How To Seed A Lawn – Preparing Soil, Seeding, Watering & More
Seeding a lawn is not too difficult in itself. When it comes to spreading the seed for your grass, all that is really required is that you spread evenly, and work the seed into the soil. It is the soil preparation that can be more technical, as well as the watering of your newly sown grass. With our guide you will know how to seed a lawn, when to seed a lawn, and what tools you will need for the job.
You could just throw out a load of grass seed and see what happens, but with this guide you will gain much better results, and a lawn that will grow to be healthy for years to come.
When To Seed Your Lawn
The first query on your mind might be when to seed your lawn. The answer to this depends on the type of grass you have. For this purpose, there are two main types of grass; cool-season, and warm-season.
Cool-season grass grows best, you guessed it, in the cool seasons, mostly spring, fall, and even winter in some cases. It is best to seed your lawn in late summer to early fall if you have cool season grass. This way the ground is warm enough for germination, and the young grass has the entire season to become established. You can also seed in early spring if you missed it in fall, but the grass will have less time to establish before hot weather.
For warm-season grass the best time to seeding your lawn is late spring. At this time the weather is still mild enough for the grass to establish itself, and will benefit from maximum growth in the upcoming hotter weather of the summer season.
So in short, seed your lawn in late summer for cool-season, and late spring for warm-season grass.
Getting Soil Ready For Seeding
Okay, so the time is right an no doubt you are keen and ready to throw down some grass seeds. Not so fast! First of all it is very important that you work on your soil. A lot of the tough work for seeding your lawn comes during this stage. So knuckle down and get ready to get your hands dirty; it is time to get the soil ready for seeding.
1. Test The Soil
The PH reading of your soil represents the balance of acid or alkaline (between 0-14), with numbers below 7 denoting varying degrees of acidity in your soil, and numbers above 7 meaning alkaline. Grass grows best with PH levels between 6.0-7.5. Anything outside of this safety zone will be affecting the growth of your grass.
You can get a soil tester kit from most garden and home shops. With one of these you can measure the PH level of the soil. Simply mix the correct amount of water and soil, as per the instructions on the pack, and shake well. Leave to settle, and wait for the indication.
If you have lower than 6.0 (acid) soil, then you can add in lime, and if your reading is over 7.5 (alkaline) you can add peat moss, or in more extreme circumstances sulfur.
2. Prep Soil
With your soil measured, it is nearly time to make any amendments that need to be made, but first you need to do a little heavy work and prep the soil. Take a walk around and shovel out any large rocks and debris that are in the soil. Try to remove anything that wouldn't fit through a rake. Your overall goal will be to work the soil to a fine pea-sized consistency.
If any landscaping needs to be done now is the time to do it. Fill in large holes and depressions with soil from another part of the lawn area, and try to get a nice even soil bed. Use a rotary tiller to turn your soil until there are no clumpy patches and densely packed earth. Continue to work the soil this way until you are satisfied. A little work now goes a long way.
3. Sand And Compost?
At this stage you may want to add a layer of compost or organic matter if your soil lacks nutrition. A thin layer of 1 inch can help your grass to grow well.
Some people also believe that spreading sand in a thin layer across the surface will help with drainage, and to add a smooth finish, though this is debatable and can sometimes have a negative affect on soil. Sand can lighten heavier soils, but there really is no substitute for working the soil hard until it is smooth.
In any case, if you are thinking of adding compost or sand, spread evenly and make sure you incorporate it well into the soil using a garden tiller.
4. Soil Amendments- PH & Nutrients
Remember that soil test you did earlier? Now is time to make the necessary adjustments to the PH levels, ready for seeding your lawn. With a broadcast spreader you can set the distribution rate of the amendment substances, so that you get the balance right, though peat moss should be applied with a shovel.
Remember, you should add lime if your soil is too acidic, and peat moss for minor alkaline, with sulphur reserved for a high alkaline level that needs severe treatment. The important point to remember with adding these amendments is to spread evenly. If you don't then some areas may end up a different PH level than others, and this can be a nightmare for your lawn.
You can now add your fertilizers to the soil. A simple starter fertilizer should add the nutrients that your soil needs. They are high in phosphorus, which young seedlings need to grow. This can again be applied with a broadcast spreader, using the distribution rate specified on the pack. Never mix your lime and fertilizer to save a job; the two require different rates of distribution.
5. Rake The Soil
The final touch before adding actually seeding your lawn, is to rake the lime and fertilizer carefully into the top inch of your soil. Then rake it level ready for seeding.
How To Seed A Lawn
This is the bit you have all been waiting for. Drum roll please! You are going to learn how to seed a lawn... and it is much easier than you think at this point. Most of the hard work went into prepping the soil, so just order the grass seeds that you want, or find them at your local store. Choose a grass that grows well in your climate. You can get more information about grass types in our article here.
1. Spread The Seed
Excuse the pun, but it is time to spread the seed of life. You can use a handheld spreader for smaller areas, or a walk behind broadcast spreader for larger lawns-to-be. Try to apply an even amount of seed to the whole area. A good technique to help you to do this is to fill the spreader with half of your seed and walk in one direction, and then walk in the other direction with the other half.
2. Cover Up The Seeds
With the seed laid down, you will need to cover it up slightly to get it to germinate. Some people apply a weighted roller to press the seeds into place slightly, but this can cause disruption to the seeds, and can cause depressions which allow water to gather. Instead, the goal can be achieved by using the back-end of a leaf rake. Gently drag the back over the seeded area to work the seeds into the soil. Make short light strokes to stop the seeds from redistributing unevenly.
Watering The Seeds
You don't want to mess it all up now, do you? All of that hard work prepping and seeding your lawn can be lost if you do not keep your seeds adequately watered, especially before germination. As soon as you sow the seeds you should water the whole area well, but very lightly so as not to disturb them. At first the soil should be wet down to 6-8 inches. You may find that you have to apply several light waterings at regular intervals.
For approximately the first 8-10 days you should water your lawn several times a day, but only for a few minutes each time. On hotter days water a few times. When the grass sprouts you only have to water your new lawn once a day, but you should increase the duration to 15-30 minutes.
Getting the correct balance for watering the seeds can be tough, and it is very important not to over-water them. Doing so can wash them away, or cause them to rot. You should also sway towards watering in the morning and daytime; watering in the evening can cause fungal infections and other problems in the grass. Remember also that if it rains heavily you will need to water the seeds less, for obvious reasons.
Follow this guideline for watering your new lawn and you should be fine, but remember to keep an eye on your soil and think for yourself; conditions can vary. Watch the color of your soil to see if it is becoming dry. If it becomes mostly light then it is time for another watering.
Seeding Your Lawn- Aftercare
When you have finished seeding your lawn, and the new grass begins to grow through, you can ease up on the watering. You will probably overdo it if you carry on at the pace that you have been doing. This will again depend on many factors, not least of which is the climate and weather. You can gauge for yourself how to go with the watering.
When you see that your new lawn is becoming well established, take a day off watering and watch very closely to see if the grass shows signs of drying out- yellowing for example. If the grass seems fine, then begin to reduce your watering schedule, to once or twice a week, and then as needed after that.
When the lawn really becomes a lush green paradise, you will have one regular job on your hands in particular. You might have guessed it already. A healthy lawn needs to be mowed regularly. When it reaches 3-4 inches of height (depending on the grass type) you can begin to mow the lawn. Don't mow it too short as this will weaken the grass. Keep the cutting height high, and only ever take a third of the total length off the grass.