How to Seed a Lawn

Seeding a lawn is undoubtedly one of the best money-saving tasks a homeowner or land owner can do, requiring only minimal previous experience or knowledge, and the results can be phenomenal. If you're looking at your dried out, brown lawn lamenting about how costly or time-consuming it will be to fix, worry no more. Note that it does take some time investment and several hours out in the sun, but it's something you can find time to do without breaking your bank. Although you probably won't see the results of your efforts for at least a month or so, before long your lawn will be transformed into the lush green landscape you imagine - it just takes a little time, care, and routine maintenance.

The preparation phase of this procedure is by far the most important aspect. Without properly prepared soil, your new grass seeds will have a very difficult time germinating. Well-tilled earth, proper irrigation and just a little bit of science (not enough to hurt your brain I promise) are the keys to getting your new lawn off to a good start. To begin with, the old grass needs to be completely removed at the roots. A sod cutter can do the trick, which you can normally rent for under $100 a day, and will remove the grass and weeds at the roots. Once this is completed, its time to add your soil and compost mix. You'll have to turn the soil with a rotary tiller, and add successive layers of sand and compost. Also be sure to rake away or manually remove medium and large rocks if any are present.

However, even with a good soil and fertilizer mixture, your new grass seed will have a hard time growing if the pH of the soil is too acidic or too alkaline. the pH scale is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance - once your lawn is cleared you should test it to determine what the pH level of your soil is. The ideal soil pH for grass to thrive is somewhere between 6 and 7.5, anything lower or higher than that will give your grass seed a hard time, and the end result will not be ideal. If your soil pH is too low, you may have to add a very shallow layer of Lime to bring it up (one inch or so deep should be sufficient. If your soil pH is too high, you'll have to add a bit of sulfur.

So, to recap, your soil should be your base. Get rid of the existing grass and weeds, and till. Add 1/2 to 1 inch of sand and till. Add 1/2 inch or so of Lime or Sulfur (if needed, depending on your soil's pH). Add some starter fertilizer/compost, and gently rake it into the underlying soil throughout. Once this is completed, you are ready to start getting your seeds down. Once your soil is prepared, the actual seeding process is a breeze. Simply spread out the right amount of grass seed, and make sure it gets enough water.

For larger lawns, you might need to use a walk-behind seed spread to make the job a bit easier. For smaller areas, a simple hand held spreader should do the trick. Make sure to spread your seed evenly throughout, and don't over do it. A moderate peppering is all that's required. Once you have your seed laid down, grab a plastic rake, turn it upside down, and gently use the back of the tines to massage the seeds into the soil. Not much force is needed in this step, make sure to use short and very light strokes, long heavy strokes can bunch up your seed and cause uneven growth in some areas.

Watering - Make sure to water your newly seeded soil regularly, you can use either an oscillating sprinkler or a fan sprinkler, as long as the water is evenly distributed and you get complete coverage. If you don't have a sprinkler, a simple hose sprayer attachment on the mist setting will also do the trick. Be sure to move the sprinkler on to a new, unwatered area after approximately 10 minutes. Around 10 minutes of watering, two or three times a day, should be plenty for the first couple of weeks. Once the seeds begin to sprout, cut it back to one watering per day for around 15 to 20 minutes. It's best to schedule your watering more toward the early morning and noon time, that way the soil has more time to absorb and less evaporation takes place. If you receive a fair amount of rain during the day, you will not need to set your sprinklers out until the following day - don't drown your seed. Also, avoid watering late in the evening or at night, this can result in fungal diseases.

If you have any large trees near the area you are seeding, be sure to thin the branches to allow more sunlight to pass through to the soil. Once your grass has begun to grow, be sure to water the soil under your large trees once or twice a week during periods without rainfall, to make sure the grass doesn't get starved by the tree roots absorbing all the moisture in the soil.

And that's it! Before you know it, you're lawn will be green and healthy once more.

Kostas Menegakis is the owner and manager of Landscapes R Us, a local residential and commercial landscaping service provider in High Point, NC (, also serving the greater Piedmont Triad area.

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