Best Practices for Planting Grass for a New Lawn
Planting a new lawn involves implementing some best practices for planting grass including picking the right time, choosing the best grass seed, examining your soil, preparing the soil, smoothen the surface, doing both the feeding and peeing on the right time, and continuing to water. These may seem like a daunting task for most homeowners, especially if they are undertaking a landscaping project of this scale for the first time. Therefore, Edenapp brings you all the information on how to plant a new lawn so that you can successfully build your landscape.
Before you start the actual planting process, there are certain points you need to consider, like the right timing to plant the lawn, the type of your soil and the right grass seed for your geographical location. It is important to consider these things in advance as this forms the base of your planting process.
After this, you can prepare your soil, plant the seed, fertilize the soil and irrigate the planted area. In the following section, Edenapp will be providing detailed information on all of these steps and processes, including tips for growing grass from seed. So let’s dive right into it!
1. Pick the Right Time
If you want a lush, green and healthy lawn, it is important to know the best time to plant grass seed according to your grass type and geographical location. Lawn grass is of mainly two types – cool-season grass and warm-season grass.
Cool-season grass is typically found on the lawns in the northern regions, and warm-season grass is prevalent in the warmer climates of the southern region. In between both these regions is a belt called ‘Transition Zone’ where an overlap of warm-season and cool-season grass can be found.
The best time to plant cool-season grass, like perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue and some varieties of tall fescue, is when the temperatures cool down during late summer and early fall. Typically, this is between mid-August and mid-October, depending on your specific geographical location.
The best time to plant warm-season grass like bermudagrass, bahiagrass, zoysia, centipede and St. Augustine grass is when the temperature gets warm during late spring and early fall. A good gauge of this time period is when the temperatures are consistently above 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Following the natural growth patterns and timing of the grass you want to plant is the best way to ensure that your planting is successful and you get the lush and thick lawn you desire at the end of the process. It is important to pick the right time to plant each grass type as its natural growing period will allow for easy growth without having to compete against the conditions.
2. Select the Right Grass Seed
While having knowledge of the two main grass types is important to plant your lawn, it does not stop there. Once you have decided whether warm-season or cold-season grass will fit your lawn better, you have to decide which grass within those categories will be best for you. For example, if you live in the northern regions and need to plant cool-season grass, then how do you determine whether you should plant perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue or the turf-type tall fescue? The answer to this depends on the factors given below:
Acidity: The pH of your soil will determine which grass seed will germinate healthily in your landscape. Some grass seeds like Kentucky bluegrass, bahiagrass and centipede require a more acidic soil, while others, like perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, bermuda and St. Augustine grass, have a wider range of pH adaptability and can tolerate slightly alkaline soils.
Therefore, you need to do a soil test to know your soil pH levels before you decide on the grass seed for your lawn, as you might have to make amendments to your soil if it doesn’t match the requirements of the grass type you want to plant.
Shade: If your lawn has a lot of trees and therefore receives a lot of shade, then you need to choose a grass that is more shade tolerant than others. If you are planting warm-season grass, then St. Augustine grass and zoysia will be good choices for you as they have excellent shade tolerance. On the other hand, bermudagrass will not be a wise choice as it has very poor shade tolerance.
For cool-season grasses, fine fescue and turf-type tall fescues have high shade tolerance, and the perennial ryegrass has moderate to high shade tolerance. However, the Kentucky bluegrass requires full sun exposure and should not be planted on shady lawns as it will not thrive.
Traffic: For lawns that will see high use with playful kids and pets, you should select the grass seed that will give you a high traffic tolerant grass. For cool-season lawns, this could be Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and turf-type tall fescue, while for warm-season grass, you can choose zoysia or bermudagrass.
Fine fescue and centipede grass do not lend themselves to wear and tear that well, so you should only plant these if there will be no walking or playing on your lawn.
Maintenance: Some homeowners find joy in completing lawn tasks like fertilizing, overseeding, irrigating and mowing as a routine while others prefer not to do too much yard work or they might not have the time to do it. The type of grass you want to plant also depends on which of these categories you fall into.
Each grass type grows at a different rate and therefore has different requirements for mowing, irrigation and fertilization to produce a high-quality lawn. Turfgrass that has low maintenance levels needs to be fertilized two times a year at the most and is drought-tolerant.
