If you’re eager to beautify your yard, then you’re not alone—in fact, nearly 80% of homeowners agree that well-maintained grass is the most crucial part of their curb appeal. So whether you’re looking to plant a new lawn or overseed an existing one, spreading seed is the primary step to guaranteeing healthy grass.
While the act is not a difficult task in itself, planting your grass seed the incorrect way can affect the growth process. Although grass can sprout almost anywhere, keeping it healthy only happens with the right technique. But before you get started on your new lawn, it’s time to become familiar with the steps that come beforehand.
How to Spread and Plant New Grass Seed
Maybe your lawn is looking a little bare and could use some help. Or perhaps there isn’t a lawn at all, and you’re hoping to start fresh with some young and healthy grass. Whatever your end goal is, knowing how to spread and plant grass seed is an essential part of the process.
Here is a step-by-step guide on everything you need to know to spread seed on your existing or new lawn, including choosing the right kind, knowing when to plant grass seed, preparing the soil, seeding the grass, and more.
Step #1: Choosing the Right Seed
When holding it in your hand, all grass seed looks about the same. However, the opposite couldn’t be more true: Depending on the brand and species you select, you could have wildly different results. First and foremost, it’s vital to choose a high-quality blend.
“Choosing quality seed is one of the most important steps in successfully planting or overseeding your lawn,” says horticulture expert Ward Upham. “If you don’t know what to look for, you may be introduced to unwanted intruders in that new stand.”
But how do you know which seed is right for you? The good news is that it’s not so hard to figure out: Just take a look at your zone map.
Your zone will tell you which blends of grass seed can thrive in your geographical location. There are 26 total zones, which are divided into 10˚F zones. You can find out which ones you belong to on the United States Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
Based on your region’s type, you can look at some of the most popular and versatile blends used for lawns or backyards, like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, bermudagrass, bahiagrass, and fescue grasses.
Step #2: Know When to Plant
Depending on your region, you’ll have to plant at a particular time of the year. This is because there are cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses. For example, those who live in the southern regions of the U.S. should only use warm-season grasses. But those in transitional and northern areas should only work with cool-season grasses.
What’s the Difference Between Cool-Season and Warm-Season Grasses?
Warm-season grasses grow best in the southern, southwest, and southeastern United States because they can withstand droughts and high temperatures. It’s best to seed warm-season blends during the late spring to summer when the soil temperatures are above 65˚F.
It’s not uncommon for them to go dormant during fall and winter, so just know that your lawn isn’t dying out if it turns yellow or brown—it’s merely hibernating until it warms up again. Similarly, in especially hot climates, you might see dormancy during the summertime.
Cool-season grasses thrive in the transitional to the northern part of the U.S. They can tolerate cool to freezing temperatures and long winters. They also thrive during the more temperate summer months in the north, although it’s not uncommon for them to begin to brown during heat waves.
They need to be seeded in the fall to begin to germinate before the ground freezes. In the spring, the grass seeds start to generate and will thrive throughout the cooler summers. By wintertime the following year, the grass will be mature and able to withstand the colder months.
Step #3: Prepare the Soil
Preparing the soil is perhaps the most critical step you can take before you seed your grass blend.
For this part, you may want to conduct a soil test. You can purchase one from a gardening supply store or mail in your sample to a local testing lab. This test can tell you the ground’s overall health, including its fertility, growth potential, nutrient levels, acidity, and more.
After you’re sure your soil is healthy, you can begin working on your lawn for preparation. First, remove any debris, like leaves, sticks, and rocks. Then, you’ll want to loosen the top 2 to 3 inches of soil with a hand rake.
Quick Tip: If you don’t have time to buy a soil test or send in a sample to a local lab, then you could instead conduct a do-it-yourself test.
How to Conduct a Do-It-Yourself Soil Test
Option #1: Take a handful of soil in your hands and squeeze it. If it keeps its form and comes apart easily, you likely have loam soil in good health. If the dirt is too wet, thick, or crumbly, you may have clay or sandy soil. These types can be a challenge to worth with, so you’ll want to conduct a legitimate soil test to see what you can do to increase your soil’s health.
Option #2: Dig a six to 12-inch hole and fill it with water. With a measuring stick, measure how long it takes to drain. Be sure to note when you fill the gap with water and the time it’s finished draining. Calculate this rate to minutes per inch, like 90 minutes per 4 inches. Then you can determine your percolation rate.
