Planting Grass for a New Lawn (2024)

You've probably heard lots of advice from your neighbors about starting a new lawn. They might say that it's hard work best left to professionals or that you should bite the bullet and pay for sod. The fact is, you can save money and be successful starting a new lawn from seed, no matter what the neighbors say! All it takes is a little preparation, some quality grass seed matched to your growing conditions, well-prepared soil, and a bit of patience.

Here's how to plant grass seed for a beautiful lawn.

1. Time It Right

2. Choose the Correct Grass Seed

3. Test Your Soil

4. Prepare Your Soil

5. Even Out the Surface

6. Seed and Feed on the Same Day

7. Cover Up

8. Keep on Watering

9. Maintain Your Lawn

1. Time It Right

Make sure you wait for the right time of year to plant new grass seed. If you're planting cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, or tall fescue, the best time to plant is inspringor early fall. If you plant cool-season grasses in the summer or winter, there is a good chance the seeds won't establish or the new grass won't survive the extreme heat and cold. If you're planting warm-season grasses like zoysia, centipede, or bermudagrass, early summer is the best time to plant. Warm-season grass seed needs the soil to be warm before it will germinate.

2. Choose the Correct Grass Seed

Choose a grass that is right for your lifestyle, budget, and location. Start by thinking about the type of lawn you want and the growing conditions in your area. Will the lawn get full sun or partial? Will it get a lot of foot traffic or be used by pets? If you're unsure what type of grass you should grow, check out ourGrass Seed Identifier article, which will help you find a grass type that matches your growing conditions.

3. Test Your Soil (Optional)

Fortunately, you can get beautiful results without a soil test as long as you prepare the soil correctly before planting and follow up with proper maintenance after planting. However, if you'd prefer to know exactly what's going on in your soil, you can have your soil analyzed by your county's cooperative extension service. The results will tell you which nutrients and amendments (and how much of each) to add to your soil to improve it.

You can even do some basic soil testing yourself with a soil test kit. The ideal soil pH for most grass types is between 6.0 and 7.0. If your soil is too acidic (pH under 6.0), add groundlimestoneto the soil. If your soil is too alkaline (pH over 7.0), add compost, composted manure, or sulfur to the soil. No matter what you add, be sure to follow all product instructions.

4. Prepare Your Soil

Once you've chosen the area for your future lawn, you'll want to prepare the soil before seeding. First, use a sharp shovel to remove any existing grass, or, if it is a large area, rent a sod cutter to get the job done faster. Then, take a walk around and inspect the area. Remove large rocks and debris, fill in low spots, and if your soil is compacted, work it over with a tiller. Your goal is to break the soil down to pea- or marble-sized particles, which will serve as a welcome mat for the grass seed.

5. Even Out the Surface

You don't want peaks and valleys in your new lawn. Use a bow rake (also called a garden rake) to make the surface as even as possible. As you rake, remove any rocks or debris you come across. At this point, you might be tempted to bring in new topsoil. That's not a good idea, since it may contain weed seeds that are tough to control. Instead, to improve soil quality, rake in several bags ofScotts® Turf Builder® Lawn Soil™, which contains a blend of rich, composted materials to create an excellent seed-growing environment.

6. Seed and Feed on the Same Day

Once your soil is prepped, it's time to seed your new lawn. At the same time, it's important to give your new grass seedlings a head start by feeding them. With a granular lawn food specially formulated for new grass, likeScotts® Starter® Lawn Food for New Grass, you can feed your new lawn the same day you seed it. (Be sure to read the directions on the package since not all lawn foods are meant to be applied at seeding time.) Which goes on first, the grass seed or the fertilizer? It's up to you.

Have issues with weeds?Scotts® Turf Builder® Triple Action Built For Seedingwill feed your new grass while preventing annoying weeds like dandelions and crabgrass for up to 6 weeks. It also gives new grass a jumpstart so it can grow fast and thick.

Another option is to save yourself some time and combine the feeding and seeding with. Thanks to its unique combination of seed and fertilizer, your grass will grow twice as fast as it would if you were using seed alone, giving you a thick, green lawn in just weeks.

Different types of grass seed and fertilizer require different spreader settings for optimal coverage. Check the bag to make sure you're choosing the right setting for your individual spreader. (Don't have a spreader?Find the right one for your lawn right here.) Apply the product to the perimeter first, which allows you to fill in the rest of the lawn without worrying about missing any of the edges. Similar to a mowing pattern, seed and feed your lawn with slightly overlapping passes. Avoid getting grass seed or fertilizer in your garden beds or on your sidewalk or driveway.

7. Cover Up

After you finish laying down the grass seed and lawn food, cover both with a thin layer of soil to help keep the grass seed from drying out and washing away. You can do this by laying down a small layer (less than 1/4inch) ofScotts® Turf Builder® Lawn Soil™over the seeded area and gently dragging the back of a rake over it. On hills, mulch with a thin layer of straw to keep seeds from washing away; just be sure you can plainly see the seedbed beneath the straw. You can also mulch the rest of your new lawn with straw to help cut back on water use.

