How to sow grass seed for the perfect lawn
There are a multitude of reasons why sowing grass seeds are the better alternative to purchasing and laying turf - here are some simple steps to take when seeding lawns to maximise your success and ensure strong healthy growth.
Firstly, the process is easy, the grass seeds are more affordable than purchasing turf, there is a wider range of fast growing seed mixtures, plus seeds are secured in containers meaning that you can store them until the conditions are ideal to use them. Turf on the other hand may deteriorate if not laid almost immediately. Furthermore, mid-spring is the perfect time to sow grass seeds, however seeds can also germinate in autumn. The warm soil, high moisture levels and mild weather is perfect.
Selecting your seed mix
To grow an envy-worthy garden, firstly choose the right seed mixture for your garden. Durability, suitability, and maintainability are key factors to consider when selecting your best grass seed mix. The first step is to purchase a high-quality grass seed from a reputable source. Cheaper brands risk containing poorer quality ingredients in their mix such as agricultural grade grasses - only really suitable for grazing cattle and won't survive short mowing, rather than horticultural grade grasses, which may be slower to germinate but will produce a far better lawn. So start with a great product to achieve great results.
Tip: The general options available are general purpose lawn, luxury lawn, and shady lawn. Some fast growing grass seeds are also available and will advertise fast germination rates of usually about 5-7 days.
Read the information available carefully and purchase the best grass seed mix most appropriate for your needs.
Different types of grasses
Festuca rubra commutata - chewings fescue
A fine leaved grass that produces a dense sward, tolerant of close mowing and is also good in drought and shade, these grasses are suitable for all ornamental lawns and landscape areas.
Festuca rubra rubra – strong creeping red fescue
A fine leaved grass that is suitable for many conditions and areas, fast to establish with high shoot density along with good drought and shade tolerance, can be used in a wide range of areas.
Lolium perenne – perennial ryegrass
A fast establishing grass with good shoot density along very high wear tolerance, can be used in a wide range of situations and provides a very hard wearing surface in lawns and landscape.
Festuca trachyphylla – hard fescue
A fine leaved grass that is excellent in dry and shady conditions also tolerant of close mowing so making it very suitable for ornamental lawns.
Festuca rubra litoralis - slender creeping red fescue
A very fine leaved, dense grass, tolerant of dry, shady conditions and close mowing. Will thrive in a wide range of situations and is very suitable for ornamental lawns.
Preparing your garden
As with most gardening projects, effective preparation plays a huge part in successfully growing the perfect lawn.
To start with, the surface area should be cleared efficiently before you plant the mix. Ensure that you eliminate all weeds to the best of your ability. We advise that you do not use residual weed killer in this instance as it will remain in the bed and will restrict the grass from growing. Instead use weed killer or weed by hand.
Continue to prepare the seed bed by digging the site and adding well-rotted manure/organic matter or specific lawn soil to hold in moisture. This is especially important if you are working with particularly sandy soil. Also, to help even out the ground tread the surface and rake where needed. Next, we advise that you rake in general fertiliser.
Fallow the site
If possible and time allows, leave the soil to allow the dormant weed seeds to germinate. After 10-14 days, kill off this top growth with a non-residual weed killer.
Apply a general fertiliser to the surface and rake in while you level again. A balanced plant food ensures quick establishment of new grass.
Sowing your seeds
When it comes to how to plant grass seeds, follow the advice on the package for guidance on quantity necessary for your surface area, then begin by dividing the area into small plots.
Sow half of the total seeds over the full surface area in parallel lengthways rows. Next, repeat this action with the rest of the seed mix, dispersing them in parallel width way rows. Next, rake the whole area to ensure the seeds are covered with soil.
Water lightly if the weather is dry for the two to three days that follow. The germination process should take somewhere between seven and ten days.
Keep the soil moist
In autumn and early spring, rain should keep the soil moist enough to ensure fast seed germination and subsequent growth. In dry weather, you may need to water the soil occasionally in the evening.
Germination will be seen in 2-3 weeks depending on temperature. the warmer the ground the faster growing the grass seed will be. Lightly trim the grass to a minimum of 4cm when it is 5-8cm (2-3in) long overall. Then mow every couple of weeks gradually reducing the cutting height to 2.5cm (1in). Ensure a sharp blade is used when you mow to avoid causing damage by ripping or shredding the tops of the new grass blades.
Wait at least six months before applying a grass feed and weed product. Liquid grass fertilisers and soluble grass fertilisers are also available, which may state on pack that they can be used on new lawns. Less is more… don't overfeed, new grass is soft and can easily be damaged by an over-application of lawn feed. The most important thing for new lawns is water.
Birds are a problem where sowing seeds is involved. Birds may choose to disturb the bed by ‘dust bathing.’ To avoid this problem, cover small areas of freshly sown ground with netting, which will benefit the germination of the seeds.
If you are working with a larger area, bird tape may be the fix you need. Or, as a precaution plant extra lawn seeds to compensate.
As previously advised, lawn weeds are easiest to avoid by removing before and during preparation. However, there is always a chance weeds will appear in the new grass. Weeds are best removed by hand.
Please note: selective weed killers should not be used on recently sown grass, check the packs for information, most lawns need to be 6 months old before this type of weedkiller can be used.
Check out our video tutorials for how to achieve a great looking lawn on our YouTube channel here.