Late August and September are the best time to seed a lawn. Warm soil temperatures facilitate quick germination, while cool air temperatures allow the new grass to thrive. Whether you are starting over with a brand new lawn, thickening your existing lawn, or patching bare spots, you can use late summer and early fall to make your lawn the masterpiece you desire. Planting grass seed is easy and can be done by anyone. In a short time, you can transform your sickly grass or dirt patch into a lush green yard.
The first step to a beautiful lawn is healthy soil and good planting conditions. Most grasses are not especially picky when it comes to soil, but they will thrive best in soil with 60 to 70 percent sand and 30 to 40 percent silt or clay. Grass also prefers a neutral pH, so add lime if your soil is very acidic or sulfur if your soil is very alkaline.
If you are overseeding a lawn, cut the existing grass as short as possible to allow the seeds to reach the earth under the grass. If you are repairing a dead or thin patch of grass, supplement your lawn’s current soil with nutrient-rich soil if necessary. Loosen the existing soil by raking with a garden rake. This will also remove dead grass that would inhibit the growth of the new seeds.
Choose a high quality grass seed, such as Schultz® or Diamond brand seed (Schultz grass seed, 266-0970-0987; Diamond grass seed, 266-1452-1458). The best grass seed will have a very low percentage of weed seeds, which should be displayed on the package. For example, Schultz and Diamond grass seeds are 99.99% weed free. Many seed packages also list what conditions the seed is best suited for, such as shade or sun. Especially if your lawn has failed in the past, choose a formula that is designed for the conditions in each area of your yard. Don’t be afraid to use different seed in different areas, especially if your yard has microclimates that are affecting the growth of grass in certain areas.
Applying the proper amount of seed will be vital to the success of your lawn. Read the instructions on the back of the bag to see how much seed is appropriate for your given situation. Amounts will vary based on whether you are planting a new lawn or improving upon an existing lawn. You can then adjust your spreader to the proper setting. For those of us without a green thumb, it’s tempting to spread additional seed because we assume this will increase the odds of at least some of the seed taking root. In fact, spreading extra seed will weaken all the seedlings and decrease the odds of a healthy, lush lawn. Follow the directions on the seed bag – the recommendations are there for a reason!
Spread starter fertilizer, such as Menards Premium Starter Fertilizer (260-1614), which contains high phosphorous for root development and potassium for hardiness. When you have finished spreading an even layer of seed and fertilizer over the entire area, lay a lawn blanket (over the seeded area to hold in seeds, fertilizer and moisture while the seeds sprout (QuickGrassPro Erosion Control Blanket, 266-6453, 6454).
Next, water the lawn. And then water it some more. New grass seed requires constant water to sprout and grow. However, it does not like to be completely saturated. Frequent, short waterings are the best way to provide constant moisture without drowning your grass seed. When the grass is two inches tall, you can switch to less frequent, deeper waterings. Once the new grass has grown higher than three inches tall, you can mow with your mower on its highest setting. Don’t mow lower than two inches until the new seed is well-established.
After about four mowings, fertilize with a fall fertilizer to give your new grass the nutrients it will need to survive the winter. Make sure you do not use any type of “weed and feed” product on young grass, as the weed killer will also kill young grass.For additional tips on how to successfully plant grass seed and grow a beautiful lawn, see Your Lawn Questions Answered and the other articles in the Lawn Care section of our Garden Center!