Folks, when we first purchased our house, there was nary a blade of grass to be found. Our yard was comprised primarily of… weeds. It took us a year to reclaim the space and grow ourselves a lawn. Here are some of the tips, tricks, and lessons I learned about growing grass from seed, with only basic tools, and without chemical pesticides/herbicides.
All told, we have planted about 1000 square feet of lawn, across two springs and one autumn. We avoided mid-summer because we’re wimps and don’t like the heat 🙂 (pros tell you to avoid high heat for planting anyway!) Our lot is a good sun/shade mix, with some areas getting full sun, and others getting only an hour or two a day.
Here’s what I’ve discovered about the whole prepping, planting and growing process.
Prepping. Aka “man, this is a lot of work!”
- Dig out the weeds – Your new lawn is going to need a clean slate. There’s no room for anything else but your grass seed. When the lawn growing guides tell you to remove all traces of weeds, they mean it! There were times when I definitely did a less than perfect job weeding, because admittedly, this is a labour intensive step if your yard is ALL weed. The places I did the less than perfect job? It shows.
- Aerate & loosen soil – the process of removing the weeds largely took care of this step. In digging ’em out, I turned much of the soil. Where I didn’t use a shovel, my metal rake was good enough for getting down a few inches and loosening up the ground
- Level terrain – after digging out all the weeds, I used the back of my rake to level out the terrain. This made a big difference in the final product. One area I missed is now lumpy and uneven underfoot which makes mowing a bumpy endeavour!
- Fertilize – here’s something I’m unclear on. Almost every how-to guide tells you this is important, but every picture you see on this page depicts grass grown sans fertilizer… Am I missing something? Maybe we just had really fertile soil to being with?
Planting. Aka Hope Springs Eternal
- Choosing seed: I’ve bought the expensive stuff, and the really inexpensive stuff. So far, I’ve seen no noticeable difference in terms of the quality of the lawn that’s come in, or the length of time it took to grow. Go figure!
- Equipment: Many how-to guides recommend the purchase of a spreader. I used my hand and it worked out fine. It was probably a little slower to evenly spread seed this way, but hey – it saved us $40.
Growing. Aka “Get the Dog Off the New grass!!”
- Watering : Twice daily I dragged the hose over to my newly spread seed and watered, just enough to soak in a few inches. Rainy days took care of the rest. Truthfully, this was a fickle step. Under-watering leads to dried out seed and no grass. Over watering wastes water and drowns seeds. Here’s my tip: If the water is poolin’ you be foolin’ (yourself – because you’re overwatering.)
- Overseeding – as soon as the shoots become visible I would look to the spots that were bare, and spread a couple of handfuls of seed. In good time, I had a nice full blanket of green. Just had to keep watering.
Here’s a snapshot of one recently planted patch, over 30 days…
It felt like forever, but a month between start and finish isn’t too bad. I only stopped the watering/overseeding process when I was happy with how the new grass looked.
Failed to foresee. Aka “Whoops”
The size of the garden store bill: we spent way more than expected on seed over two years, almost $500. Ultimately, it was cheaper than buying sod… but still, we didn’t anticipate quite how much we’d need to buy. Purchasing during the off-season is going to be my grass-buying mantra moving forward.
The size of the water bill: oi! There was a noticeable difference for those months when we were watering lawn twice daily. This one’s hard to avoid.
Dog pee. Man, that stuff is unkind to grass!
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