Common Mistakes Made When Establishing a Lawn From Seed
This week marks my two year anniversary here on the Nature’s Seed blog. From seed bombs to backyard putting greens, from Native American legends and snow mold, I’ve covered a wide range of topics that have hopefully been interesting and helpful. Besides my weekly blog updates I also answer customer inquiries and emails each day. By this time, I think I’ve heard it all! I really enjoy helping folks with their seeding projects. Success stories are the best, especially when customers send before and after pictures. Unfortunately I also get some failure stories. That’s the thing about working with Mother Nature. We have to understand that we’re dealing with a living entity. Seeds are not inert, lifeless matter. They have needs, preferences and requirements. All we can do is provide them with the best possible conditions to grow and thrive. Mistakes will be made of course, but that’s how we learn. To help you overcome this learning curve I’ve compiled the most common mistakes I’ve seen people make over the last two years when establishing a new lawn from seed.
Using the Wrong Seed for Your Climate
At least a couple times a month I’ll receive an email from a customer wanting to know why nothing germinated in their yard. The story usually goes something like this:
I went to your website and ordered the most expensive lawn seed blend I could find. I figured the more expensive, the higher quality it must be. When it arrived I planted it like you’re supposed to. Nothing ever came up. I think your seed is broken!
After digging a bit deep, I usually find out that they ordered buffalograss or zoysia grass and tried to plant it in a northern climate in the fall or spring. Turns out that buffalograss and zoysia are warm-season grasses. Yes these grasses are more expensive, but not because they’re any higher in quality than any of our other blends. Price has a lot to do with how easy it is to collect the seed. Warm season grasses also have much different climate needs than the types of grasses grown in the North. They need to be planted in the summer and prefer hot temperatures. It’s no wonder the customer couldn’t get them to germinate. Always know what type of grass is compatible for your climate. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to ask us.
Planting Grass Seed Too Deep
Every now and then I’ll get an email describing a very low germination rate. There could be several reasons for this. One of the more common reasons is planting depth. Sometimes after sowing grass seed, folks will either bury or rake in the seed too deeply thinking the seeds need to be planted the same way as garden vegetables. Remember, lawn grass seeds only need to be lightly raked into the soil, or even just scattered directly on the soil surface. Any seeds buried more than the length of the seed will have a hard time germinating successfully.
Applying Mulch Too Thick
Another germination problem arises when people apply mulch too thick to the seeded area. While mulch can be very beneficial, applying it too thick will smother the new seedlings. For best results, only apply mulch at the recommended rate. If using straw, one 80 lb. bale per 1000 square feet is adequate. Also make sure your straw is from a trusted source. Better yet, only use certified weed-free straw. Using straw mulch infested with weed seeds is the quickest way to introduced weeds to a new lawn.
Letting the Grass Seed Dry Out During Germination
But the most common mistake homeowners make when establishing a new lawn from seed is moisture related. Once the seed has been spread and germination begins, it’s imperative the seed isn’t allowed to dry out. Most failure story emails come from folks who tell me they planted the seed, but missed a day or two of watering. If grass seed is allowed to dry out even once during the germination process, the lawn will most likely fail to establish.
Remember, we’re here to help you every step of the way. Don’t hesitate to ask us for advice. You can also check out our Youtube channel to watch demonstrations of the grass planting process.