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How to Plant Grass Seed

Planting Grass Seed Hand Full Spreading Seed

There are several purposes for installing grass seed. One purpose is to seed your entire lawn or even overseed a warm season turfgrass with a cool season turfgrass. You can also use grass seed to repair damaged or patchy areas of your lawn.

Seed is often cheaper than a full sod installation; however, the number one issue with seeding is weed pressure since your seed will take time to become established and form a thick carpet of grass.

Our seed planting guide below will ensure that you go through all the necessary steps to provide you with an environment that promotes healthy seed growth and establishment.

How to Plant Grass Seed

Materials Needed:

  • Soil Analysis Kit
  • Sod Cutter, Rototiller or Glyphosate
  • Straw, Mulch or Topsoil
  • Broadcast or Drop Spreader
  • Sprinkler
  • New Lawn Starter Box

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Step 1: Test the Soil

The first step we recommend is testing your soil—before you apply chemicals to kill off old grass and before planting new seed. Your soil’s health is what determines the overall health of your grass. Working from the ground up is the best way to ensure superior grass quality.

It also helps balance your soil’s pH so that when you apply nutrients found in fertilizers, your grass is able to actually absorb them. In other words, if your soil’s pH is off, nutrients won’t be absorbed as effectively, meaning the fertilizer you apply may be a waste of money.

Taking a soil analysis and sending it to a laboratory is affordable, but typically takes about two weeks to complete depending on where you send it. Keep this timeframe in mind before planting seed so that you have enough time to receive results and determine what your soil needs.

Lastly, this step should be completed before applying a non-selective herbicide in step 2 below. Once applied, the chemicals in the herbicide may alter your soil pH temporarily before returning back to normal. Take a soil test before applying a non-selective herbicide for a more accurate reading. Be sure to check out our article on How to Test Your Soil for more information on soil tests.

Step 2: Choose Your Seed

Selecting the type of grass seed for your lawn is probably one of the most enjoyable parts of the lawn installation process.

With that being said, be wary of picking a grass solely for its aesthetic and beauty. Find the best grass seed for your home and make sure the grass can thrive in your environment and climate first. Generally speaking, the country is broken up into three main regions: areas that support cool season grass, the transition zone and areas that support warm season grass.

Cool Season Grass Zone And Warm Season Grass Zone Map United States

For example, the transition zone (North Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, North Texas, and Southern California) uses tall fescue seed a lot. When you get north of i-70 in the eastern United States, you will find that bluegrass is a common option. You may also see blends with ryegrass and bluegrass.

If you’re located in the warm season regions of the United States, you’ll probably use seed like bermuda grass seed, centipede grass seed, paspalum seed or other warm season varieties. It should be noted that there’s no such thing as St. Augustine seed. Additionally, although you can find zoysia grass seed on the market, it doesn’t germinate very well. Learn more here.

Warm season regions will also use cool season grass seed as it gets closer to winter to keep lawns green when the warm season grass enters winter dormancy. Cool season grass stays green during the winter, so it’s not uncommon to see a bermuda grass lawn overseeded with ryegrass seed. 

Also, when selecting a type of grass seed, be sure to ask a professional about how much maintenance goes into the different types of grasses to see how much time, effort and money you’ll have to put into it.

Here is a list of some things to do and think about before selecting a new turfgrass:

  • Research the area and climate you are located in.
  • Familiarize yourself with the different grass characteristics.
  • Understand the visual differences between grass colors, textures and other physical aspects.

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Step 3: Measure Your Planting Area

The third step involves finding out how much seed you’ll need to purchase. We recommend using the Area Calculator Tool to draw and measure how much surface area you’ll need to cover.

  • Start by entering your address.
  • Draw an overlay shape for where you plan to install new seed.
  • You can now move forward with this square footage number to compare seed prices.

Find more detailed instructions here or watch the video below. Although the tool was originally meant to help homeowners discover how much sod they need, the tool provides you with information about how many square feet you’ll need to cover, which can also be applied to seed.

Step 4: Prepare Your Soil

When Seeding a New Lawn

This is one of the more important steps of the process. The success of the seed and new grass directly depends on the conditions in which it is planted. If the soil is bad, the seed will likely struggle to get the nutrients it needs for establishment. This is why it is important to test your soil as mentioned in step 1.

Before installation, clear the area of any currently existing grass or weeds. If the soil is bad, the seed will likely struggle to get the nutrients it needs for establishment. It’s almost guaranteed that weeds will compete with the germinating seed until your lawn becomes fully established. We recommend following these steps:

  • Begin by making an application of Specticle or some other glyphosate-based product 10–14 days before seed planting takes place.
  • Wait 3–4 days and then make a second application if the grass isn’t dying quickly enough.
  • Once your grass is dead, use a sod cutter or rototiller to remove the top layer of grass and debris.

We have a few product recommendations and rental locations for rototillers and sod cutters in our blog here.

