Everything you need to know about planting new grass or improving your current lawn in 3 easy steps. Plus additional tips for seeding aftercare. Now that the weather is warming up, outdoor activities are gearing up, and you’re finally looking at your lawn. Homeowners may be tempted to run to their local lawn and garden store to pick up a bag of Weed-n-Feed. Many “experts” will tell you that this is the best way for homeowners to control weeds and fertilize for “season long control”. Maintenance A little bit of service and preventative maintenance can ensure that your lawnmower, string trimmer and other implements are running efficiently and won’t break down before you place
Growing your lawn from grass seed: 3 easy steps
Planting grass seed is a way to expand your lawn into new areas and maximize the green space around your home. You can also plant new grass seed to improve your current lawn if it’s looking a little dingy. You can even use grass seed to restart your lawn completely.
Before you seed, start with some quick and easy prep work.
Make sure it’s the right time of year for seeding
As an easy rule, if you’re experiencing (or are about to experience) harsh temperatures you’ll want to wait until the extreme weather passes to plant your grass seed for best results.
Either spring or fall is the best time to plant, based on your region and grass type. To keep this simple, if you’re in the northern part of the country, you’re likely in the ‘cool season’ area, meaning the best time to plant grass seeds is the fall, or typically September through November. If you’re in the southern or middle regions, you’ll likely want to plant in spring or early summer, typically March – June.
Trying to plant seed out of season may still be possible, but it can make for slower growing and hurt the chances of the new grass’s survival. Just something to keep in mind.
Use the right type of grass seed for your area
Using the same regions shown above, you’ll want to buy a grass seed type that grows best in your climate.
- Cool season grasses (northern states) include: Kentucky bluegrass, Perennial ryegrass and fescue.
- Transition zone grasses include: Zoysia, Fescue / Bluegrass blends, and Bluegrass / Perennial Ryegrass blends
- Warm season grasses include: Bermudagrass, Bahiagrass, Zoysia, and Centipede grass.
Pennington’s article on grass types based on more specific regions may be helpful if you’re still trying to decide.
Supplies you’ll need
Assuming that the timing is right, here’s what you’ll need to buy.
We recommend shopping on Amazon, Home Depot, or Lowes for fast and convenient selections. Home Depot will probably be able to provide more insight if you feel you’re still questioning what grass type or how much to buy.
Check out this article on the Spruce for the best grass seed picks in 2020.A pH Tester
This will be used to test your soil before adding the seed. You can find these on Amazon for around $10.
Grass feeder (aka fertilizer)
Once planted, the seed will need to start growing quickly, before surrounding weeds out-grow and kill it. Grass feeder should be applied right after the seeds are planted, so be sure to add this to your cart as well.
Here are the top 10 lawn fertilizers of 2020 based on BestReviews.Guide
To protect the seeds from blowing away, being burned by the sun, eaten by birds, etc. you’ll want to bury the seeds under a layer of nutrient-dense soil, like Scotts turf builder. Local nurseries and Home Depot or Lowes will have soil available, just make sure to explain your use before buying, to avoid any soil with weed seed.
3 easy steps to plant grass seed
Step 1: Prepare the surface of the lawn
Whether you are seeding for the very first time or just overseeding your existing thinned out lawn, you need to make sure you have a good, solid foundation. Make sure to remove weeds, rocks, sticks, and other debris from the lawn.
Check any uneven areas so you can try to level the ground before laying down any seed. This will help prevent water from collecting and pooling in low areas, which will cause the seed to rot.
Loosen the soil
If your soil is compacted, you will need to loosen at least the top four inches of soil. You can use a tiller or rake. This will allow air flow and will provide the best chance for vigorous growth.
You can also scatter out a thin layer of topsoil over the lawn at this stage. Since it is freshly laid, it will not be compacted, allowing good airflow. Make sure to keep enough left for coverage at the end.
Applying topsoil will also level out the lawn for a nice and even look, which will also help you avoid puddles when you are watering. If you encounter divots or holes, this is a good time to fill them in to prevent problem areas once the grass starts growing.
Step 2: Enrich your soil with nutrients to help grass seeds grow
If you’re planting new grass seed because your lawn is dead or struggling to grow, there may be deeper issues to address with your soil.
