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The Best Way to Sow Grass Seeds When Planting a New Lawn

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It may seem simple enough, but for a lot of people the act of sowing grass seed is somewhat of a mystery. That’s to be expected since planting grass seed is quite a bit different than planting a garden or transplanting flowers and shrubs. Throughout the years I’ve heard of several methods to go about doing this. Some methods, such as hand sowing, are simple yet sometimes inefficient. Other methods are just downright risky. For example, in the northeastern United States some people claim that the best way to sow grass seed is directly on top or beneath the snow during the winter. Not only will the constant freezing and thawing lower the germination rate of the grass seed, but it makes a great buffet feast for birds. Not to mention the possibility of the melting snow washing them away. Planting grass seed isn’t rocket science, but there are some guidelines that will ensure your seed produces the best quality lawn possible. 

Choose Your Grass Seed Wisely

The first thing to consider when sowing seed is what type you actually need. This will be determined largely by your climate, lawn usage requirements, and how much maintenance (mowing, irrigating, fertilizing, etc.) you’re willing to put into it. For the more northern portions of the United States, cool-season grasses such as Kentucky BluegrassPerennial Ryegrass, and both Fine and Tall Fescue are the best choice. In southern areas, BermudagrassBuffalograss, and Zoysia grass will be your primary choices. Whatever your decision, make sure the type you select has been top rated by the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program, or NTEP. This program is responsible for testing the hundreds of different lawn grass varieties and rating them based on color, disease and insect resistance, and drought tolerance. If you purchase cheap grass seed from a big-box store, then you can expect a cheap looking lawn. Investing in high quality seed is an investment in a high quality lawn. 

Seed Spreaders Provide the Best Results

shoulder strap seed spreaderAfter you’ve selected your seed and prepared the soil by loosening the top 2 to 3 inches and added any soil amendments or starter fertilizers, you’re ready to begin sowing. The best way to sow grass seed, and the way we strongly recommend, is with a mechanical spreader. These spreaders come in many varieties but all function the same basic way. By adjusting the distribution rate, these device help to ensure a uniform, consistent spread. This consistency makes for a more efficient use of grass seed and eliminates the patchiness often resulting from hand spreading. Shoulder strap seed spreaders offer even more control and comfort and allow one person to cover acres of land with minimal effort. Make sure you follow the recommended seeding rate for the particular blend you’re using. These rates can be found on the package or on our website under the product summary. It’s a good idea to only spread half of your needed grass seed at first by walking back and forth in one direction and then sowing the second half of your amount by walking back and forth in the opposite direction. This crisscross pattern helps to ensure a more even coverage. 

ATV and Tractor Spreaders

For larger areas of land, ATV and tractor pulled spreaders are the most practical way of sowing seed. These types of spreaders are powered by a tractor PTO shaft or have ground driven gearboxes that work the mechanics that spread as they are pulled. The only downside to these larger spreaders is the difficulty in controlling the seeding rate, especially for smaller seed. Some people who experience this problem often mix sand in with their seed to help ensure a more even coverage.

Rake, Top-Dress, and Water Frequently

raking in seedAfter sowing the seed, gently rake the area so no more than ¼ inch of soil covers what you just spread. It will then be necessary to apply a top-dressing of some sort, preferably not peat moss for reasons you can read more about here. Straw is often the cheapest and easiest to use as long as it’s from a weed-free source. Spreading one 80 lb. bale per 1000 square feet is adequate. Make sure not to apply the straw so thick that it completely covers the ground and chokes out the grass seedlings. For an even better start, consider using a professional top-dressing such as our Seed Aide product. Seed Aide combines post-consumer recycled paper, recycled clean whole-wood mulch, organic tackifier, and bio-stimulant for superior establishment. The organic tackifier sticks soil particles together to reduce soil erosion, water runoff, and seed wash-out while the bio-stimulant increases root mass and stress tolerance for improved grass establishment. After applying the top-dressing, make sure you keep the soil moist during the germination process. This is where most mistakes are made. If allowed to dry out even once, chances are they will not grow. Water lightly and frequently, but don’t saturate. Two or three times a day for 5-10 minutes is usually good enough. Continue this until the new grass is at least two inches high. 

Planting grass seed isn’t hard or complicated as long as you have the correct tools. A proper, high-quality supply of grass seed, a prepared bed, a spreader, a top-dressing, and adequate irrigation is all it takes to start a new, beautiful lawn that will provide years of enjoyment.

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