How To Plant Grass From Lawn Seed

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Lawn Planting Guide

Seed Selection

Selecting the right seed for your area can be tricky. Please select your state to get a list of your options and their traits.

When to Plant

One of the most common mistakes people make when planting their lawn is they plant too early in the year or too late in the year. Both of these times result in too cold of temperatures for good germination or too close to frost season. You can plant cool season grasses (bent, bluegrass, fescue, ryegrass) earlier in the year than you can warm season grasses (bahia, bermuda, buffalo, carpet, centipede, zoysia). However, for both frost season should be completely over or at least 6 weeks away if planting in late summer/early fall.

In addition, planting when it is too hot can have adverse consequences. When temperatures are above 90 degrees, nearly constant watering is required to keep the seed or seedlings from drying out. If seedlings dry out when it is over 90 degrees they can die quickly. Be cautious when planting in temperatures over 90 degrees and ensure you have adequate water to keep the seeds and seedlings moist at all times. See chart below for specific planting times.

Seeding Rates per 1000 sq/ft

For first mowing, add 1 to 1 1/2 inches on to mowing height.
Bahia Grass 5 - 10 LBS 21 - 30 3 - 4"
Bent Grass - Creeping 1 - 2 LBS 21 - 30 1/8 - 1/2"
Bent Grass - Colonial 2 - 3 LBS 21 - 30 1 1/2 - 2"
Bermuda Grass - Turf 3 - 4 LBS 14 - 21 1/2" - 1"
Bermuda Grass - Greens 2 - 3 LBS 21 - 30 3/8" - 3/4"
Blue Grass - Turf 2 - 5 LBS 28 - 35 2 1/2 - 3"
Blue Grass - Greens 2 - 3 LBS 28 - 35 1/4 - 1/2"
Buffalo Grass 2 - 3 LBS 30 - 45 2 - 4"
Carpet Grass 4 - 5 LBS 21 - 30 1 1/2 - 2 1/2"
Centipede 1/2 - 1 LB 45 - 60+ 1 - 2"
Fescue - Tall 8 - 10 LBS 21 - 30 2 1/2 - 3"
Fescue - Fine 4 - 6 LBS 26 - 32 2 - 2 1/2"
Rye Grass 8 - 10 LBS 21 - 30 2 - 2 1/2"
Zoysia Grass 1 - 2 LBS 45 - 60+ 1 1/2 - 2"

Ground Preparation

Level the seed bed to eliminate high or low spots by brining in clean, rich, top soil. Roll to firm the soil. If your ground is very uneven (holes, tunnels, slopes etc.) and you must till, then till the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.

If you have heavy clay soils, apply a soil amendment such as gypsum, lime, peat moss, or compost at the recommend package rates. Soil should be loose and clod free when properly prepared. This step is not necessary if your lawn is already at a level (pH, compaction, fertility) as you would like it. Tilling will promote new weed growth and/or grass growth. If you do choose to till, you will need to level the ground, water the soil for several weeks and then spray out any weeds and/or grasses before you plant your grass seed. You may even need to spray out more then once so this process could take a month or more

