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.
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How to seed a lawn from scratch
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 labor-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 endeavor!
- 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?
What to know when seeding a lawn
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.
Grow Grass from Seed: What’s next?
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. Overwatering 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!
How to spread grass seed
Make sure to spread the seed evenly by hand in small areas. For this, use a hand or lawn spreader or a mechanical seeder in large areas.
Make sure to apply +/- 16 seeds per square inch. Too many seeds too close together can cause seedlings to fight for room and nutrients. Therefore the grass may be weak or thin in these areas.
Do you love spending time in your garden? Have a look at our indepth guide on how to plant spring bulbs.
Questions? Comments? Praise? Gripes? We’d love to hear from you. Let us know!
When to plant grass seed
The best time to plant grass seed depends on where you live and the type of lawn grass you are using. Having an understanding of the seeds, grass and figuring out the right time to plant them results in seeding success.
If you are growing grass from seed at the right time, meaning if the season suits the natural period of active growth of the seeds, the grass grows faster. However, lawn grasses have different growth cycles and climate preferences.
Let us look at different types of grasses to understand when to seed your lawn.
Cool-season grasses like perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and tall fescue grow at a fast pace during the lower temperatures in the late summer season and early fall.
These grasses grow across northern climates where the temperature is cooler and also in the zone where cool and warm regions meet. At these regions, you will see cool-season grasses growing day by day and at a fast pace.
Whereas, warm-season grasses like zoysiagrass, Bahia grass, centipede grass, and bermudagrass reach a faster growth during the warmer temperature of early summer and late spring. If you want to decide when to plant grass seed in spring, wait for the late spring if they are warm-season grass seeds.
You should consider the particular season for planting grass seeds because different seeds have varying natural periods of active growth. It can vary according to the climate of your location and the type of grass you want to grow.
Whether you want to grow warm or cool-season grasses, planting the seeds at the right time to take benefit of the seeds’ natural growth period results in germination and faster growth. If you perfectly know how to seed grass, your lawn will get green pretty soon.
Apparently, spring is the best season to grow cool-season grasses. The soil in the fall season remains warm due to the months of summer. The combination of moderate temperatures in the daytime, warm soil, and low-temperature evenings result in faster germination of seeds.
The temperatures of soil between 50°F and 65°F are best suited for cool-season grass seeds. Instead of guessing the soil temperatures according to the daytime temperature, you can use a cheap soil thermometer. Knowing the exact temperature will let you grow grass from seed in the most effective manner.
So, plant your seeds at the right time.
How to plant grass seed on existing lawn
To plant grass seed on an existing lawn, you need a lot of investment and time. To maintain a good-looking lawn, you need to do a lot of activities. Plus, summer and scorching days come with numerous tasks.
Maintaining a lush green lawn, fertilizing, and mowing can be difficult in such a schedule.
While growing grass in the late summer and early fall can be more suitable for a healthy lawn. Also, it can be the right time to over-seed the existing lawn. In this article, we will be talking about the tips for growing grass from seed.
Step 1: Know the grass seed
It is crucial to know the type of grass seed you are using. If you choose a type of grass that does not match the nature of your lawn will only leave in disappointment. Therefore, before starting to plant the lawn, know the native grass seeds or the seeds that have successfully grown grasses in your area.
Know that Detroit-metro areas and Denver-metro are suitable for cool-season grasses. You can consider tall fescue grasses or Kentucky bluegrass for these areas.
However, every area has its own challenges like soil types, altitude, climate, and more. Researching a bit before you start planting will drastically reduce the disappointment of choosing the wrong type of grass.
Step 2: Prepare the area
You need to prepare the area before over-seeding the lawn. Preparing the lawn includes watering it deeply, clipping, bagging, and then raking. Make sure that your mower is set at the lowest setting while mowing the lawn. Preparation is important if you want to be an expert at how to seed a lawn.
It is because the grass seed should be totally in contact with the soil for improved growth. However, you would not be able to do so if your grass is too long. In this case, you can remove the clippings and use a rake to loosen the soil.
Remember, it is also important to ensure the oxygen flow to the soil. Use tools like plug or spike aerator to do so. In addition, use a fertilizer rich in phosphorous.
Step 3: Plant the seed
Then, distribute the grass seed you have chosen. Then rake the freshly sown grass into the prepared soil using a leaf rake.
Step 4: Water the seeds
Finally, water the lawn thoroughly twice per day. After germination, you can water once a day. That is how to plant grass seed.