8. Keep on Watering

When watering a newly seeded lawn, the key is to keep the top inch of soil consistently moist, but not soggy. You will likely need to mist the seeded area once a day, possibly more if it's hot and dry outside. Once the seeds start to germinate, aim to keep the top 2 inches of soil moist until the new grass reaches a mowing height of around 3 inches. After that, reduce watering to about twice per week, soaking the soil more deeply (about 6 to 8 inches) each time to encourage grass roots to grow down deep in the soil.

9. Maintain Your Lawn

Once your new lawn reaches a mowing height of at least 3 inches, you'll want to cut it. Make sure you only remove the top 1/3 of the grass blades when you mow. Adjust your mower to a high setting to keep the lawn nice and thick; when you cut it too short, it weakens the grass, allowing weeds to sneak in. While the grass is still new and developing, avoid as much foot traffic on the lawn as possible. After 6 to 8 weeks, you can start a regular lawn fertilizer program to help keep your new grass thick and lush.

For more tips on caring for your new grass, check out ourBest Ways to Grow Newly Planted Grass article. You may also enjoy all of the information found inThe Questions People Ask Most About Grass Seed. The more you know about grass, the easier time you'll have growing it.

Planting Grass for a New Lawn (2024)


How do I prepare my yard for new grass? ›

Remove rocks or debris left behind by construction or nature. Rake the area with a yard or garden rake to smooth the surface and eliminate dirt clods and high or low spots. Avoid using any weed killer before or after seeding your new lawn. Residue can prevent seed from germinating or kill tender young grass plants.

Can I just throw grass seed down on an existing lawn? ›

When you just sprinkle grass seed on an existing lawn, it ends up just sitting atop of the soil and a lot of it may never germinate. Then homeowners end up asking the question, why can't I get my grass to grow? In reality, the best practice is to have lawn aeration performed followed by overseeding the lawn.

How do you prepare the ground for new grass seed? ›

There are four basic steps to preparing ground for grass seed: clear, loosen, level and rake. Following these steps to work the top six inches of soil into a bed of clear and level pea- or marble-sized particles will produce the best results.

Do you have to remove old grass to plant new grass? ›

Preparing for your new lawn includes removing or killing the existing lawn, which can take time depending on the method you use. You'll also need to determine how many grass plugs or how much grass seed to purchase.

Should I put down topsoil before grass seed? ›

Prep the lawn for seeding

Luckily, getting it right is easy. 'To prepare your soil before planting grass seed, simply till and loosen the soil to create the best growing conditions – you don't need to put down topsoil,' says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love.

Will grass grow on hard packed dirt? ›

Will Grass Grow on Hard Packed Dirt? If you do nothing and simply throw some seeds into hard-packed dirt, the chances of grass growing are slim. You might get some isolated turfs but not a uniform lawn.

Should grass seed be raked into soil? ›

A healthy lawn starts with ensure the seed is securely in the soil. Use the back of a plastic rake or a hoe to gently work the seeds into the soil. “You're not pushing the seeds in,” Angelov explains. “You're just distributing them evenly and getting them just a little more nestled.”

Will grass seed grow if you just sprinkle it on the ground? ›

If you simply toss the grass seed onto the soil, you will end up with poor germination. Thoroughly rake the area to remove any loose debris and to create grooves in the soil. These grooves will help increase the seed-to-soil contact that is imperative for germination.

Should grass seed be soaked before planting? ›

Turfgrass seeds can be soaked in water for 3 to 5 days to germinate. Kentucky Bluegrass (KBG) is slow to germinate and should be soaked for five days. See the chart below for recommendations on how many days to soak the most popular cool-season turfgrass seed.

How many weeks should you water new grass seed? ›

Twice daily watering is essential until the new grass is up, then after one more week, reduce to once per day. Adjust this pattern according to season and temperature demands.

Can I throw grass seed on top of grass? ›

Overseeding can help you get back to the thick, lush, green lawn you've always wanted. By spreading grass seed over your existing lawn, you can thicken up the thin areas, and your lawn will start to look terrific again. (This is different from reseeding, which is when you start over and plant a completely new lawn.)

How long does new grass take to root? ›

Stage 1: Shallow Roots (10-14 days) With the right preparation, your sod can start to establish shallow roots in about 10 to 14 days. The key to ensuring healthy shallow root formation is to start watering your new grass immediately after the sod is placed and continue to do so daily for the next week.

What not to do with new grass? ›

It is important to not over water and drown the new grass as that can kill the new grass and prevent germination. Once you see the soil is no longer accepting the water, it is best to stop. If you can only water once a day, I'd recommend doing it in the morning.

How to plant grass on bare dirt? ›

You could water the bare spots well, drop the seeds and cover with composted manure, compost or peat moss. Keep moist until you see sprouts. It'll probably work but it'll work better even if you just do some vigorous raking to rough up the surface.

Do you need to remove grass before tilling? ›

Clear away rocks, sticks and other loose foreign items that can be hazardous to you and the tiller's tines. Do not leave sod mixed in with the soil. The grass can become tangled in the tines and must be removed. Also, grass may begin to resurface as temperatures rise.

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