  1. Measure the area to be planted to determine how much seed you are going to need. Example: Length x Width = Total Square Feet (50 feet long x’s 20 feet wide = 1000 square feet. Each grass seed page of our web site offers a grass seed calculator to determine how much seed you need.
  2. Test the soil with a simple pH soil kit to check if you soil is acid or alkaline. If acid (a pH of 6 or less) apply a fast acting dolomite lime at the rate of 50 pounds per 1000 square feet. If alkaline (a pH of 7 or higher) apply a granular gypsum at the rate of 50 lbs per 1,000 square feet. Allow sufficient time for the lime or gypsum to work its way in to the soil.
  3. Level the seed bed to eliminate high or low spots by brining in clean, rich, top soil. Roll to firm the soil. If your ground is very uneven (holes, tunnels, slopes etc.) and you must till, then till the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. If you have heavy clay soils, apply a soil amendment such as gypsum, lime, peat moss, or compost at the recommend package rates. Soil should be loose and clod free when properly prepared. This step is not necessary if your lawn is already at a level (pH, compaction, fertility) as you would like it. Tilling will promote new weed growth and/or grass growth. If you do choose to till, you will need to level the ground, water the soil for several weeks and then spray out any weeds and/or grasses before you plant your grass seed. You may even need to spray out more then once so this process could take a month or more
  4. Apply LazyMan Soil Doctor to aerate soil and improve seed germination. This replaces mechanical aeration and not only will do a better job of aerating, they will add beneficial microbes to the soil and improve germination.
  5. Apply seed at the recommended seeding rate. We recommend you broadcast or drop spread 1/2 of the seed walking North to South and broadcast or drop spread the other 1/2 of the seed walking East to West. This gives you a nice even spread. You may use an organic starter fertilizer as per directions on the package. Be careful not to over fertilize as this can kill the new seedlings when they sprout. 
  6. It is not necessary to cover lawn seed when planting.  Many people choose to cover the seed to help retain moisture and help hold seed in place.  If you choose to cover the seed, do so with peat moss, fluffy top soil, or clean straw (preferably sterilized straw), at a maximum of 1/4 inch thick or a seed covering per package directions. Coated seed (ie. bermuda, dichondra, microclover, etc.) should not be covered more than 1/8 inch.
  7. Water gently with an oscillating type of sprinkler. KEEP SEED MOIST UNTIL GRASS BEGINS TO GROW. This may mean watering several times a day to keep the seed moist. Then, decrease water frequency but increase the length of each watering. This helps ensure a deep rooted, vigorous lawn.
  8. Do not mow until your lawn is at the recommended height (see chart above). For most grasses this is about 3 - 6 weeks from time of planting. Be gentle!! These new plants are very tender – avoid sharp turns with your lawn mower.
  9. After mowing twice, fertilize with a quality lawn food. Do not apply weed and feed fertilizers for at least 10 weeks and preferably not at all. It is better to use a liquid herbicide to kill your weeds and then an organic fertilizer to keep your soil healthy.
Bahia Grass 65 Degrees 6 Weeks
Bent Grass - Creeping 55 Degrees 6 Weeks
Bent Grass - Colonial 55 Degrees 6 Weeks
Bermuda Grass - Turf 65 Degrees 6 Weeks
Bermuda Grass - Greens 65 Degrees 6 Weeks
Blue Grama 60 Degrees 10 Weeks
Blue Grass - Turf 55 Degrees 8 Weeks
Blue Grass - Greens 55 Degrees 8 Weeks
Buffalo Grass 60 Degrees 10 Weeks
Carpet Grass 65 Degrees 8 Weeks
Centipede 70 Degrees 10 Weeks
Fescue - Tall 55 Degrees 6 Weeks
Fescue - Fine 55 Degrees 8 Weeks
Rye Grass 55 Degrees 5 Weeks
Zoysia Grass 70 Degrees 10 Weeks

The best way to keep your lawn healthy and vigorous is to over seed it every year or two.

  1. Mow lawn at 1 to 1 ½ inches – remove clippings.
  2. Rake hard (steel rake) enough to loosen the soil and break apart the thatch. Remove debris. You may want to rent a dethatcher from your local rental store to get up all the dead grass and then rake firmly to loosen the top soil.
  3. Apply seed evenly over the entire lawn at the recommend rate. Rake the lawn once again to ensure the seed works its way down to the soil. If it sits on top of any grass, it will germinate and then die.
  4. Water – keep soil moist until the new seed germinates. Decrease watering frequency, but increase duration (instead of watering twice a day for 1/2 hour, water once or twice a week for one hour). In approximately 5 weeks you will have a thicker, rejuvenated lawn.

When and Why to Renovate? If your lawn is more than ten years old or more than 10% weeds and wild grasses, it is time to start over.

