When looking for a way to refresh your yard, planting grass seed and growing a lawn is one of the easiest tasks. It can be a quick and easy solution that has a big impact on the way your house looks. Here is the best way to plant grass seed, in 5 easy steps.
Planting Grass Seed: 5 Easy Steps
1. Know When to Plant Grass Seed
It’s important to know exactly when to plant grass seed, so that it will grow in well. The first thing you need to know is what type of grass you have: cool-season or warm-season. If you have a cool-season grass, you will want to plant in the spring or fall, because it prefers warm soil and cool air. If you have a warm-season grass, you should plant it during the late spring to mid-summer, after the last frost has passed and daytime temperatures are in the 80s.
2. Prep the Area
When the time is right, prep your lawn for new seed. Remove old sod, weeds, rocks, and any vegetation that is in the patch where you plan to plant your new lawn. You will want to loosen soil and break it up enough that the new seed can grow roots easily. You can do this with a garden fork, for small areas, or an aerator, for larger ones. If the space isn’t even, you can adjust grading issues now by filling in low spots.
3. Test You Soil
Once you know when you are going to plant your grass seed and the area is prepped, you should test your soil, and make any adjustments you need to in order to have a lush, healthy lawn. Some of the things you might want to test for include pH, major nutrients, and minor nutrients. You may be able to buy a kit at a garden store, or find a testing lab through your state’s extension service.
Once you have your test results, you will want to adjust the levels of nutrients and pH in the soil. Many grasses like slightly acidic soil (pH of 6.2 to 7). You may also need organic fertilizers to adjust the nitrogen, phosphorus and potash levels in the soil.
4. Select and Plant Your Grass Seed
Your grass seed variety, whether cool-season or warm-season grass, will depend on when you plant and where you live.
For example, some states do best with cool-season grass, like those states in the northern part of the country. Cool-season grass often does best at temperatures between 60 and 75. These include bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, and ryegrass.
Other locations do best with warm-season grass, especially southern states like those with warmer or humid climates. These types of grass include Bermuda grass, Bahiagrass, zoysia, and centipede grass.
And yet other states, like those in transition zones with hot summers and cold winters, need cold-tolerant warm-season grass or heat-tolerant cool-season grass.
Your local garden store can help you determine what type of climate zone you live in if you have any questions about the varieties you should consider.
Once you have your grass seed, you are ready to plant! You have a couple of options: hand seeding or using a seeder (these come in many options: hand-cranked, chest-mounted, push from behind, drop). Hand seeding is fine for small areas, but a larger area is best served with a seeder. The seed bag will have specific instructions for that variety, but you should aim to have 15-20 seeds per square inch.
Make two passes on your lawn: north to south first, then east to west. This gives you the best chance at an evenly spread lawn.
It’s important to have good seed-to-soil contact, so the seeds can root into the earth and grow. In order to have good contact, it’s important that Step 2 was done well so there isn’t a lot of grass, roots, or debris in the way. Once you’ve seeded, you will want to rake the surface lightly to mix the seed into the top of the soil.
After seeding, you will need to keep the top half-inch of soil moist, so that the grass seeds don’t die out before they can grow. Avoid overwatering and underwatering by watching the soil. Different areas of the lawn may need different care the first couple of weeks, as shade, sun, and wind can all be factors affecting the moisture levels. You may be watering more than once a day for certain areas.
Here are the germination rates for common lawns:
- Bermudagrass: 7-28 days
- Kentucky bluegrass: 14-21 day
- Ryegrass: 5-10 days
- Zoysia: 14-21 days
5. Get Ready for Regular Maintenance
As you care for your newly planted grass, get ready to begin your regular maintenance routine of mowing, watering, and fertilizing. As the grass grows, you can slowly start to ease up on the watering to a normal schedule once it is grown and you have begun mowing the lawn.
Wait to mow until the lawn is grown in, and abide by the 1/3 rule when mowing: never remove more than a third of the height of the grass. Be gentle the first few times you mow, as the roots may not be fully established yet.
How tall the grass should be before mowing for the first time:
- Bermudagrass: 1 ½ – 2 inches
- Kentucky Bluegrass: 2 – 2 ½ inches
- Ryegrass: 2 – 3 inches
- Zoysia: 1 – 2 inches
For cool-season grasses, you will want to start adding in an organic fertilizer to feed your lawn after about eight weeks. This will encourage deeper, stronger roots. For warm-season grasses, wait until the following spring to fertilize again. Depending on what your initial soil tests show, you may want to fertilize every 3 to 4 months to keep your lawn lush and healthy.