Plant a Great Yard

Growing a New Lawn

You may have been told that hiring a professional is the only way to get a lush green lawn, when in reality, that’s not the case. Depending on your needs and timeline, laying sod or sowing seed are both great options. Neither are very difficult, but they do require some planning and preparation.

To seed or to sod?
The biggest difference between seed and sod is time. By laying sod, homeowners reap the benefits of a lush green lawn immediately, but with a higher upfront investment. If time is less of an issue, consider seeding.

The following recommendations will walk you through seed selection to initial care and get you on track to grow a new lawn from scratch.  

Seed selection

The first step is to decide what type of grass seed to use. The type of grass will be determined based on a variety of factors, including:

  • Climate conditions (average annual temperatures, rainfall)
  • Characteristics of the ground (sun exposure, slope, type of soil)
  • Amount of traffic the lawn will experience (both people and pets)

Also consider the look and feel of the grass and the amount of maintenance you’re willing to sign up for.

Contact your local garden center or agricultural university extension agent to find out what type of grass seed (it might be a blend) will be best for your area, and when you should plant the seed. In most areas, the best time to plant new seed is in the spring and fall when the temperatures are more moderate.

Ground preparation

Preparing the ground before seeding is an important step in setting yourself, and your seed, up for success.

  • Dig out any weeds and unwanted grass, or use an herbicide that doesn’t leave a residue in the soil (ask your garden center for recommendations based on the type of plants you need to eliminate, and confirm how long you need to wait to sow seed after applying the herbicide).
  • Level the surface to be planted by filling in depressions with topsoil and flattening any mounds.
  • Remove large rocks and any other debris and till the soil thoroughly to break it up into a fine texture.
  • If possible, have a soil test performed. You may want to buy some topsoil or add amendments if your soil is of very poor quality.
  • Rake the area to even out the surface, and spread it with a lawn-starter fertilizer (which is different from the fertilizers used on established lawns).

Planting and initial care

Once the ground is prepared, calculate how much seed you’ll need based on the area to be planted. The best way to do this is to measure the space you’re going to plant. Take the measurements to a local garden center and talk to turf specialist to determine how much seed you’re going to need. Once you have the seed, follow these steps to get your lawn started:

Sowing the Seed:

  • Use a spreader to seed the ground with even coverage, following the instructions for your particular seed.
  • Cover the seed with ¼ inch of soil by gently raking again.
  • Mulching with a thin layer of straw (you should still be able to easily see the soil through the straw) is an optional technique that can be used to reduce water use and is particularly recommended on sloping areas, to keep the seeds from being washed away.

Watering:

  • Water gently with a fine spray – at least once a day, and more often if it’s hot – until the seeds germinate. The top inch or so of soil should stay moist.
  • As the grass plants begin to grow and become stronger, you can water less frequently (once or twice a week once the grass is several inches high) but more thoroughly to encourage the growth of deeper roots.

Mowing:

  • Wait until the grass is at least 3 inches tall before mowing your new lawn for the first time.
  • Make sure your lawnmower blades are sharp, and don’t cut more than 1/3 of the height of the grass – less is better the first few times.

Fertilizer:

  • Feed your lawn again (this time not with starter fertilizer) 4-6 weeks after planting.