How to Plant Grass Seed: An Easy Guide
Planting grass seed to fill in a bare spot or a spot where the grass is thinning is not especially difficult, but it is not as easy as just throwing the grass seed on the soil and waiting for it to sprout. The project involves a number of steps, both before and after the actual seeding. Each step is easy, in itself, but it is critically important to get each of them right. Skipping or improperly executing just one step could result in failure.
Not every step (and its proper execution) would necessarily occur to the beginner, which is why this article will lay out all the steps for you so that you can fill in that bare spot or thinning patch and get your lawn looking good again.
When Is the Best Time to Plant Grass Seed?
The best time to plant grass seed depends, in part, on where you live. If you live in the South, sow warm-season grass seed in the late spring or summer. If you live in the North, sow cool-season grass seed in the early fall. These recommendations are based on the nature of warm-season and cool-season grasses. The former grow best in warm weather, so that is when you want to plant seed for them. The latter grow best in cool weather, so that is when you want to plant seed for them.
Avoid planting grass seed when a downpour is in the forecast, as the rain might scatter your seed haphazardly. But it is a good time to plant grass seed when a light rain is in the forecast: It means that much less watering you have to do yourself.
Before You Begin
Fixing a bare or thinning spot in the lawn by reseeding may be fruitless unless you figure out why it developed in the first place. Failure to tackle the underlying problem may result, shortly, in having to reseed all over again. Potential causes are:
- Dog urine
- Heavy foot traffic
- Insect problems such as grubs or chinch bugs
- Insufficient irrigation or sunlight
- Mowing the grass too short
- Nutrient deficiency in the soil or problem with the pH
- Roots from a tree or shrub
At the very least, before planting grass seed, test the soil to see if it is lacking something that the grass needs to grow properly. At many hardware stores, you can buy kits that allow you to test for soil pH and for nutrient deficiencies.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- 1 Garden rake
- 1 Garden shovel
- 1 Garden hose with spray nozzle
- 1 Wheelbarrow
- Grass seed
- Bird netting or straw
- Soil test kit
Measure Area to Be Seeded
Measure the width and length of the area to determine how much grass seed to buy. Once you have these figures, plug them into a grass seed calculator. Since you are repairing an existing lawn rather than starting a lawn from scratch, set the "coverage rate" in the calculator to the rate used for "overseeding."
Buy Grass Seed
Do some research and pick a grass seed best suited to the area you will be seeding. If you live in the North, that will be some type of cool-season grass. If you live in the South, that will be some type of warm-season grass. To narrow it down further, you must also take into account factors such as sunlight requirements and drought tolerance.
Don't assume that the type of grass seed you sowed before is the best fit. In fact, maybe the reason you have to reseed now is that, in the past, you chose a grass seed ill-suited to your conditions. Switching grass types may lead to a slight mismatch visually, but at least it will provide a more permanent solution if the new grass type is truly better suited to the conditions.
Break Up the Soil
Use the garden rake and/or garden shovel to remove weeds, rocks, and dead grass from the area. For bare spots, dig down about 6 inches with the shovel to loosen the soil. If the soil is very dry, water the ground and allow a couple of days for the soil to absorb the water before proceeding. Rake the spot to break up clumping soil and smooth it out.
Add compost to the soil to give your seed a good start. Compost will provide fertilizer to the seedlings and much more. It also improves the soil's aeration and ability to hold water.
Create a Seed/Potting Soil Mix
Rather than simply broadcasting the seed, itself, mix it with potting soil. To do so, pour potting soil into a wheelbarrow. Mix seed into the potting soil to create a ratio of 1 part seed to 3 parts potting soil. Using a shovel, mix it well in the wheelbarrow.
The advantage of sowing the seed within such a mix is that it distributes the seed better, thus avoiding crowding. Seedlings that are crowded do not grow as vigorously as seedlings that have some spacing.
Sow the Seed
Now you can broadcast the seed. Using the rake, even out the grass seed/potting soil mix afterward. For patches that are merely thinning, you will probably have to sow some of the seed right on top of some of the existing grass (it's not ideal, but it is inevitable).
Water the Seed
Using the garden hose with a spray nozzle, lightly water the seed. The idea is to distribute the moisture deep (at least three inches down) and evenly. Avoid puddling/saturation.
Cover the Area to Protect It From Birds
One thing beginners often overlook is the need to protect your newly sown seed from hungry birds. There are various bird-control measures you can take. One popular one is to spread a thin layer of straw over the area. However, a drawback of using straw is that it is not easy to rake out of the lawn after it has served its purpose.
Do not be in a hurry to mow this new patch of grass, it needs time to get established. Wait a couple of months for the new grass to become established before running a lawn mower over it. If you have protected it from birds using netting, remove the netting before mowing. Use that two-month period to monitor the grass' progress diligently, being careful to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.