Save Money by Planting Grass Seed Yourself

Learn how to plant grass seed and build a healthy new lawn for you and your family to enjoy.

| 2013 Guide to Field and Lawn Care

  • Newly Sprouted Grass
    Newly sprouted grass is vulnerable to parching if the soil gets too dry. Adding a mulch like straw to the surface of the soil can help it retain moisture and maintain an even temperature.
    Photo By Sven Hoppe
  • Rake Grass Seed
    Lightly raking in the grass seed after you scatter it is one way to ensure good soil contact, improving seed germination rates and the look of your brand new lawn.
    Photo By Shutterstock/Margaret M. Stew
  • House With Lawn
    This house has a well-maintained lawn.
    Photo By David De Lossy
  • Hose Sprinkler
    Make sure to water in your seed well after planting, but not too much - moist soil is critical to germination, but flooded soil will cause your seeds to rot instead of sprout.
    Photo By Thinkstock/Comstock

  • Newly Sprouted Grass
  • Rake Grass Seed
  • House With Lawn
  • Hose Sprinkler

If you’re faced with the aftermath of losing a large tree and having its stump chipped out, or your water main broke and the plumbing excavator left a long strip of bare soil, or you just built a new house and it is setting in the midst of a field of dirt, you can save a lot of money by seeding new lawn yourself. You also will have access to seemingly infinite lawn plant species and varieties to choose from, and will more than likely wind up with a healthier and happier lawn in the process.

Creating the seedbed

The first steps to establishing a new lawn from seed include testing the soil for pH and nutrients, spreading any necessary amendments as recommended by the soil tests, tilling the soil to create a welcoming seedbed, and grading it to get the contours just the way you want them. Always remove any large clods, pieces of glass, rocks and other debris, and be sure that the top few inches are relatively loose.

If your place was stripped of its topsoil, you might want to obtain some and spread it at least a few inches thick wherever it is needed. If you have plenty of topsoil in low areas around your place, renting or hiring the equipment to mine and move it to the location of your new lawn would be well worth the effort. It can be difficult to establish a healthy lawn on hardpan clay subsoil.

Mix the potion

Next you will want to choose a seed mix that suits your location – and that will blend in with the existing lawn, if you are just making a repair. The choices are mind-boggling, and this might be the time to discuss seed mixtures with extension agents, turf professionals and grass-growing neighbors. Enter into these discussions with some skepticism, however, and by all means, if you want to have a lawn that includes the soil- and turf-feeding family of legumes called clovers, feel free to do so. Read everything you can about plant species and varieties suitable for lawns in your area and consider whether your lawn’s environment will be dry, wet, sunny, shady, exposed in winter, etc. Once you settle on a mixture, or even a combination of mixtures, calculate the number of pounds of seed you will require based on a recommended seeding rate and your yard’s area. 

Finally, look for a reputable bulk seed supplier in your area and have them mix what you need – for smaller areas, it’s easy enough to source ready mixed lawn seed from local garden supply businesses.

When to plant grass seed

With seed in hand and the seedbed well prepared, it’s finally time to plant. You can seed a lawn in virtually any season, but for best results with cool-season grasses, you should plan to plant in late summer or early spring if possible. Warm-season grasses are best planted in late spring. If you live in an area with predictable winter snowfall and brutal sub-zero winter temperatures, an ideal time to plant your lawn is just before the first heavy snow, while the ground is still unfrozen. Put the seed in the ground and the snow will blanket it and any young plants, protecting them from cold desiccating winds.

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