Planting grass isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it situation. Proper prep work and care are key to a healthy new lawn.
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What you'll need:
Tiller, cultivator, or shovel for tilling
Fertilizer and/or compost
Mulch or erosion control blanket
Your yard’s looking a little bare, and you can’t help but compare it to the Jones’ vibrant green lawn next door. Fortunately, all that’s standing between you and a healthy yard is some new grass seed, which you can plant in about one day. By preparing the soil and caring for the grass, your lawn will be sprouting in less than one month. Here’s how to plant grass seed to achieve a lush landscape.
Prepping to Plant Grass Seed
Like any landscape plant, there are various types of grasses, and there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for every homeowner’s lawn. Before you start prepping your property for new grass, it’s important to find the right grass seed based on your climate, soil, sunlight, and personal preferences for how you want your grass to look and behave.
7 Steps to Plant Grass Seed
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Till the Soil
Before you start planting the seeds, you’ll need to prep the soil to give the grass a good foundation to establish itself. Start by tilling the ground about 3 inches deep. Make sure to level out the ground during the tilling process to prevent water from collecting into any dips or valleys in the soil.
Remove Clumps and Debris
After breaking up the first few inches of soil, break down any large clumps bigger than 1.25 inches in diameter. Smaller clumps are fine to leave as-is. You may also find twigs, rocks, or other debris after tilling, so remove these items before moving on to the next step.
Test Soil and Fertilize
Most grasses prefer a more neutral soil pH, around 6 to 7, but this can vary based on the grass you choose for your lawn. Test the soil pH with a testing kit, then plan to mix fertilizer into the tilled soil before planting the grass seed to help create the ideal environment for your grass to grow. You may also want to incorporate compost a couple inches deep into the soil to help with aeration and nutrients.
Plant the Grass Seed
Once the soil is tilled and fertilized, it’s time to plant the grass seed. For smaller lawns, you can plant the seeds by hand. Plan to place about 16 seeds per square inch or follow the guidance on the seed packaging for best results. For faster seeding, use a spreader.
Drop spreader: This will drop seeds in a straight line and works best for lawns less than 5,000 square feet.
Rotary spreader: This spreader is less precise but can spread seeds uniformly across larger lawns by spraying the seeds out in all directions.
Once you’ve spread the seeds across the landscape, carefully rake lightly to cover the seeds with 1/4-inch or less of soil.
Cover and Protect the Seeds
You’ve put in the time to break up the soil and plant all the seeds, so don’t let the wind carry away your hard work. You can protect the grass seed with wheat straw, or purchase an erosion control blanket, about $50 to $70 per 4-by-112-foot roll, to cover the lawn. This will secure the seeds so they don’t blow or wash away in wind or rain.
Water the Grass
New grass seed needs frequent waterings, but it’s important not to overly drench the soil. The seeds need to remain moist to germinate, but flooded soil can kill off the grass before it ever really gets started.
Water grass at least two or three times daily with a light spray of water.
If puddles begin forming on the lawn, stop watering.
Once grass reaches about 1 to 2 inches tall, cut back to watering just once per day.
Tend to Growing Grass
There’s nothing quite as exciting as seeing little green sprouts of grass poking through the soil. Now, it’s time to create a lawn maintenance schedule to make sure your yard looks its best. The grass seed will take about 10 to 30 days to start growing, but it will take up to 10 weeks to become well-established. For faster-growing grass, keep seeds moist by misting once or twice a day.
Once grass is at least 3 inches high, mow it, only removing the top third of the blades.
Different grasses may be healthiest at different heights, but generally, keep grass around 2.5 to 3 inches tall.
Wait about one season before stepping on new grass to give it time to deepen its roots.
After mowing the grass three times, reduce watering, so the grass has about 1 inch of water per week. This amount includes rainfall and irrigation.
DIY Planting Grass vs. Hiring a Lawncare Pro
You can save about $300 on the labor costs to seed a lawn, but it will require a lot of time and energy. If you don’t properly prep the soil or provide the right amount of water to your new grass, you could also lose the money and effort you’ve put into your lawn. Hiring a lawn seeding company near you will ensure your lawn grows lush and green.