Whether you're filling bare patches or starting a new lawn, growing grass from seed is an economical way to create a green, lush and healthy outdoor space. Although creating a strong lawn from seed takes hard work and patience, it can be worth it if you take the time necessary to make your lawn a success.
Know When to Plant
Although many people plant grass seed in spring, the cooler temperatures and increased rainfall of late summer and fall are essential to timely grass seed sprouting, or germination, and establishment. An added benefit of seeding at that time of year is that many weeds have stopped germinating; so your grass seeds will have less competition and a better chance to grow. Seed your lawn during a warm and dry period to encourage germination.
Select the Right Seed
Choose a grass seed that is right for the temperatures in your area. Cool-season grasses grow best in the northern United States while warm-season grasses thrive in the heat of the southern states. Select grass seed that is perfect for your area's conditions and your needs.
If you live in a cool, dry area, then choose a drought-resistant, cool-season variety such as tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), which is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 7. If you want a low-maintenance, warm-season grass, consider zoysiagrass (Zoysia spp.), which is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9.
Prepare the Soil
Remove all leaves and other debris from the area where you will spread grass seed. Grab one handful of the area's soil, and form it into a ball. If it crumbles, the soil is dry enough to seed. Use a rototiller to break up the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Rake the area to smooth it, and use a lightweight roller to ensure the area is flat.
Follow Seeding Tips
Divide your grass seed in half. Put one-half of the seed in a drop spreader, and turn the machine's setting to the proper application rate for your type of grass seed. For example, tall fescue should be applied at a rate of 7 to 9 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Sow one-half of the seed as you steer the drop spreader in one direction and the other one-half of the seed while you steer the drop spreader at right angles to the first direction. Sowing in both directions ensures even distribution of grass seed.
Next, lightly rake 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil over the grass seed. Use a lightweight roller over the area again so the seed makes good contact with the soil.
Promote Grass Growth
Encourage grass seed to germinate by keeping the top 2 inches of soil consistently moist. Water the soil lightly twice per day until grass seedlings establish roots, and then water just frequently enough to keep the top 3 to 5 inches of soil moist but not muddy. Apply a light layer of straw mulch if the area is difficult to water. Use about one bale of straw per 1,000 square feet.
When the grass reaches 3 inches in height, mow it. Avoid applying herbicide until the grass has been mowed at least three or four times.