How To Plant Grass Seed
The four most important elements for successful grass seed planting are:
- Ensuring the seed makes firm contact with the soil
- Planting grass seeds at the proper depth
- Using the right amount of grass seeds
- Appling adequate moisture in the early stages
There are many choices on how to plant grass seed and each method has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. You should take into consideration the size of the site where grass seed needs to be planted, your overall budget and total amount of time you have available in determining which method is right for your situation. This planning stage is a crucial step before planting grass seed or overseeding; do not make the mistake of taking it lightly.
Broadcast Seed on Bare Soil
This method is commonly used in new home construction. The first thing a building contractor usually does before constructing a house is to clear the land and stockpile all of the topsoil. After the house has been constructed, the contractor will cover the remaining lot with the topsoil once again so that it is ready for planting. Then again, hopefully the contractor did not sell off your topsoil; unfortunately, it does happen from time to time. If he did not, then he should be able to spread at least 8-12” of topsoil throughout the remaining area. If he sold off the majority of your topsoil and only puts a thin cover of 2 – 4” around the house, then you will certainly be struggling with the lawn in the future since the root system will only be able to get a limited amount of nutrients and water. If this is the case, you’ll likely have to look at purchasing more topsoil if the contractor will not replace it.
After the topsoil is laid, a grading type machine is used to level it and clear out all of the rocks. That’s when you can finally spread the seed and the starter fertilizer with a lawn spreader. Afterwards, you’ll need to make sure the seed is in contact with the soil by running a leaf rake upside down over the seed to cover it with the topsoil. It’s also very important for the seed to be protected from the sun (and birds) with some type of mulch (straw works well).
Hydroseeding is a method of using a large hose to spray a slurry of grass seed, mulch, fertilizer, green dye and other additives from a tank onto bare soil. Hydro seeding has several advantages over simply broadcasting seed onto bare soil.
- In germinates quicker because the seed is soaking in water before its applied
- Dyes mixed in the tank can give the hydro seed an attractive green color, somewhat resembling grass
- It is very cost effect compared to other methods
- It works particularly well on slopes since the mulch aids in preventing erosion
Slice / Slit / Drill Seeding
This method of seeding entails the use of a machine to either slice or drill the seed directly into the soil. It is commonly used to improve a worn out existing lawn by overseeding to either thicken up sparse areas or to inject better varieties of grass seed into the ground. It is also used to completely replace an existing lawn.
Sometimes, it actually makes more sense to replace a lawn because it’s comprised of mainly undesirable grass varieties or when there are severe weed issues. The process starts by killing off the existing lawn with a non-selective herbicide and then slicing through it in two directions with the overseeding machine. The dead lawn acts as a mulch to protect the seed and later decomposes, adding the organic content to the soil.
Aeration / Overseeding
This method has a double benefit in that you aerate your soil and overseed at the same time. When you aerate your lawn, the machine pulls out soil plugs from the soil and lays them on the lawn. These hole / pockets and soil plugs are ideal for grass seed to germinate into as seed needs that all-important soil-seed contact. After you run the aeration machine over the lawn, you leave all the soil plugs then broadcast an ample amount of grass seed over the entire area. This method is useful to improve the overall density and quality of the lawn by introducing new and better varieties of grass seed. It should not be used if your lawn is in dire need of seeding such as large bare areas or if your lawn is in very poor condition, the slice seeding method is recommended for this situation. You should also note that because the seed is not actually imbedded into the soil, it is very important that there be more watering than usual, because the seed is unprotected and will dry out if not water adequately.
Grass Seed Mats
Some grass seed mats come with seed imbedded into the mat while others do not, so be careful to check before making this purchase. The purpose of the grass seed mat is to create an environment for the seed to germinate without it washing away. This is particularly useful if you have a slope that needs be stabilized to prevent erosion.
If you are simply repairing bare spots in the lawn, this method could be very expensive and generally over kill as you don’t really need that much protection. Also, remember that it important to have a good soil/seed contact which will require that the soil be loose under the mat. The packaging may be vague on this and promise guaranteed results, but it will definitely not happen if you just assume that the seeds are in place. It’s a big part of planting grass seed so don’t overlook it.
Lawn repair- Scratch / Dig, Topsoil, and Seed
Repairing bare spots in your lawn with this method requires the removal of any dead grass by digging it out and scratching the existing soil with a rake to loosen it. This helps create that important soil-seed contact that we talked about before so if you don’t have enough to work with, be sure to apply more soil from a store-bought bag. Once that’s complete, then you can apply the grass seed, rake it in, and cover it with mulch.
Lawn repair – Patch materials
There are a number of products on the market that will package all the lawn repair ingredients in a single jug or bag as an all-in-one treatment. They normally include grass seed, fertilizer and mulch at what the manufacturer calls “perfect pre-mixed levels” so all you have to do is distribute according to the directions. These products can end up being very expensive, however, because you are buying mainly mulch and very little seed.
If you read the package, most of them have less than 10% grass seed in them so they don’t go very far. Also, the packaging will lead you to believe that all you have to do is just put the material on the dead spot and you’re done, but if you read a little closer they actually require you to dig up the dead lawn as well. The reality is that the seed has a hard time getting into the soil because it mainly grows in the mulch so it never makes that all-important soil-seed contact.
This concept was popular for a while but many consumers have been disappointed with the results and are reluctant to use this method based on the sheer cost and disappointing results.
Lawn repair – Grass Stitcher
This is a new method of lawn repair that uses the Grass Stitcher lawn repair tool. This device punctures through the dead grass to create a perforation that is ideally suited to accept grass seed without creating any extra work (like having to removing the dead grass or apply additional topsoil). The patented wheel recycles the dead grass and converts it into mulch in order to protect the seed. Once the perforations are made, you simply apply the grass seed and water it; the seeds are then naturally washed into the soil and covered for the all-important soil-seed contact that will allow for grass to grow.