  1. Apply a herbicide such as Round-up® and wait two to three weeks for the lawn to die and turn brown. If you see any green still in the lawn, spray again to ensure it is all dead.
  2. Mow the dead grass as low to the ground as possible, remove the debris.
  3. Rent a power rake or take a steel rake and remove the remaining debris.
  4. Go to step #4 of “New Lawn Instruction” and follow steps that apply.

NOTE: For best results, over seed 3 to 4 feet around the bare spot. This will help “blend” the newly seeded spot with the remainder of your lawn.

Bare spots in the lawn can be caused by a number of things: dog spots, dry spots, weed removal, moss removal, etc.

  1. Rake spot to loosen soil and remove dead grass.
  2. Seed the bare spot and cover with 1/4" of peat moss or compost. Ensure the seed you are seeding with is the same type of grass that is already in your lawn. Be wary of lawn patch repair products as they may not blend in at all.
  3. Keep area moist until seed has germinated.

See our chart under, "Planting Rates" for recommended mowing heights of your lawn. Most mowers have adjustments for raising and lowering the mowing height. Be sure to set your mower on a solid surface such as a driveway or sidewalk and determine what height you get from various settings. Then, set your mower’s cutting height to match the appropriate height of cut for your particular grass. If your lawn has a white hue rather than a green color after you mow, it is a good bet that you are cutting too low. While there are some differences in tolerable cutting heights between the various species of warm and cool-season turfgrasses, a general rule of thumb is to clip them in the 2-3 inch range. For cool-season turfgrasses, it is always a safer bet to begin raising their cutting heights in late spring/early summer to maximize tolerance to environmental and pest pressure. Taller cutting heights at these times help maintain the plant’s root system. On the other hand, warm-season grasses respond to mowing on the lower side of their recommended range in the summer by increasing in density. Note that shorter mowing heights will require more frequent mowing.

The quickest way to improve lawn quality AND turf health is to clip it with a sharp blade, and a sharp blade will also improve fuel-use efficiency and extend engine life. When is the last time you sharpened and balanced your mower blade? Homeowners should sharpen the blade at least twice per growing season: start the year off with a sharp blade and sharpen it again in the summer.

Perhaps you have also heard of something called the “1/3rd rule” of mowing -- that is, never remove more than 1/3rd of the leaf blade at any mowing event. Removing most of the foliage in a cutting event shocks the plant, forcing it to redirect its food resources from roots and stems towards new leaves. If the turf has gotten away from you, resist the temptation to scalp it in a single mowing event. Instead, slowly drop the mowing height every 2-3 days while returning the turf to its ideal cutting height range. This approach takes a little patience, but it will maintain plant health and prevent you from having unsightly piles of clippings that not only look bad, but can also shade and heat the turf below.

Finally, return clippings as often as possible to your turf. Clippings are nothing more than organic fertilizer for your lawn, and if you follow the 1/3rd rule, you will never produce enough clippings to cause problems with your lawn. Many rotary mowers are already outfitted with mulching attachments that chop the clippings into even finer pieces that are broken down by the soil’s microbes that much faster. You can reduce your turf’s fertility needs and help the environment by keeping your clippings in your lawn.

Each watering should moisten the soil to a minimum depth of 6 inches on grasses. This is the grass's active root zone. The length of time and amount of water it will take to moisten the root zone depend on soil type and the irrigation system. Water will penetrate sandy soils more quickly and more deeply than clay soils. To determine the length of time required to moisten your lawn's root zone:

  1. Run the sprinklers for 15 minutes.
  2. Twenty-four hours later, dig a small hole in the ground or use a probe to determine how deeply the soil is moistened. You will use this information to determine how long to water each time.
  3. To calculate the number of minutes to water the lawn divide 120 by the depth of the moistened soil in inches. For example, if the water soaked in 4 in., figure 120/4 = 30 minutes. It would take an hour to soak in eight inches. If it soaked in 6 in., the lawn should be watered for 20 minutes (120/6 in. = 20 minutes). However, bluegrass has a shallower root system than other grasses; it needs to be soaked to a depth of only 6-8 in. (instead of 8-12 in). Take the second example above: In 15 minutes, water soaked in 6 in. You would need to water a bluegrass lawn for only 15 minutes instead of the 20 minutes calculated for other types of grass.