Option #3: Since earthworms can be an indicator of soil health, a great way to test your soil’s health is to dig through the dirt and count how many you can find. The more worms, the healthier and more nutrient-rich your land is. Try to count at least five earthworms within a few minutes, plus other types of crawlers, like millipedes and beetles.
Option #4: Using a pH testing kit, you can determine your soil’s pH levels. While every soil type is slightly different, you want your soil pH range somewhere between 6 and 7.5. You can purchase one from any garden supply store.
Step #4: Spread and Plant Grass Seed
There are two ways in which you can spread the grass seed: By hand or by spreader. A spreader can help offer a more even coverage in a shorter amount of time, although unnecessary. Which one you decide to choose is ultimately up to you and based on preference.
When seeding, apply anywhere between 15 to 20 seeds per square inch. You want to avoid having too many seeds in one area since the roots may start to compete with one another upon germination, and eventually die out from a lack of nutrients. Also, be sure that the seeds are not too far apart, otherwise grass may look sparse and thin when it begins to sprout.
Quick Tip: Take half the bag and sprinkle it from north to south on your lawn. Then, take the other half and spread it from east to west. This way, you’re more likely to cover an even amount of ground, which allows for better coverage.
What Is the Best Way to Spread Grass Seed?
One of the most common questions about spreading seed is whether you should do it by hand or with a tool. The tool option usually comes in two varieties: a hand caster or a wheeled spreader.
But which one should you use?
The answer depends on the size of your lawn. For smaller plots, going by hand or using a hand caster will be a simple process. However, wheeled spreaders are ideal for larger yards and can save you time and effort during the spreading process.
Step #5: Cover Your Work
When you’ve spread the seed, it’s time to cover your work. Using a rake, lightly coat the seed with the excess soil you’ve loosened from the ground in the previous step. There will be a healthy mix of grain and dirt on your lawn.
After you’ve covered the seed with soil, consider getting a type of protectant like straw. Soil protectants will help prevent the seeds from washing or blowing away as they begin to germinate for the next 7 to 14 days. Be sure not to cover the area with excess straw as you’ll want the soil to show through. Your straw should act as a safety net from the elements while still allowing the grass to sprout.
Step #6: Frequently Water the Lawn
While your seed germinates, it’s essential to keep it damp. An adequate amount of water is about one inch per week. Always double-check that the water is filtering through the soil instead of just sitting on top. You can check this with a spade or a wooden dowel to determine your soil’s moisture depth.
Step #7: Wait for the Seeds to Sprout
After seeding your lawn, the waiting period is the most anticipated part of the process. You may see results sometime over the next 30 days, but it’s always a good idea to check the instructions on your grass seed blend’s bag. The bag should have plenty of information, including germination times and when you can expect the seed to sprout.
Step #8: Maintain Your Lawn
While the seeding part is over, your job isn’t quite yet. When your grass is still developing, make sure to avoid too much foot traffic—you want to give it time to grow and strengthen itself before you begin walking or playing on it too much.
Once your grass blades reach about 3 inches in height, mow it about ⅓ down. If your grass is cut too short, it can weaken the grass and allow pests and weeds to take over the lawn.
After about six to eight weeks, you may want to consider using a fertilizer. Fertilizers are not always necessary, but they can help keep your lawn thick and lush. It’s recommended that you fertilize your lawn in small, frequent applications.
Quick Tip: If you choose to fertilize your lawn, make sure that you’re doing it at the right time and not doing too much. Cool grasses will require fertilizing heavily in the fall and lightly in the spring because these are optimal growth times. Warm grasses should be fertilized in the late spring and summer, so you should fertilize as the grass begins to gain its color back in the spring.
Commonly Asked Questions About Grass Seed
Whether you’re a rookie or expert when it comes to planting grass seed, you may still have some questions about the process. After all, there are plenty of different tools, materials, and brands that you could use to create the healthiest and most lush lawn—and it may be overwhelming to figure out where to start.
Luckily, you don’t have to worry: Check out some of these common questions and answers about grass seed.
Will Grass Seed Grow If You Just Throw It On the Lawn?
Yes, it likely will—but even so, it’s probably a good idea not to.
Some seeds will sprout if you just throw the seeds on the lawn, but that’s about it. You won’t have a luscious and full lawn within a few weeks, because the seeds either won’t be able to germinate into the soil, or rain and wind might displace it before it can even grow.
If you throw seed onto the ground, you’ll probably just have wasted time and money since those seeds won’t latch into the soil. Properly planting your grass seeds is an essential step for your lawn that guarantees a healthy yard without worrying about displacement and lack of germination.
Can You Sprinkle Grass Seed?
