow seed during the springtime, but this is only ideal for the warm season grass types. Even then, bear in mind that when germination occurs during spring the new sprouts will not be ready for the summer heat.
Seeding between late summer and early fall will ensure you avoid exposing the seeds to high temperatures and you will not have to continually struggle with weeds.
1. Prepare the Soil
Go through your lawn and remove all the plant material, leaves, roots and shoots from what was previously there, including grass, weeds and/or other plants. Ensure also that there are no traces of weeds which will compete with your seeds for water and essential nutrients.
Also, remove all debris and dead matter and ensure there is nothing left which could damage or interfere with the process of seeding. If you decide to add soil amendments at this stage you can do so, but only select the type that is best suited for the type of soil you have.
The soil needs to be sufficiently prepared in order to sustain the germination and growth of the grass. Some people prefer to simply wait for the rain and then firm the soil after it dries, but another alternative is to use a heavy roller to compact the soil.
Use rakes and other garden tools to level the soil. If you want to apply top dressing at this stage instead of doing it after the actual seeding, insert the mixture particularly for the areas that are half an inch lower than the rest of the soil. Then go over these areas with the rake to ensure they are filled in properly and levelled out.
You can also use your feet and the rake to press down and compact the soil. Sprinkle some water to lightly wet the soil in order to facilitate the compacting and then leave it to settle.
Levelling the surface of your soil will get rid of the slopes and make your mowing easier. So take time to even out the soil. Confirm also that there is proper drainage before you begin to seed the lawn.
2. Select the Grass Type
Before you settle on the type of grass you will use for the seeding, research on the types that are best suited for the climate in your locality. You could purchase either warm-season grass or cool-season grass, depending on whether you are located northmost or southmost.
After this, you will need to determine the seed mixture you will use. There are some types of grass that are really excellent depending on what you prefer.
For example, Bermuda grass is ideal if you have kids or pets and typical activities that go on around your compound. Bermuda grass is known to grow quickly though, so you would have to be mowing and edging the grass often.
Buffalo grass is great for people who do not feel like watering, mowing or fertilizing their garden often. At the same time, buffalo grass reaches up to 4–5 inches in height and you do not need to do much edging. Apart from the fact that you may have to deal with weeds, there are no known problems resulting from insects or disease that can damage the grass.
Sowing and fertilizing should be done on the same day in order to promote seed growth. Bear in mind that fertilizers have different effects on different soil types. Consult with your local supply store concerning the best fertilizer for your soil type.
3. Sow the Seed
After determining the seed mixture that you will use, distribute the seeds according to the procedure detailed on the seed package. This is usually given per square yard.
When you insert the seeds, cover them up with no more than 1 inch of soil. The space will allow for both aeration and water absorption. Mulching can also be used at this stage to reduce water consumption and aid the proper germination of seeds.
The typical amount of seed is approximately 40–50 grams per square metre. Though a common method of broadcasting seed is by hand, the best method to use when seeding a new lawn is to use a hand-cranked seed spreader or a wheeled spreader. This is because sowing seed by hand often leads to the grass becoming uneven when it finally sprouts.
Before you start, ensure that you set the spreader to the proper seed rate. There should be two to three applications of seed, each in a different direction from the previous one.
The ideal method to do this is to split the seed into two sets and spread one set by walking left to right through the lawn, and the other by walking in the adjacent direction. Take care in the process of spreading the seed, that none slips into other areas like driveways, patios or beds.
4. Protect and Level the Area
Do not forget to protect the area after you have completed the seeding. You could use a rope or some other means of sealing off the place so as to prevent people from stepping on the ground.
In case you find there are spots where grasses have failed to grow after planting, don’t let that discourage you. You could always reseed these spots.
Activities, like walking, running, playing, partying, driving or riding bikes through the lawn, should be disallowed during the first month as these will only prove to be counterproductive to the growth process.
The next step would be to apply a dressing to the lawn (if you have not already done so at this stage). Dressing will protect the seeds from disturbance. For this, you could use either moss, straw or peat.
After this is done, use a half-full water roller or a pedestrian lawn mower roller to lightly go over the area. Do not use a heavy concrete-filled roller, since these tend to be narrow and will subject the ground to a lot of pressure per square inch.
Ensure you do not use up all your seed. Have some soil and extra seed on hand because some hollows may appear in the process of rolling. After you have gone through the lawn and filled in all the hollows, the ground should be ready for the next stage.
5. Watering Your Lawn
Apply enough water to moisten the soil. The lawn should be kept moist until the seeds germinate.
Be careful not to waterlog the area. Too much water will drown the seeds and obstruct the seed germination process. Not only does this lead to the rotting of the seeds, it also causes the grass to grow unevenly.
So after you have seeded your lawn, water it a couple of times during the day, but only with sufficient water to sustain the soil in a moist and cool state.
Continue watering until germination has taken place and the seedlings have begun emerging. Your new seedlings should begin to appear within two to three weeks, depending on the weather conditions.
Again, take into account any rainfall that may have occurred before you start watering, to avoid waterlogging. In terms of quantity, the water should be up to an inch each week.
In addition to the above, bear in mind the following:
- Ensure that you do not apply any herbicides or chemicals during this sensitive formative stage. The chemicals can destroy the young roots before growth has been achieved.
- Allow the grass to grow up to 3–4 inches long before starting to mow your lawn.
- Remember to apply fertilizer after the first time you mow and then water the lawn to prevent burning.
You will need to exercise patience when following these procedures because it will be a while before the seeds germinate and the grass grows into maturity and you reap the long-term reward of a splendid lawn.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Liz Westwood from UK on February 11, 2020:
We have tried both, laying turf and using seed, but I wish we had read your article first.