Once the length of the watering period is established, use the same period each time you water, no matter what the season. If water starts to run off the lawn before the end of the watering period, turn the water off for one hour and let the water soak in; then turn the sprinklers back on and finish watering. You should also apply either LazyMan Soil Doctor to aerate the soil and break down thatch. This will help your water penetrate down deeper.

How often you water will change with the seasons and soil type. First determine how much water is applied during your watering period. Set straight-sided containers like cans around the lawn and turn on the sprinklers for your usual watering period. At the end of the watering period, measure the amount of water in each of the cans. (If the depths vary widely, the sprinkler system needs adjustment. Adjust or replace the sprinkler heads as described below to get more uniform application, then do the can test again). Use the average amount of water in the cans to determine watering frequency.

In the hottest part of the summer, bluegrass will use 1/4 - 1/3 inch of water per day. Bermuda grass can be maintained on 1/5 - 1/6 inch although it will use more if more is applied. If your watering period is 30 minutes on a bluegrass lawn and you apply 1 inch each time, you need to water once every 3 days in the hottest part of the summer. If you are applying more water during each watering, water less often. Avoid frequent, shallow watering. It encourages a shallow root system, which makes the lawn more susceptible to drought and grub damage. If you are watering your lawn more than three times per week consider soil modification, a different grass species, or a change in management practices. In spring and fall, water less frequently but for the same period of time.

Proper fertilization is necessary to produce a healthy, high-quality, attractive lawn. The first step in fertilizing your home lawn is to obtain a soil test before applying any nutrients. A soil test provides key information including soil pH, potassium and phosphorus levels. Soil testing is often free through county Cooperative Extension Service offices. See our list of state agencies to you find your local contact. Collect soil samples in a bucket from the upper 4 to 6 inches of soil from ten or more locations around the lawn. Remove any vegetative material such as stems and leaves and air dry and mix the samples thoroughly. Take about 1 pint of the mixture to your county Extension office for analysis. This will give you the best starting point of what fertilizer to use. Fertilizer is based much more on the type of soil you have, then the type of grass you have. If you don't have the time to do proper soil testing, then use a good fertilizer such as LazyMan Soil Doctor.

Many people ask, "What spreader setting do I use to spread my grass seed." Unfortunately, there is no good answer to this question. Seed varies in size from year to year depending on how fast it ripens; therefore, it is not a standard size compared to something like fertilizer where each bag you buy is exactly the same particle size so a spreader setting can be given. Grass seed can vary as much as 30% in size from one lot of seed to another even though they are both fescue which makes a standard setting impossible. Therefore, you must determine your own spreader setting.

This is not difficult to accomplish. For example, if you are spreading a grass seed at 10 lbs per 1,000 square feet you would want to do the following. First, measure out just 1 lb of the 10 lbs of grass seed you want to spread. Second, measure out just 100 square feet of the area you want to spread your seed on. Third, put the 1 lb of seed in your hopper, barely crack the port and start spreading. If you have to go over the area twice, then this is perfect setting. It is always best to cover the area twice: once going North to South and the other East to West so you get a criss cross pattern for even spreading. If you had to go over the area four times, then you would want to double your spreading setting. If you only covered the area one time, then you would cut your spreading setting in half so you are not putting out so much seed.

Use this type of method no matter what type of seed you are spreading so you don't waste seed by putting it on too heavy or waste time by having to go over the area countless times to finish spreading the seed.

Please check out our, "How To Plant A Lawn" video.  This is a 14 minute video that takes you step by step through the lawn planting process.