3. Examine Your Soil
Performing a soil test for your lawn will help you determine if you need to make any amendments before you start the planting process. To do this, you will need a garden trowel, a clean bucket and a plastic container.
Follow these instructions for the right way to collect a soil sample:
- Clean the tools that you are going to use thoroughly and make sure they are dry.
- Dig five holes about 6 to 8 inches deep in the grass planting area. Make sure these holes span the entire area.
- Take half-inch slices of soil from around the edge of all the holes and place them in the bucket.
- Mix all the soil you have put into your bucket.
- Spread out the soil on a newspaper to allow it to dry out.
- Collect a pint of this dry soil in the plastic container and submit it to your local county extension office for testing.
Once you receive the results, you can go about making amendments as required. If your soil is too acidic, you can use limestone or garden lime to reduce the acidity. If your soil leans towards the alkaline side, you can use sulfur to reduce the alkalinity.
4. Get Your Soil Ready
To prepare your soil for the planting process, you need to make sure the site is clear of any existing grass and debris like rocks that are left by construction or are present naturally. For smaller-sized areas, you can use a shovel or a garden rake for scratching the surface of the land to about 2 inches and digging 6 inches deep to remove any existing roots or rocks.
For larger areas, you can use a rotary tiller/rototiller to break up the soil and remove any clumps of the soil. The goal while preparing the soil is to loosen compacted soil and make sure the soil is broken down into pea-sized particles. This will ensure that when the grass seeds germinate, the roots will have enough room to grow and develop.
Loose soil, free of any debris, will also provide good drainage quality to the soil and make sure there is proper air and nutrient flow.
A point to consider while breaking up the soil is to ensure the soil does not become too fine as this fine soil will clump back together pretty quickly, making the land compact and affecting drainage. The soil should be in small, pea-sized clumps, as mentioned earlier.
Do not use any weed killers at this point because they will hinder the growth of the new grass seed. If any weed killer or herbicides have been used at the site recently, wait at least three weeks before beginning the planting process.
5. Smooth the Surface
Once all the debris has been removed, and the compacted soil has been loosened and broken down, it is time to level the soil. It is important not to have any peaks or valleys on your planting site as this will cause water to roll off the heights and pool in the lower areas, simultaneously causing drought and flood-like conditions in different areas of your lawn.
Use a garden or yard rake to rake the soil to level the surface. Fill in low spots and break up any large clumps of soil you find during this process. You can use the tines of the rake to bust any large soil clumps if required.
At the end of this step, the soil in the entire planting area should be smooth and level.
6. Do both seeding and feeding on the same day
Another factor that will determine whether your lawn will bloom lush and green or if the seeds will die, is fertilizer. New grass seeds need to be fertilized at the right time to ensure they have enough nutrients to germinate healthily. Fertilizing while planting a new lawn happens right before seeding or while seeding.
Now the question arises as to what kind of fertilizer you need to use. Should you use a regular fertilizer or a starter fertilizer? To answer this question right, you need to first understand the difference between regular fertilizer and starter fertilizer.
Starter fertilizer differs from regular fertilizer in terms of chemical composition; they typically contain 20 percent or more phosphorus, while regular fertilizers contain more amounts of nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium.
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for root growth and development. Therefore new grass seeds require more of this nutrient. Some starter fertilizers also contain a good amount of quick-release nitrogen, which boosts the intake of phosphorus and encourages grass leaf growth. Regular fertilizers contain a low proportion of phosphorus as established lawns do not require as much phosphorus. In some states of the U.S., the use of phosphorus is even restricted unless a new lawn is being planted.
After knowing the difference between regular and starter fertilizers, it might be a lot easier to pick starter fertilizer as the one you need in this process of planting grass for a new lawn. Now comes the application part.
As mentioned earlier, fertilizer can be applied before or during the seeding process; it just has to be done on the same day to provide ample nutrients to the seeds.
Use a fertilizer spreader to distribute the fertilizer evenly throughout the entire planting area. For smaller-sized lawns, you can use a shoulder strap fertilizer spreader, while for larger lawns, you will need a walk-behind broadcast spreader to make the job easier.
