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How to Start a New Lawn from Seed

Man seeding a new lawn with seed spreader.

The most cost-effective way to plant a new lawn is to grow it from seed. However, unlike starting a new lawn from sod, which is just about foolproof, growing a new lawn from seed requires careful planning and attention.

Soil Preparation

When starting a new lawn from seed, the first step isn't choosing the best seed—it's improving the soil. There are two parts to soil preparation: grade adjustment and soil quality adjustment. If your lawn currently slopes toward your house, now is the time to fix that. In order to avoid accumulating water around the foundation, adjust the grade. The ideal grade means the lawn slopes down 1 ft. for every 50 ft. of length. If you are up to the challenge, major grading work can be done with a rented tractor with a bucket arm. You can handle smaller grading projects with a rake and soil.

When the grade is adjusted, test the soil. If the pH is above 7.5, add aluminum sulfate. If the pH is below 6.0, add lime. It is a good idea to spread a 1 to 2 in. layer of compost across a new lawn area you want to plant.

Selecting and Spreading Grass Seed

The type of grass you plant depends on where you live. In cool-season areas (Northeast, Midwest, Great Plains), Kentucky bluegrass, fescue blends and perennial ryegrass are good choices. You can also plant a blend of these grasses. In warm-season areas, the only type of grass you can reliably establish from seed is Bermudagrass. (Zoysia, St. Augustine and other warm-season grasses are generally planted as sod or plugs.)

Once the soil has been prepared, use a drop or rotary spreader to spread the grass seed and get the most even coverage. Walk with the spreader in one direction across the entire yard, and then push the spreader across the yard again, perpendicular to your first pass. That way, you'll evenly spread seed across the entire yard.

Watering and Follow-Up Care

The most important part of starting a new lawn from seed is keeping the seed moist while it sprouts. If grass seed dries out, it will die. To keep the grass seed moist, sprinkle wheat straw over the newly spread grass seed. Then schedule watering so that you water the entire lawn three times a day for 10 minutes each time. If it rains during the day, you can skip one or two of the waterings—otherwise, keep that schedule until the grass starts sprouting. Once you see the green grass growing, you can cut back to watering once a day for the first month. Water every other day for the second month, and three times a week for the first growing season.

Do not walk on or mow the newly seeded lawn until the grass is at least 3 in. tall. Once it reaches that height, you can mow normally.

Seeding a lawn properly does take time, but having a beautiful lush green lawn is worth it.

TSC Seeding Supplies: