Find the right grass seed for your climate & get the lawn of your dreams with our guide. Discover how you can have a lush, green lawn with the help of TruGreen. The 10 steps you need to follow to start a new lawn from grass seed. If you have decided that you are ready for a total lawn makeover, your first order of business should be to get rid of the weeds. Most professional landscapers
How to Choose and Plant the Right Grass Seed for Your Lawn
It’s no secret that many of us are obsessed with having a beautiful lawn. If you long for thick green grass to surround your home, you’re certainly not alone. According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals, 78% of adults in the US reported having a home with a lawn or landscaping in 2016.
Getting a beautiful lawn, however, is a matter of patience and perseverance. You’ll need to learn practical skills to properly plant and grow grass seeds. On top of that, you’ll need to know what grass seed types are the best choice for your lawn based on climate and region.
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We’ve put together this guide on choosing the right grass seed for your lawn. You’ll learn how to plant grass seeds and grow a lawn from scratch. You’ll also find a breakdown of different types of grass seed and where they thrive.
Planting grass seed, growing a lawn, and maintaining your grass take a lot of time and effort. If you’re thinking it’d be easier to hire a professional, we recommend TruGreen for all of your lawn service needs. Get your free quote from TruGreen by giving them a call at 1-866-817-2172 or providing your zip code online.
How to plant and grow grass seed
Growing the perfect lawn starts with the proper planning, planting, and monitoring of grass seed growth. Starting a lawn from scratch requires you to know a bit about your lawn’s climate, soil type, shady areas, and amount of foot traffic. These varying factors will help you determine everything from what type of grass seed to use to when you should plant your new lawn.
Before we get into the gritty details of choosing a grass seed and growing a lawn, we want to give you an overview of growing grass. The basic steps to planting your new lawn are to prep the soil, plant the grass seed, maximize soil-to-seed contact, and water the lawn appropriately.
We’ve broken down each step below:
1. Prepare your soil
Before you plant any grass seed, you’ll want to prep your soil to create the best grass-growing conditions. You’ll need to remove any large debris from the soil, such as rocks or sticks, as well as pull any existing plants such as weeds. Large clumps of soil should be broken up into smaller pieces, but some lumps are OK. Soil that’s too fine will make it difficult for your seeds to establish roots.
You can test your soil to see if it is lacking any major nutrients or to determine its pH level. Use a soil testing kit gives to see what various nutrients you should add to the soil before you plant any grass seed. You can also add organic matter or fertilizers into the soil at this time. Lightly rake or till the area of your lawn so that it’s receptive to the grass seed.
2. Plant the grass seed
By hand or by using a spreader, evenly distribute grass seed onto the raked or tilled area of your lawn. For best results, try to plant about 16 seeds per square inch of soil. Too many seeds in one area can cause them to fight to establish roots and use resources. This can lead to bare spots or patchy, thin grass.
Once you have the seeds planted, use a garden rake to gently cover them with approximately one-fourth inch of soil. Take care not to add pressure when you’re raking. You only want to cover the seeds lightly, not move them. It’s common to still see some seeds on the soil’s surface after raking.
3. Use a lawn roller to protect newly-planted seeds
Press the soil over the newly-planted grass seed using a lawn roller. Rollers help tamp down the soil and encourage seed-to-soil contact. This gives the grass seed a better chance to grow roots that will bind with the soil. Rolling your lawn after planting grass seed is also a great way to prevent soil erosion and protect your newly planted grass seed from birds looking for a tasty snack.
4. Water your lawn
Once you’re done planting your grass seed, you’ll want to establish a proper watering schedule. In all parts of the country, correct watering of newly planted grass seed can make or break a gorgeous lawn. The goal of watering new grass seed is to keep the roots moist without drowning the young plants. Make sure whatever method of watering you’re using (sprinkler, hose, etc.) is distributing water evenly. You can also use a small amount of mulch or straw over the seeded area to help retain moisture.
Along with the basic steps to planting grass seed, you might be wondering about timing, types of grass seed, or how to fill in patches of an existing lawn. Below we’ve collected some of the most common questions pertaining to grass seed to get you the answers you need.
How to Plant Grass Seed in a New Lawn
Starting a new lawn from scratch may seem like a formidable task, especially if you’re new to home ownership or working on your first lawn. But planting a lawn from seed is easier than it seems at first glance. All you need is the willpower to make it happen—and good information to guide your steps.