This is where you’ll need to get out your pH tester. Ideally, the pH for most grass types is between 6.0 and 7.0.
If your soil’s pH is under 6.0, it is too acidic, meaning it needs nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. Lime (aka limestone) can be applied to the soil to help increase the soil pH and make those nutrients more available.
If your soil’s pH is above a 7, add compost, peat, sulfur, or fertilizer to lower the pH.
Step 3: Lay and feed the grass seed
When laying down seeds, you must do a pretty heavy application for a brand new lawn. Try to maintain an even application over the entire area so that everything gets covered.
Alternatively, you need lighter coverage when overseeding an existing lawn. Put more grass seed in sparse areas to promote growth.
To lay the seed, you can just use your bare hands or a spreader for larger areas.
Cover up the seeds or work the seeds into the soil
When seed is only applied to the surface level of the ground, it will dry out quickly and will not germinate. It might also get washed away by water or wind.
Add another thin layer of the soil that you purchased onto your lawn to bury the seeds.
If you do not have soil to put on top of the seeds, the seed must be worked into the soil; about ⅓ to ½ inch deep. After sowing the seed, use a rake to work the seed into the soil and smooth the surface.
This will keep the water from evaporating immediately, thus keeping the ground moist. It also protects the seeds from wildlife.
Add your feeder
Once the seed is applied to the soil, treat the yard with fertilizer to accelerate growth.
Maintaining your lawn after seeding
Water every single day
The final step in successfully planting grass seed is to keep the lawn adequately moisturized all the time. This is very crucial in the process.
If the seed dries out, it will die. After sowing grass seed, they will need constant and frequent watering unlike the “water deeply and less frequently” watering for mature grass. This is to help the seed germinate and develop its root system for a healthy lawn.
On the other hand, overwatering will hinder the germination process as well, so you need to use just enough water to keep the soil moist at seed depth. It should be moist, never soggy.
You must commit to water the new or overseeded lawn at least two to three times every single day to keep the top inch of the soil moist at all times. The germination time for grass seed ranges from 5 to 30 days depending on the variety or longer in cooler temperatures.
Check moisture levels
Once the seedbed has started to establish itself and sprouts have begun to pop out, continue to check the ground’s moisture regularly. If you notice it getting dry, add some water.
Remember, these new grass seedlings have very short roots and they will still require very frequent watering so the roots can spread out. Steps one and two will just go to waste if the watering part will not be done appropriately, so your commitment is a must!
For after-care, whether you have seeded a new lawn or just filled in a bare spot, start mowing your grass after 8 weeks or until the grass has reached a mowing height. Do not cut it too short and do not cut more than one-third of its height as it will stress out the grass.
How long does new grass seed take to grow?
Generally speaking, it takes between 7 and 30 days for grass seed germination to begin.
Can you just sprinkle grass seed on top of your existing lawn?
While it’s possible to simply sow the new grass seed over your existing lawn, taking the time to prepare your lawn beforehand will increase the likelihood of seed germination and improve your end result.
Will grass seed grow if I just throw it down?
Probably not. Some seeds on the soil’s surface will sprout, but the germination rate will diminish, and you will not be left with ideal results.
Will grass seed germinate on top of soil?
It depends how loose your soil is. Grass seeds are not strong enough to grow through soil. They’re meant to be placed on top of loose, prepared soil. Germination can quickly suffer from too much soil on top of them.
8 Reasons Weed-‘N’-Feed May Not Be Right for You
Now that the weather is warming up, outdoor activities are gearing up, and you’re finally looking at your lawn. Homeowners may be tempted to run to their local lawn and garden store to pick up a bag of Weed-n-Feed. Many “experts” will tell you that this is the best way for homeowners to control weeds and fertilize for “season long control”.
The reality is, you will pay top dollar for a subpar product. Once you factor in the product costs and your time, it will be less expensive in the long run to hire a professional that is certified in lawn weed control and fertilization. Personal Lawn Care, Inc. provides three weed control and three fertilization applications with free touch-ups throughout the season. Our program provides true “Weed-n-Feed” for your lawn.
Here are 8 reasons you shouldn’t use Weed-n-Feed
1 Wrong Amount: One of the reasons most homeowner are unhappy with their Weed-n-Feed application is due to an improper rate of application. If you apply the product too thin, the weeds will be able to break through; too heavy and you risk burning your lawn or stressing it out. Sometimes the product itself is poorly formulated or simply too strong for your lawn.
2. Bad Timing: There is a small window of time (usually 6-12 weeks) where you can control spring weeds. If you have a hard time fitting lawn care into your schedule (like most homeowners) and it creeps into May or June before you apply Weed-n-Feed products, they will at the least be ineffective and at most damage your lawn. Unfortunately your local lawn and garden center will sell Weed-n-Feed products well into the summer.
3. You don’t water it in: There are two irrigation aspects that must be met when using Weed-n-Feed products. First, the leaves of the weeds must be wet before the product is applied. To take care of the weeds that have already germinated, the product must stick to the leaves. Then, about 24hr later it must be watered in. The product has to soak into the soil to work on germinating weeds. Products that your local lawn professional apply soaks deeper into the soil preventing germination. Basically knocking out those weeds before they have a chance.
4. The product doesn’t cover all weeds: Even though the Weed-n-Feed you get at your local lawn and garden center says it covers a broad spectrum of weeds, they may be overselling their product. Most of their products are sold nationwide. It is impossible for one product to cover every weed eventuality. Personal Lawn Care tailors the products applied to meet your specific weed control needs. This provides targeted control for even the hardiest of weeds.
5. Won’t prevent weeds in the future: Just because your Weed-n-Feed takes care of your dandelions now, it may not take care of the crabgrass that springs up a week later. There may be products that last longer, but for better control, contact your local lawn care professional.
6. You don’t know how safe the product is: There is a lot of debate about products used for weed control. The Weed-n-Feed products available may contain any number of chemicals. Just because the Department of Agriculture approves a product to be used on your lawn, doesn’t mean that it is safe for you, your children, or your pets. Over the past 30 years, Cullen Beard, owner of Personal Lawn Care, has taken great care in choosing which products are applied to your lawn. His background as a science and chemistry teacher makes him qualified to research the products in depth. “If I wouldn’t use the products on my own yard, around my own children, then I won’t use it on yours”.
7. Too much Nitrogen: The “feed” part of Weed-n-Feed products is usually a high nitrogen fertilizer. High nitrogen fertilizers should only be used during the summer when the lawn has come completely out of dormancy. Providing your lawn with too much nitrogen too early in the season will weaken root growth thereby making it more susceptible to drought or other stresses. Cullen recommends a high phosphorous fertilizer in the spring followed by a high nitrogen fertilizer during the summer.
8. Can interfere with seeding: If you are planning to seed your lawn, Weed-n-Feed will stop you in your tracks. Because Weed-n-Feed kills the weeds as they are germinating, it will also kill your delicate grass shoots. If you are planning on seeding, you should refrain from using any pre-emergent weed control until the new grass is well established.
A little bit of service and preventative maintenance can ensure that your lawnmower, string trimmer and other implements are running efficiently and won’t break down before you place them back into storage for the winter. Such machines are typically gasoline powered, so they should be serviced using the following simple steps:
and other handheld lawn machines, which typically have two-cycle engines and run on a mixture of gasoline and oil. Four-cycle engines, common on lawnmowers, will need to be drained of oil.
5. Clean the equipment. Use a putty knife and wire brush to knock off accumulated grass and mud, then reattach the blade if you removed one earlier.
6. Fill the oil tank. If you’re servicing a four-cycle engine, refill the oil tank with fresh oil.
7. Replace the air filter. This improves airflow to the engine, allowing it to run more smoothly.
8. Replace the spark plug. Although your old spark plug may still work properly, installing a new one is a cheap and easy way to ensure optimal performance.
How to Mow Your Lawn in the Spring
It may surprise you that there’s more to grass cutting than cranking up the lawnmower and pushing it across the lawn. Both mowing height and frequency are important to the health of your grass.
Though it may reduce the number of times you have to mow, cutting your grass short is harmful to your lawn in the long run. Mowing with a low blade height removes nutrients stored in leaf blades and exposes the soil to sunlight, allowing weeds to take hold more easily. Taller grass is better able to compete with weeds, thanks to a larger root system and a higher tolerance for heat. It also shades the ground, allowing the soil to retain water more effectively.
