In the past, Sod University has discussed that fall is the optimum time to lay sod during the year for warm season grasses. The same is true if you choose to seed your lawn with cool season grasses. First, however, it is important to know the difference between warm and cool season grass varieties. Popular warm season grass varieties include zoysiagrass, bermudagrass and St. Augustinegrass while popular cool season varieties include ryegrass, tall fescue and bluegrass. However, there is no such thing as St. Augustine seed. This week, Sod University discusses a cheaper and slightly less labor-intensive option to laying sod for homeowners specifically located in and above the transition zone: seeding your lawn.
Making the Decision to Seed Your Lawn
A lot of times, people think that seeding a lawn may take a long time in place of laying full pallets of sod. However, with the right equipment, the process of seeding your lawn can take just a few hours. Seeding your lawn is also cheaper in terms of cost and spending. It’s slightly less labor-intensive because you are seeding at a pretty fast pace. Seeding is also great for reducing damage in patchy areas of your lawn. There are some disadvantages to seeding your lawn. You don’t get the instant gratification of a new lawn as it takes time for the seed to grow and establish itself. The number one issue with seeding your lawn is weeds since your newly seeded lawn will take time to become established with a thick carpet. You can learn more about when it is appropriate to plant warm and cool season grass seed for general seeding or overseeding projects in When is the Best Time to Plant Grass Seed?. If weeds are an issue, apply a selective or non-selective herbicide several weeks before sowing seed.
What to Look For and Preparation
The first step is selecting the right kind of seed variety for your area. If you go to a local hardware store, you will see seed blends with ryegrass and bluegrass. If you have a shade problem, you may see an option called a shade blend. The transition zone (North Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, North Texas, and Southern California) uses tall fescue seed. When you get north of i-70 in the eastern United States, you will find that bluegrass is a common option.
The second step is deciding how much seed to purchase. Be sure to look at the label of the seed bag. It should state how many sq. ft. a pound will cover. When seeding, be sure to use the recommended seeding rate on the back of the bag.
The third step for seeding your lawn is to prep the ground for new grass to grow. This is one of the most important steps of the process. The success of the seed and new grass will be directly dependent on the conditions in which it is laid. If the soil is bad, the seed will likely struggle to get the nutrients it needs for establishment. Discover what type of amendments will be needed with a soil test from a lawn and garden center or a local university extension agent.
Materials You’ll Need
Other than seed itself, there are a few other things you can purchase to make your life easier when seeding your lawn. A broadcast spreader or a drop spreader is definitely needed for larger lawns. Time spent seeding your lawn depends on the the size of your yard. If you want to seed your entire lawn in place of repairing a few damaged areas, purchase a broadcast or drop spreader to make things easier on yourself.
The image above shows a standard broadcast spreader.
Another item you may want to buy is straw or topsoil coating. If you are going to seed on bare dirt, be sure to keep it somewhat protected from birds or weather. You can also lightly rake the seed into the soil after applying 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.
How to Seed Your Lawn
When seeding, be sure to use the recommended seeding rate on the back of the bag. You’re probably not going to be a perfectionist when sowing seed and can expect weeds. Keep mowing it as it begins to sprout, and in a year or two it will look fine. As previously mentioned, the amount of time spent seeding your lawn will depend on the size of your yard. A small lawn of 2,000 sq. ft. with a hand-cranked Scotts® spreader such as the one pictured below for example, will get the job done pretty quickly. Seeding you lawn won’t even take a whole day. In fact, if you decide to move forward with raking or top dressing it with soil or straw, it would still only take you a couple of hours.
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 to 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 you can 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. For more information on lawn diseases, check out our Lawn Disease Control blog.
Weeds are a common problem in lawns that are seeded as it takes more time for the lawn to establish thick roots and outcompete the weeds. Come spring time, you can begin applying a selective post-emergent herbicide because your lawn will be close to establishment. For more information on weed control and the difference between selective and non-selective herbicides, check out our Weed Control blog.
A good starter fertilizer like the LawnifiTM New Lawn Starter Box is also highly recommended to get your newly seeded lawn off to the right start. Most northern areas aren’t as critically in need of a fertilizer, although it wouldn’t hurt. However, cool season areas need fertilizer high in phosphorus. Lawnifi’s Grow is a good product to start with for this reason. You can apply it right at seeding. If you are interested in purchasing seed, Sod Solutions offers a variety of options to choose from. The Yellow Jacket coating on a few of the selections serves as a seed coating that helps with rapid germination. Check out a few of our products below or take a look at all of our seed online here. Be sure to follow the application instructions on the bag.