Starting a Lawn from Seed 

The best time plant grass seed is from late August to early September. Spring and fall provide favorable growing conditions for cool season lawn grasses. Seeding in late summer provides two peak growth seasons before the new lawn must experience a period of hot, dry summer weather. 

Early spring seedings are not as successful as fall seeding. The grass plants do not have enough time to get well established before hot summer weather. 

Grass seed can be spread over the ground with a fertilizer spreader. Use about 4 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet of area. Drag a broom rake over the seeded area to mix the seed into the soil surface. Next, cover the new seeding with straw, using 1 bale for each 500 square feet of area. 

Watering is critical for new seedings. Sprinkle lightly several times a day to keep the soil surface cool and moist. 

When the grass is about 2 inches tall remove half the straw. The rest can be allowed to decompose naturally. 

Mowing can begin when the grass is 2 1/2 to 3 inches tall. The mower blade must be sharp. Dull blades will pull the young plants out of the ground rather than cut the leaves. 

Fertilize with a lawn fertilizer when the plants are 2 inches tall. Be sure to water in the fertilizer if the instructions on the bag say to do so. 

Water so that an inch of water per week is applied to the new seeding. 

Lawn Site Preparation  

Whether seeding or sodding, the site must be properly prepared. Use a herbicide such as Round-Up or Kleen-Up to kill existing vegetation. This is especially necessary if problem weeds such as quackgrass, tall fescue or bentgrass are present. Rototilling such weeds into the soil just spreads them around and will not kill them. The same procedure is needed to kill off an existing lawn prior to starting a new lawn. 

Remove any debris that may be left from construction. Debris buried just below the soil surface can result in localized dry spots that will be a problem once the lawn is established. Establish the final grade, making sure there are no low areas where water can collect. Where the soil is packed down, cultivate as deeply as possible. 

Many times topsoil is spread over the existing soil. To be a help, at least 6 inches of topsoil are needed. A 1 or 2 inch layer will probably result in poor water movement and a very shallow-rooted lawn. Either put on at least 6 inches of topsoil or don't add any. If topsoil is added, mix some of it into the top 3 inches of existing soil. This will promote water movement from the added soil into the existing soil. 

Prior to planting, fertilizer and lime should be worked into the soil as recommended by a soil test. Do not add lime unless soil test results indicate a need. If the soil is not tested, use 15 to 20 pounds of 12-12-12 or 16-16-16 per 1000 square feet prior to seeding. When sodding, use 10 pounds of 5-20-20 or similar fertilizer per 1000 square feet. Work the fertilizer into the top 3 inches of the soil. 

Rake the soil to level the seed bed and establish the final grade. The soil should be 1 inch below driveways and sidewalks. 

It is now time to plant. 
 
see also:  Starting A New Lawn From Sod  
 

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