How to Seed a New Lawn
Preparation of The Seed Bed
After your final grading you need to rid yourself of any trash, weeds, and any other material that could interfere with the seeding of the lawn. Use a rake to remove stones, leaves, sticks, or any other trash that may be in your yard.
Before seeding make sure you have a firm, but not a rock hard seed bed. A firm seedbed will give your grass a solid base from which to grow. Soil that is hard as a rock makes seeding far more difficult. There is no place for the roots of your grass to grow if the soil is as hard as concrete.
If the soil is rock hard, it would help to bring in some good top soil to spread over the lawn. Dealing with a heavy clay soil is like seeding into concrete. It makes grass growing far more difficult. Adding organic matter to the soil will help loosen the soil and will give the grass soil it can root into.
(There is a game lots of builders play. When the dig the foundation for a house, they strip away most of the good topsoil from the lot. The builder will then haul the soil away to be sold, leaving only subsoil for the new homeowner's lawn. If you are faced with this situation, it would be best to spread fresh topsoil before seeding instead of only having subsoil as your base.)
If you need to buy top soil, buy screened topsoil. This way you avoid clumps, trash, and other debris you can find in unscreened topsoil.
Be sure to verify where the top soil came from. In the old days topsoil sellers would buy topsoil from a farmer. The danger in this relates to chemicals farmers use to suppress grass & weed growth in a farm field, such as Atrazine and Glyphosate. When farmers uses chemicals for multiple years, there can be a build up of the chemical in the soil. If the same soil is then used to grow grass in a home lawn the following year, there is a great danger of lawn failure. As the seed germinates the roots of the grass moves down through the soil profile. If the weed killing chemicals are in the soil as the grass roots grows downward, the roots of the grass plants will come in contact with the chemicals. When the grass roots absorb the weed killing chemicals in the soil, the grass plants will die.
While we no longer have as many farmers or the farm fields as we did years ago, it is still prudent to verify the source of the topsoil. You do not need to spend the money to seed a lawn twice because of weed killers in the soil.
Once you have prepared your seedbed, the seeding is rather simple.
Buy or rent a cyclone (broadcast) spreader to seed the lawn. (We do not like drop spreaders. Drop spreaders have a habit of giving the user uneven seed distribution. If any of the holes of the drop seeder have worn or become blocked the seed will not be uniformly distributed.) Adjust the spreader to a 40% opening. (On a 1-10 scale set the knob to a scale of 4 to 4 1/2.) Put the seed into the hopper and seed.
To make sure that enough seed is applied to the lawn the lawn should be seeded in a checkerboard fashion. The lawn should first be seeded in a north to south pattern. Then the lawn should be seeded going in an east to west pattern.
No one can walk in a straight line when seeding a lawn. No one can always remember where they have seeded when seeding in just one direction. Seeding in a checkerboard fashion protects the seeder. If the seeded misses seeding in one direction, you can cover the area seeding in the opposite direction.
Seeding rate should be 6 to 8 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft seeding rate. If you seed less than 6 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. the lawn will come in too thin. Applying more than 8 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft is over seeding the lawn and will cause crowding, grass needs just enough room to grow. The only exceptions you make in this rule if the lawn is being planted in late fall. An increased seeding rate will give the seeder an extra edge in germination when the weather is less than perfect for good seed germination.
After seeding you can apply a starter fertilizer to the lawn. The fertilization of the lawn will help with the germination of the grass. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers when seeding a new lawn. High nitrogen fertilizers can burn the seed. Apply a low nitrogen fertilizer with phosphate and potash to promote root growth and cell growth in the new grass plant. (Examples are 5-10-10, 10-10- 10, 11-22-6, 8-18-12)
Finishing & Protecting
When you have finished seeding and fertilizing, litely rake the seed and the fertilizer into the soil. Just barely cover the seed with the soil. Burying the seed with any more than a 1/4 inch of soil will decrease the germination of the seed.
Lightly apply straw to cover the soil and to the seed. The straw should just barely cover the ground. You should still be able to see the ground after the straw as been applied. If the ground is completely covering the ground, too much straw as been applied! Remove 1/2 of the straw off the ground. Why? Too much straw can choke out the seed as it germinates from the soil.
Straw's purpose is as an erosion control, not as a blanket covering of the seed bed. When the straw is applied lightly over the grass area, the straw will keep the soil from moving and protect the seed. Straw will also shelter the seed from the hot sun and keep the soil warmer when the lawn is seeded during cool weather. Having a light straw covering makes it easier when it is time to remove the straw. You can remove the straw when you mow the new grass the first time.
Don't forget to water your newly seeded lawn. All plants need water to grow & survive. If we're having a rainy spring, the water mother nature is providing should be sufficient. If we're not getting much rain & you can see that the soil is dry, use a spinkler to gently water the lawn. Be sure not to drown the seed & new grass. If you see standing puddles, you're over watering.