The sprinkling method is a good one because it’s not heavy and can cover a lot of ground area evenly at once—but you have to make sure that you’re not being careless with the seed placement.
Your choice is how you want to sprinkle it, whether it’s by hand, with a hand caster tool, or a wheeled spreader. Hand tools are smaller and cheaper to come by, making them ideal for smaller areas and lawns. But if you plan to seed an entire front yard, then using a wheeled spreader might be worth the investment so that you can save time and energy.
What Is the Best Time to Spread Grass Seed?
When you should spread your grass seed is entirely dependent on where you live, the type of blend you have, and the ground’s temperature. Generally speaking, the goal is to plant the seed so that it has time to germinate and sprout during the best season. Cool-season blends typically grow quickest in the spring and fall, whereas warm-season blends will shoot during the summer months.
When buying a grass blend, always refer to your zone, which tells you the types of grasses that will thrive best in your geographical region. Seeding season depends on where you live and what your area’s general temperatures are. For example, an excellent time to plant grass in Arizona will differ from when you should in Illinois.
Can You Plant Grass Seed On An Existing Lawn?
Yes, you can. This method is called overseeding, which is when you spread grass seed over an existing lawn. As grass matures, it may not look as vibrant as it once did. This is entirely normal, but many homeowners prefer to keep a lush and healthy lawn throughout the years. To obtain this look, overseeding is a great way to introduce young, new grass and aeration into an older yard without starting over from scratch.
You can overseed your lawn every year, but it’s important to note that you’ll typically only overseed with a cool-season blend. Cool-season grasses can tolerate the cold winter months and go over other cool grasses, but they can also be overseeded on top of warm-season grasses to help with winter hardiness in the southern regions. You should overseed for either lawn type in early fall or spring at least 45 days before your first frost.
What Type of Grass Is Best?
Whether you’re in the north, south, or the transitional areas, you’ll want a high-quality type of grass blend that’s designed for your climate. Here, you can learn more about some common grass blends.
Kentucky bluegrass is a perennial, cool blend that thrives in the middle to the northern sections of the United States, ranging from Northern California to Maine. It does well in full sun or part sun, so it’s not ideal for a shady lawn. It will also require plenty of water, so you may have to water frequently or invest in a sprinkling system. With its medium-thick texture and deep green coloring, Kentucky bluegrass is an excellent blend for beautifying or lawns with high foot traffic.
While perennial ryegrass is considered a cool-season blend, it can thrive in almost every part of the United States. In the northern regions, perennial ryegrass is an excellent lawn choice, whereas it can be used as an overseeding supplement in the southern half to create a temporary wintertime lawn. This blend is full of good qualities, including its bright green coloring, versatile full- to part-sun requirements, quick estimation rates, and the ability to stand against high-traffic areas. Perennial ryegrass does require plenty of water, so it does best in the colder months down south.
Bermudagrass is one of the most common species you’ll find on southern lawns. As the standard for warm-season blends, bermudagrass is full of great qualities, including its tolerance for full sun, hardy texture, bright coloring, and minimal water requirements. It can thrive in the driest desert regions to salty areas along the coast. However, bermudagrass must be tamed and trimmed from time to time, since it tends to creep past its planted territory.
Bahiagrass is similar to bermudagrass in terms of its color and texture, but its water retention truly makes it stand out. Because of its ability to tolerate full sun and high heats, bahiagrass is excellent for the drylands where droughts are frequent, and rainfall isn’t. It is a great blend to try if your lawn has poor soil and can’t seem to support other popular warm grasses, like bermudagrass or zoysiagrass.
Fescues are a crowd favorite because of its versatility in geographical locations. Depending on the exact blend, you can find fescues designed to thrive in all parts of the country. Fescue is considered a cool mix but does well in the southern regions due to its heat tolerance. Fine fescue blends are also very tolerant of shade, excess water, and impoverished soil conditions. No matter which type you choose, fescue promises a vibrant color with a soft texture for beautification and high-traffic areas.
No matter the shape of your lawn, there’s always a chance to bring it back to life with high-quality seed, proper preparedness, and an excellent spreading technique. And keep in mind that if you have a large yard to cover, you might consider investing in a seed spreader, which will limit the amount of time and effort you spend while also guaranteeing better results.
Whatever your project is, Nature’s Seed has the nation’s top-quality seeds and blends for your lawn. Whether you need help picking the right blend for new grass or have some more questions on how to plant grass seed on a new lawn, the experts at Nature’s Seed are prepared to help you. Shop for high-quality products today!