Seeding your grass lawn is a rewarding task that will add beauty and value to your home - quickly, easily and inexpensively.
If you're lawn is in bad shape, a little planning and a little work spread out over several weeks can turn it into the lushest, greenest in the neighborhood. If you already have an established lawn you're happy with, seeding your lawn can help you keep your grass healthy and weed-free.
Starting a new grass lawn
If you're starting from scratch or completing redoing an existing lawn, be sure you give the grass seeds ideal growing conditions. Make sure all weeds are gone and that the soil is level and that you use a rotary tiller to break up the soil. Any clumps are no bigger than marble or pea-sized. Remove all roots and rocks as well. Depending on the condition of your soil, you may need to use a rotary tiller to add sand and compost. You can test your soil's pH (you can buy a kit or take a soil sample to your county extension office) to determine if you need boost nutrients. Seeds should be planted 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep. After sowing the seeds across your soil, it might help to use a roller to achieve and maintain the ideal depth. Or, you can use a standard garden rake.
Seeding an existing lawn
Reseeding an existing grass lawn presents its own set of challenges. Since seeds need good contact with the soil to germinate, you'd be smart to rent a gas-powered dethatcher to remove the dead grass, clippings and leaf mulch that's accumulated in your lawn. This will loosen the soil and give your new seeds more sunlight and air circulation. Then, aerate your lawn. You can do this yourself or hire it out for a fairly reasonable cost. Once your lawn is dethatched and aerated, you're ready to sow the seeds. Sow at a higher seed rate -- the competition from other grass and the compactness of the soil will cause more seeds to fail. Anything you can do to cover the seeds with soil will help germination.
Seeding bare spots
If your grass lawn is basically okay but has bare spots because of dogs, rodents, disease or weather, you can focus on these trouble areas and get your lawn looking great again. First, remove all dead grass, weeds and debris from the bare spot. Then loosen the soil. If the spots aren't too big, you can probably use a shovel and a hoe to break of the clumps. Loosen the soil about 6 inches deep for best results. Add fertilizer and sow the seeds. Bare spots are the perfect situation for using polyethylene plastic to enhance growing conditions. Simply lay the plastic over the seeded areas and secure the edges with stakes or rocks. It works like a greenhouse. The moisture is held in, you water much less, and the seeds have nearly perfect growing conditions. You can leave the plastic sheeting on until the seedlings are about an inch tall.
Type of seed
The type of grass seed you buy depends on your growing conditions and on your existing lawn. If you have full sun in the front yard and full shade in the back yard, you'll probably need two different kinds of seeds. Starting a new lawn means you can plant just about any variety you want, while seeding and existing lawn means the color, texture and growth rate of your new seeds will need to match your existing grass.
When to seed
Seeds require specific temperatures to germinate. You'll need to consult with your garden center to find out the best time in your area. If you plant to early in the spring or too late in the fall, cold weather may prevent success. If you plant to early in the fall or too late in the spring, hot weather may do the same. There's an ideal window of opportunity and you need to know it before you waste time, money and effort. In most parts of the country, late summer, early fall is the best time to seed your lawn.
A few words about watering: this is probably the most critical step in growing seeding your lawn. When you first seed your lawn, water twice a day with a fine mist. Don't water so much that the seeds wash away, but water enough so that you get the soil moist. Once the seeds begin to sprout and grow, you can cut back to once a day, and then a couple times a week.
If you're concerned about birds eating your seeds, use wooden stakes, string and red flash tape to create fence that will scare at least some of them away. Keep in mind you'll never stop all the birds from flocking to your newly sown seeds.