Like any other plant, grass seed must be properly planted in order to grow. Although nothing can guarantee a perfect lawn, here are some tips that will stack the odds in your favor.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Kathy Bosin adds, "In most parts of the US, mid-September through October is the best time to plant grass seed."
Picking the Seed
For most places, use a mix that will thrive in both sun and shade. Read the bags carefully and choose a seed that grows well in the conditions you have. For instance, while Kentucky Bluegrass is beautiful, it is high maintenance and a challenge to grow in some areas of the country.
Preparing the Soil
Get a large quantity of fresh topsoil and spread it evenly over the area. Make sure it is at least 3 or 4 inches deep. Break up any sizable clumps. Although it’s easier if the soil remains relatively dry while you plant, don’t worry if you are interrupted by rain.
Spreading the Seed
Don’t spread the seed by hand. You won’t get the proper distribution and your grass will grow in clumps. For a small lawn, you can use a hand crank broadcast spreader. For larger lawns, a push spreader is ideal.
To improve the distribution, if you have enough seed, repeat the application over 2 or 3 consecutive days.
Once spread, use a rake to work all the seed into the soil. Keep in mind that any that remain visible will likely become birdseed.
Tamp the soil to "lock" the seed underneath, and level as much as possible. Then water the entire area liberally. Continue watering generously on a daily basis until the grass sprouts evenly. In most cases, this is 1 to 2 weeks.
Water at a time of day when the water drops on the new grass won’t burn it—generally late in the afternoon or early in the evening is the best time to water. If it rains significantly, of course, you should avoid over-watering.
TIP: Kathy suggests, "Covering your freshly laid grass seed holds in moisture, protects the seed from running off in a rain and keeps animals at bay. Cover your grass seed with mulch or straw."
Mowing and Treating
Don’t mow the new grass until it is well-established. Wait 2 to 3 weeks after the sprouts appear, or until the blades are over 3 inches high.
Also, avoid applying weed killer or fertilizer to newly planted grass until it is established. These chemicals can actually burn tender new plants.
Repairing Brown Patches
In an established lawn with bare or brown spots, start by digging up the browned areas. Apply more soil if needed. Treat the bare spots as if they were little patches of a new lawn, and follow the above steps for seeding a lawn.
You could also purchase a grass patch—a dry green foam infused with seed and fertilizer—to place over the bare patches. Simply apply and keep moist until grass sprouts.
Always keep a record of the kind of seed you planted. This may sound unnecessary, but it's easy to get confused in the grass seed aisle. Your best bet is to cut the front off the box or bag of seed and keep it in a safe place with your gardening supplies. That way, you'll know the exact brand and variety to get if you need to tend to bare patches a year or two after planting.
Don't lose heart if your grass doesn't grow in evenly. Many factors can cause a section of your lawn not to grow like the rest: too much sun, too much shade, a hungry flock of birds—you name it. It may take a few years of tweaking, but you CAN have a great lawn.