Homeowners and lawn professionals have been trusting Pennington Seed for more than three generations. When Pennington says you can do this, you can. Just follow these 10 steps to plant a lawn from grass seed, and you can enjoy a thick, lush green lawn you’ll be proud of:
1. Time your planting right.
Get your lawn started right by seeding at the best time to plant grass seed. For northern lawns, that time is fall and spring. For warm-season southern grasses, it’s late spring and early summer.
Grasses peak in growth during these times, and moderate temperatures help seed germinate and take root. Working with nature to give grass an advantage gets your lawn started on the right foot.
2. Test your soil.
Take time for a simple soil test and you’ll save yourself guesswork and wasted effort. Conditions in your soil, such as its pH level or percentages of organic matter, influence how well your new seed will grow.
Soil sampling is simple—and you’ll feel like a DIY lawn pro. Plus, results and recommendations that come back from the soil lab will tell you what you’re working with and what you need to do. Your county extension agent can help with test kits and info to get you started.
3. Amend and improve your soil, according to test results.
With your soil test results in hand, you’re ahead of the game. You can fix your soil “just right” for healthy seedling growth. When soil pH is gets out balance, your grass can’t take up nutrients, even if your soil is packed with what grass needs. Amendments fix that.
If soil is overly acidic, so pH is too low, your lawn may need lime to restore proper pH balance and nutrient availability. If your soil’s short on organic matter, adding soil amendments such as compost upfront improves seed and grass growth down the road.
4. Choose the best seed.
Low-quality seed leads to a low-quality lawn. There’s no way around that truth. Every bag of seed sold has a label attached that’s known as the seed tag. The seed tag tells you the different grass varieties inside, along with important quality factors like germination rates and percentages of weed seeds.
That low-quality grass seed that seems like a great buy? You’ll think differently when grass seed doesn’t germinate, but weed seeds do. Buying quality grass seed produced by a trusted company is the most economical and satisfying choice in the end. With Pennington Seed, exclusive Penkoted seed technology also protects seed with a layer of fungicide and growth stimulant that ensures healthier, better growth from the start.
Your local retailer will generally have grass seed suited to where you live, so your lawn can handle your area’s winter cold and summer heat. If your lawn has lots of shade and trees, look for labels that specific grass for shady lawns. With Pennington Smart Seed grass seed, you’ll also improve your lawn’s sustainability. Once established, Smart Seed saves you up to 30 percent more water than ordinary grasses, year after year.
5. Prepare the soil for planting.
Before you seed, take time to clear the area of anything that might interfere with seed growth. Remove rocks or debris left behind by construction or nature. Rake the area with a yard or garden rake to smooth the surface and eliminate dirt clods and high or low spots.
Avoid using any weed killer before or after seeding your new lawn. Residue can prevent seed from germinating or kill tender young grass plants. If weed killers have been used on your seeding spot, wait at least three weeks before you plant grass seed.
6. Fertilize your soil.
Newly germinated seed needs feeding, so have a fertilizer to meet that need. Pennington UltraGreen Starter Fertilizer 22-23-4, formulated especially to start new lawns, keep feeding your grass for up to three months. Spread fertilizer on your soil with a regular lawn spreader before you sow your seed. The product package will tell you what spreader settings and how much fertilizer to use.
Once your lawn gets rolling, a premium lawn fertilizer such as Pennington UltraGreen Lawn Fertilizer 34-0-4 takes over a regular fertilizer schedule. Both these fertilizers protect against nitrogen loss to the environment, so the nutrients you add stay available to your seed.
7. Plant your seed.
Use a lawn spreader to distribute seed uniformly across your new lawn area. Just follow the instructions on your seed bag label, and you’ll get your spreader settings and seeding rates right.
Once your seed is down, rake the area again to work seed into the soil about 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep. Seed needs light to germinate so don’t plant too deep—and don’t worry about birds eating your seed. Pennington’s green seed color camouflages seed so birds leave it alone.
8. Water your seed.
Watering is the most crucial part of starting a new lawn. Water daily so the newly planted area stays moist—water twice daily, if needed. Water so the top 1/2 inch of soil remains consistently moist, but water doesn’t stay puddled on the surface. Keep the area moist as seed germinates and your new grass grows to mowing height.
Depending on the type of grass you plant, germination can take between five and 21 days. Your product label will tell you what to expect. As the grass grow, gradually transition your watering to aregular lawn watering schedule. Established lawns generally need about 1 inch of water every week, from irrigation or from rainfall.
9. Maintain your new lawn.
New seed can take a month or two before it’s ready for mowing. Wait until all your seed sprouts and grass grows about 1 1/2 times the recommended mowing height for your grass.
