Grass Seed Buying Guide
A lush, well-maintained lawn does more than improve the appearance of your home. It reduces soil erosion, absorbs rainfall, provides filtration for groundwater and improves air quality by absorbing dust and other particles and produces much-needed oxygen. Whether you are trying to grow your lawn from scratch or attempting to bolster existing grass ravaged by winter or disease, planting grass seed can help you create a beautiful, green lawn. Before you make a purchase, consider the following questions:
- Are you planting a new lawn or reseeding bare spots?
- Is your lawn subjected to low, medium or high traffic?
- How much time and money do you want to invest in lawn care?
- Does your yard receive full, partial or no sun at all?
- Do you prefer straight seed or a mixture of different varieties?
Seed Types, Planting Tips and Selection
Starting a new lawn from seed is an affordable and cost-effective way to create exactly the type of outdoor environment you want. When planning your lawn, you'll need to select what type of grass you want to grow. There are many different options, and it is important to select a variety that matches both your climate and the amount of sun and shade exposure in your yard. It is also important to choose grass with care and maintenance requirements conducive to your schedule and lifestyle. You should consider how much traffic your lawn will receive and purchase grass seed designed to absorb that level of impact.
There are two main categories of turf grass, warm season and cool season. Warm season grass originates in the South and grows best in hot weather. Most warm season grass goes dormant and turns brown with cool temperatures. Warm season grass should be planted in late spring. Cool season grass generally originates from the North and is characterized by rapid growth in the spring and fall. Cool season grass often turns brown during periods of high summer heat. The best time to plant cool season grass is in the late summer or early fall.
- Common warm season grasses include Bermuda, Bahia, St. Augustine and Zoysia
- Lawns in warmer climates can be reseeded during winter for green grass all year long
- Common cool-season grasses include Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass and Ryegrass
- All types of cool-season grass can be grown from seed
- Some warm season grasses must be grown from sod or grass sprigs
When purchasing grass seed, consult the label to learn what type or types of seed are included, as well as any other materials. Straight seed consists of only one type of grass and is suited to situations where you want to achieve a certain look or effect. Blends (several varieties of one type) and mixtures (combination of different types) offer better disease resistance and a uniform lawn.
For mixed grass seed, the percentage of each type of grass varies from blend to blend. Avoid mixtures that read "variety not stated" as this may indicate poor seed quality. Directions for use will provide an idea of how much area the seed will cover and other specifics about planting.
The germination percentage is also listed and indicates the proportion of seed that will germinate if growing conditions are at their best. Look for percentages at or above 75%.
- While all seed contains some weeds, look for brands that list less than 0.5%
- Select seed that contains 0% of noxious weeds, which can damage your lawn
- Inert matter, such as chaff, dirt or other filler materials should be less than 2%
- Other crops, such as Timothy, may also be listed — allow only 1 to 2%
- Avoid seed over 10 months past its expiration date as it may not germinate properly
Before planting grass seed in a new area, it's important to properly prepare the soil. First, work the soil using a sharp garden tool. Remove existing plants, weeds, rocks and stones. Then, mix in some organic material to help the soil retain water and rake it smooth. Next, spread fertilizer over the prepared soil to improve germination and help the new grass grow. Afterward, sow the grass seed evenly, according to the directions. Rake the seed into the top 1/8" of soil.
- Use a lawn spreader or, for smaller spots, you can sow seed by hand
- Mulch the seeded area with garden fabric or straw to retain moisture
- Water daily until germination occurs, then less often but more heavily
- When new grass height is 3" high, remove the mulch and lightly mow
- Protect the lawn from people or animals by roping it off until the grass is grown