Of all of the common methods for building a new lawn (sodding, sprigging, seeding and plugging), seeding can be the least expensive initially. It can also be a long, drawn out series of failures that leave you with spotty results and only patches of lawn grass with weeds-of-opportunity in between.
Knowledge and planning will ultimately determine which outcome you will experience.
Critical success factors
- Choose the right grass
- Site planning (slope, drainage & runoff)
- Soil preparation
The right grass selection
Aside from soil preparation, choosing the right type of grass will have the greatest impact on the long-term success of your lawn. In order to make the right choice, you need to know the climate zone in which you live and have a good understanding of the amount and proportion of sun & shade which different areas of your landscape experience. All of this information is important to help you choose the best fit for your location. Some warm season turf varieties include:
- Bermuda Grass
- St Augustine
- Centipede Grass
- Buffalo Grass
Preparing the seedbed
With lawn seeding, preparation is the most critical part. The condition of the soil has to be ideal to coax the tiny grass seeds into germinating. You first need to remove any areas of old lawn. Renting a sod cutter for $75 to $100 a day allows you to slice off old grass and weeds at the roots. Then it’s time to turn the soil with a rotary tiller.
Using a pointed shovel, dig up all rocks and roots that are visible, including any stones that won’t fit through the tines of a garden rake. Fill holes and depressions with topsoil dug up from any high spots.
After testing the soil tested for pH, add lime, peat moss, or sulfur to balance the pH level and boosts nutrients. Distribute peat moss with a shovel from a wheelbarrow. For lime or sulfur, apply it with a walk-behind broadcast spreader, set to the appropriate distribution rate. Coat the entire area, making sure you don’t miss any spots.
Next, use the broadcast spreader to apply starter fertilizer to the entire area. Make sure the spreader is adjusted to distribute at the rate outlined on the fertilizer packaging.
Use a metal garden rake to carefully work the lime (or sulfur) and fertilizer into the top inch of soil. Finish-grade the soil by raking it level.
Disperse grass seed evenly over the soil, cranking the handle of a hand-held broadcast spreader. For larger lawns, use a walk-behind spreader.
Immediately after sowing the seeds, lightly water the area with a fan-or oscillating-type sprinkler. For large areas you will need several sprinklers or an irrigation system to ensure that the entire area gets dampened. For the first 8 to 10 days, water three to four times daily, but only for 5 to 10 minutes. Avoid over-watering. For the next week, water once or twice daily to encourage root development in the seedlings. Slowly work back to watering once every few days until your lawn is established.
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