Once you mow, following best mowing practices and never take off more than one-third of the grass’s height in a single mowing. Taking off too much as once affects the grass’s food and energy reserves. As a general rule, don’t use any weed killers or weed & feed fertilizers on your new lawn areas until they’ve been mowed three or four times.
10. Enjoy your new lawn.
Once you’ve mowed your new lawn three or four times, the roots are ready for some traffic. Take it easy on new grass the first growing season, but don’t hesitate to enjoy all the benefits your sustainable lawn brings. Grass helps purify the air and water around you, and a beautiful lawn kicks up your home’s curb appeal. Perhaps most of all, a healthy, well-maintained lawn provides a beautiful green backdrop to reconnect with nature and with family and friends.
With these ten simple steps, you’re on your way to experiencing the satisfaction and pride that comes from creating a beautiful, thick, lush lawn. At Pennington, we’re here every step of the way—from the finest grass seed to premium lawn care products to help your lawn thrive—so you can grow a lawn you’re proud to call your own.
Controlling Weeds before You Plant Your Lawn
If you have decided that you are ready for a total lawn makeover, your first order of business should be to get rid of the weeds. Most professional landscapers will tell you that the best way to get rid of weeds is to spray the entire area with an herbicide.
The most commonly available, easiest to use, and relatively safest herbicide is one with the active ingredient glyphosate. Brand names include Roundup, Kleenup, and others. The best way to tell whether you’re getting the product you want is to ask your hardware store or garden center associate to help you. Be sure to read the label and look for the active ingredient glyphosate.
You will probably have to apply this herbicide more than once.
For a lawn over 1,000 square feet, you need to rent or buy a backpack sprayer to do the job. The herbicide comes in a concentrated form that you mix with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Cordon off your lawn with tape, streamers, balloons, or some type of barrier. Keep the kids and your pets off the lawn and away from the yard. Glyphosate is a relatively benign herbicide, but it is a pesticide, and children and pets have lower sensitivity thresholds to chemicals than adults.
Make sure that you follow the label instructions and wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, rubber boots, and plastic gloves. Wait the specified time for the herbicide to work and then rake off any debris. Your lawn should be grass- and weed-free at this time, but be sure to make another application if you feel it is necessary.
When you’ve finally decided that all weeds and remaining grass are gone, wait one week before you plant your new expensive grass seed.
For those of you who prefer not to use toxic synthetic chemicals to kill the old grass and/or weeds, you can take several approaches to getting rid of weeds without chemicals.
Rent a tiller: For a modest-sized yard with not a lot of weeds or dense turf, till your lawn area to a depth of 4 to 8 inches, rake out the grass and weeds, and till again. Keep tilling and raking until all the green matter is gone. Dump all this material in your compost bin where it decomposes over a period of months.
Credit: “Horns & Tiller,” © 2008 , Lisa Brewster used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode
Be sure to get a tiller that has the rotating tines in the rear behind the tires. They easier to handle than the tillers with the tines in front and over the engine. Running a front-tined tiller is like trying to control a bucking bronco.
Don’t try to till dry or very wet soil. Water the whole area, let it dry for a few days, and then till.
Renting a sod cutter: You simply guide the sod cutter over your old weedy lawn, and it cuts the turf at just below soil level. Turn the sheets of grass upside down where they will decompose and add nutrients to the soil. You also can haul the sod to a recycling center that accepts yard waste.
Using black plastic: If your lawn is less than 1,000 square feet, buy enough heavy-gauge black plastic to cover your entire lawn. Spread the plastic out over the lawn and weigh down the edges with stakes, or rocks. Without sunlight, grass can’t grow and eventually dies. This process can take anywhere from a month to three months, depending on how hot and dry your season is.
Plowing: Plowing is another method to use if your lawn is rather large. Adjust the plow blade or blades to dig the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Rake off the weeds and debris and keep plowing and raking until you get rid of all the unwanted green matter.
*Bulldozing: If you have a really large area, a bulldozer or Bobcat may be a good option. Adjust the blade so that you’re just scraping off the thin layer of grass and weeds. You don’t want to take off the soil layer.
About This Article
This article is from the book:
About the book authors:
About the Authors Lance Walheim, former staff garden writer for Sunset magazine, is the nationally recognized author of over 30 widely read garden books, including The Natural Rose Gardener and Hungry Minds’ Roses For Dummies. The National Gardening Association (NGA) is recognized for its bimonthly National Gardening magazine and prolific work in science education for children. NGA is also the coauthor of Gardening For Dummies. Roses For Dummies. Perennials For Dummies. Annuals For Dummies. and Container Gardening For Dummies.