When Filling Damaged or Patchy Areas

If you are planning on repairing bare spots with seed, rid the area of any problems that may exist first. These issues could include weeds, insects or disease. 

This can be as simple as pulling the weeds out by hand in the area or as difficult as treating the area with an herbicide, insecticide or fungicide. Browse through our online control products here.

Step 5: Plant the Seed and Cover

Now that you’ve created an environment to successfully grow healthy seed, you can begin planting. A broadcast spreader or a drop spreader is definitely needed for larger lawns, but if you’re going over smaller areas, a hand-held grass seed spreader will do the trick.

When planting the seed, use the recommended seeding rate on the back of the bag your seed came in. The time spent seeding your lawn depends on the size of your yard. 

Another item we suggest using is straw or topsoil coating. If you’re going to plant seed on the bare ground, it’s smart to keep it somewhat protected from birds or weather. 

You can also lightly rake the seed into the soil after planting to cover it up with a light coating of topsoil. Thin soil coverage helps with germinating. You can use topsoil, straw, mulch or peat moss for this reason. Read Pine Straw vs. Mulch for more information.

Step 6: Water and Fertilize

Select a grass seed fertilizer that provides the necessary nutrients your soil may need according to the soil analysis results you should’ve received by now. Your new seed needs plenty of phosphorus at this time.

Phosphorus helps roots grow so that the new sod can establish successfully. Sometimes it can be hard to understand a fertilizer label so we discuss a few ways to interpret and find what you’re looking for here

We recommend using Lawnifi’s® New Lawn Starter Box, which comes with three bottles of liquid grass seed fertilizer.

Grow, the first and second bottle of the New Lawn Starter Box, is especially useful during the establishment process. It serves to promote healthy root growth of newly planted seed by providing nutrients like phosphorus, potassium and carbon.

Apply the first bottle of Lawnifi Grow at half rate (only use a half of the bottle). The soil should be moist 3–4 inches deep. 

Step 7: Post-Planting Care

For the next 10–20 days, water your newly planted seed about 1-inch deep into the soil’s surface every day. Take rainfall into consideration. Use a sprinkler to mist over the surface of the soil so that it is moist, but not soggy. 

We also recommend using the remainder of your New Lawn Starter Box in accordance with the application schedule during establishment. Once the seed starts to germinate, keep the top 2-inches of soil moist until grass reaches a mowing height of around 3-inches. 

After that, decrease watering to twice per week and soak the soil about 6–8 inches deep. Then transition to a regular maintenance schedule based on the grass type you have selected. Review our maintenance calendars here.

When is the best time to plant grass seed?

The best time to plant grass seed depends on the type of grass seed you use and where you’re located. Generally speaking though, fall is the best time of the year to seed a cool season turfgrass variety whereas spring is the best time to seed a warm season turfgrass variety. Learn more here.

When is the worst time to plant grass seed?

The absolute worst time of year to plant grass seed is during the winter and summer. Even if you have a cool season variety of grass seed, the chances of it sticking around and not being washed away in the snow are pretty low. 

It’s not recommended during the summer either because warm season grass seed will be forced to establish in extreme heat. You’ll spend a lot of time and money irrigating it. Cool season grass seed, on the other hand, is dormant during the summer. Learn more here.

How to Overseed a Lawn for Winter

Our blog on How to Keep Your Lawn Green During the Winter goes into detail about turfgrass dormancy and why overseeding is a frequent project for homeowners. While warm season grass goes dormant and turns brown in the winter, cool season grass doesn’t. A lot of homeowners overseed their warm season lawn with cool season grass seed so that it stays green year-round.

If this is something you’re going to do, the real trick is overseeding at the right time of year. This typically takes place 30 days before the first frost for your area. The timing will vary depending on where you are located, but generally, the first day of frost in the southern two-thirds of United States occurs around the first few weeks of October. 

To overseed, you will need to purchase grass seed and apply at the recommended rate on the bag with a broadcast or drop spreader.

Final Tips

We wish you success on your planting project, but before you get started, here are some final tips:

Timing Matters

  • If there is a forecast for heavy rains, winds, storms or hurricanes, hold off on seeding until afterwards so it doesn’t wash the seed out.
  • Don’t seed too late in the year (December) because the seed won’t germinate, and you won’t get a lot of growth. 
  • Seeding too early in the summer is also a bad idea because it’ll be too hot. Seeding in temperatures ranging from the 50s–80s is the recommended time. 
  • Most consumer products will specify the best time to lay seed on the bag. If you have questions specific to your areas, contact your local university extension agent to find out when to plant grass seed.

Things to Look Out For

  • The biggest things you want to keep an eye out for are weeds and diseases. For example, ryegrass placed in humid or wet areas encourages diseases. Rye is more susceptible to gray leaf spot and disease in general. 
  • If you seeded damaged areas in your lawn caused by diseases in the first place, be sure the disease is completely gone before applying more seed to the damaged area.

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