Given these benefits, it’s a good idea to cut your grass at the tallest height recommended for your grass type, which are as follows:
Common bermudagrass: 1-2 inches (2.5-5 centimeters)Fescue: 2-3.5 inches (5-9 centimeters)Kentucky bluegrass: 2-3.5 inches (5-9 centimeters)St. Augustine: 2-4 inches (5-10 centimeters)Zoysia: 0.5-1.5 inches (1-4 centimeters)
Mow your lawn often enough so that you’re only removing the top one-third of the blades. This places less stress on the grass, and the smaller clippings are able to decompose more easily. Avoid bagging these clippings; this added organic matter is actually quite good for the soil
Fertilizing Grass in the Spring
Once your grass is well-established, you can encourage its growth and discourage weeds by applying a combination of fertilizers and herbicides. When you should apply these substances and how much you should apply depends on several factors, like where you live and the extent of your weed problem.
Fertilizer can help your lawn grow thick and lush, but if it’s not used properly, it can actually damage the grass. A slow-release nitrogen fertilizer is best, and no more than 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) of nitrogen should be spread per 1,000 square feet (93 square meters). It should be applied early in the season when the turf begins actively growing, so the timing varies among regions. Fertilizer should not be applied too early or late, however, as lingering cold or early heat can stress the grass. Check the packaging to see when and how much you should water after applying the fertilizer.
Herbicides must also be used with care, as their effectiveness often depends on when they’re used. If you have a widespread weed infestation, it’s best to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn before the seeds germinate in the spring. Be aware, however, that you can’t use this treatment if you plan to plant new grass, as the herbicide will also prevent those seeds from germinating. For more isolated problems, spot treating with a non-selective herbicide should be enough to do the trick. Ultimately, the best way to discourage weeds is to have a thick, healthy lawn.
Planting Grass in the Spring
Once you’ve cleaned and repaired your lawn, you may need to reseed parts of it that are particularly bare or brown. This can dramatically improve the appearance of your grass, but there are a few simple steps you should follow to ensure that it won’t look worse after you plant than it did before.
First try to address the soil conditions that prevented grass from growing in the past. Call your local Cooperative Extension office to find out where you can get a soil test; this will tell you what nutrients your lawn is lacking. Once you’ve corrected your soil composition, aerate the ground to avoid any problems with soil compaction.
Now you’re ready to buy seed and spread it on your lawn. Before choosing a seed, determine which varieties will work best in your region of the country and with the amount of sunlight in your yard. Then roughly estimate the size of the area where you plan to plant, as seed coverage is recommended in pounds per square foot. If you’re spreading the seed over a large area, it is best to use a broadcast spreader, but smaller areas can be seeded by hand.
Don’t ignore the grass once you’ve planted it. Water regularly to maintain soil moisture and fertilize with a slow-release, low-nitrogen product. Mow when the grass reaches 3 or 4 inches (7.6 to 10 centimeters) in height, but try not to trim off more than a half-inch (1-centimeter) as doing so could stress the plant.
Cleaning and Repairing Your Lawn in Spring
If your lawn is already well-maintained, all you need to do is give it a light raking once the ground has dried out. However, problem areas should be addressed quickly, as they can stress your lawn and make it more susceptible to weeds and disease.
One common problem is uneven ground. Low spots cause poor drainage, while high spots are often scalped by the lawn mower. Since these situations create poor growing conditions for grass, grab a shovel, cut away areas that are raised, and fill in those that are depressed.
Another issue that plagues lawns, particularly in high-traffic areas, is soil compaction. This occurs when the soil becomes densely packed, making it difficult for grass to take root and allowing hardier weeds to take over. To test your yard for this problem, stick a garden fork into the ground. If the tines fail to penetrate 2 inches (5.08 centimeters), your soil is compacted and should be loosened with an aerator designed to remove small plugs of soil from your lawn.
Even if the soil is properly prepared, you can still have a problem with thatch, a tangle of above-ground roots common in dense, spreading grasses like Bermuda and Zoysia. In especially bad cases, a thick mat of thatch can make it difficult for water and nutrients to reach the soil. You can break up thatch with a specially designed rake or with a mechanized dethatcher for larger jobs.