Whether you're planting a lawn that's new or renovating an old one, some important elements should be considered before just throwing some grass seed around. The type of lawn seed you choose is very important, and planting it properly is the only way you'll have a healthy lawn. You'll also want to keep pests away from those growing green blades. Read on to learn dozens of helpful tips.
Starting a Lawn from Seed
First, decide what type of grass you want to grow. Most lawn grasses are cool-season grasses that green up early and may go semi-dormant in hot, dry summer weather. Warm-season grasses such as Zoysia green up later but sail through the hottest summer weather.
There are basically two types of lawn grasses; those that bunch and those that creep. Bunching-type grasses spread slowly outward from new shoots at the base of the plant. Creeping grasses, as most lawn varieties are, spread by sending out rhizomes or stolons -- stems that creep along or just below ground level, forming a new plant at the tip.
Both grasses form thick mats if they're properly cared for. Creeping grasses form a better turf for high-traffic areas. You'll also have to consider the climatic zone you live in. Not all varieties will grow under all conditions.
Next, have your soil tested. Inform the soil test lab which type of grass you intend to grow, and they will recommend what soil amendments may be needed. Add lime and fertilizer if called for by the soil test report.
Grade the soil; level hills, and add top soil to low spots. Don't use subsoil on the top surface; turf grasses need a well-drained soil for roots to grow. Construction debris under the surface prevents roots from growing deeply, creating dead spots in the lawn. Cultivate the soil thoroughly, and remove rocks, roots, clods, and debris. Use a garden rake to fine-grade the area and roll the soil lightly to prevent uneven sinking. If you're renovating small patches of an old lawn, follow the same steps on a lesser scale.
Once the soil is graded, you're ready to sow seed. Sow cool-season grass in the early fall so the grass will have four to six weeks to establish before frost. Spread the seed with a hand spreader at the recommended rate found on the package.
Use a garden rake to gently work the seed into the top 1/8 inch of soil; seed that is planted too deeply will not germinate. Roll the area with a lawn roller to ensure good contact between the soil and the seed.
Using clean, weed-seed-free straw, lightly mulch the seedbed, light enough that half the soil is left exposed. The straw will help shade the soil and your seedlings, preventing them from drying too quickly.
Keep the top layer of soil evenly and constantly moist. Heavy watering with a sprinkler is not useful because seed will easily wash away. Water with a fine spray several times a day until the seedlings become strong enough to withstand regular irrigation.
In the next section, you'll learn how to use sod to start a lawn.
For more information on lawn care and related topics, try these:
- Lawn Problems: We explore the most common reasons why lawns struggle.
- Gardening: Make a garden part of your home's landscape.
- Types of Lawnmowers: Which mower is best for your lawn?