Once you have fertilized the entire area, you can start planting your seed by using the same spreader after cleaning the spreader thoroughly. Load the seeds in the spreader and distribute them evenly throughout the prepared area. Edenapp recommends spreading seeds around the perimeter first and then covering the rest of the area as this will give you a clear picture of the area you need to fill. Also, spread the seeds in overlapping passes in opposite directions (a pattern you would follow while mowing) to ensure full coverage.
Once the fertilizer and seeds have been applied and spread, you need to protect the seeds from becoming bird food and prevent them from being washed away. There are two ways to do this:
- You can cover the seed with organic materials like a thin layer of soil or mulch. If you are using soil, spread a thin layer of soil over the seeds and then lightly pass a rake over it to even the layer out. Make sure you don’t put too much soil; the seed should not be planted more than ¼ inch deep, or they won’t receive enough sunlight to germinate.If you are using mulch to cover the seeds, you can use materials like weed-free straw, mushroom soil and screened compost. This will help retain moisture and add to the nutrient quantity of your soil once they break down.
- Your second option is to use an erosion control mat to cover the area. These mats are biodegradable and can be easily unrolled over the entire area without much fuss. Though a point to note here is that these mats are a bit more expensive to use than the organic materials mentioned in the first point.
8. Continue to Water
Newly planted grass needs constant watering to germinate. The soil needs to be kept moist consistently; therefore, Edenapp recommends watering every day or twice a day if the temperature conditions are too hot and dry so that the top inch of the soil remains wet always. The key here is to not water too deeply until the seeds germinate, or the soil will become soggy, and the seeds will drown.
Once the seeds germinate, you can reduce the frequency of your watering to about once every other day. This irrigation can be a bit deeper, say about two inches. After the grass reaches two inches in height, you can start following the deep and infrequent watering pattern (once or twice a week) to about a depth of 3 inches or more to encourage the development of a deep root system for your lawn.
The time for germination depends on your grass type. Warm-season grasses like bermuda, can take more than a month to germinate, while Kentucky bluegrass takes about two to three weeks and fescues take about ten days. Perennial ryegrass germinates really fast in about three to five days after planting. Therefore, there is no set time period for your watering schedule; it depends on the type of grass you have planted on your lawn. If you have planted a grass mix, then all the different species will germinate at different times, so don’t be alarmed if your lawn looks patchy in the beginning.
The watering patterns and requirements of new and established lawns are different, and to understand the differences, you can read our article on how to water new and established lawns.
If you are planting a new lawn, installing an irrigation system that matches your grass and soil requirements is recommended by Edenapp. Since there is no one-size-fits-all trope in irrigation, having a custom irrigation system installed will make sure your lawn is watered efficiently and correctly, saving you excess water usage and protecting the health of your landscape. You can consult a landscape professional regarding this.
9. Take Care of Your Lawn
Taking care of your newly planted lawn is just as important as the preparation for planting and the actual planting process, as this will ensure your grass seeds germinate at a high rate and create a lush and thick lawn. Maintaining your lawn after planting involves the following aspects:
Mowing: When it comes to mowing a newly planted lawn, you should wait till the grass reaches about 3 inches or one and half times the recommended mowing height for your grass type. While mowing, follow the best practices and do not cut off more than one-third of the grass at one time. Mowing the grass too short stresses it and leaves it more susceptible to weed invasion, pests and diseases. Another point to consider while mowing is the sharpness of your mower blades.
Fertilizing: If you have applied starter fertilizer while planting the grass seed then you can wait six to eight weeks before applying regular fertilizer to your grass according to the soil requirements. Fertilizing every six to eight weeks is important to ensure your new lawn has ample nutrients and can fight off weeds.
Weed Control: It is recommended by Edenapp to wait till you have mowed your lawn at least four times before you use weed killers as these will affect the growth of your grass seeds if applied before that.
Traffic: Newly planted lawns are extremely vulnerable as the grass seedlings are fragile and susceptible to being pulled or damaged by foot traffic. Therefore you should wait at least eight weeks before you start walking on the lawn or letting your kids or pets play in the grass.
How to Prepare Lawn for Seeding
It is important to prepare the lawn correctly so that the seeding process goes smoothly and gives a higher yield. The steps involved in this are given below:
- Get rid of any existing vegetation: If your planting site has any existing plants or weeds, you need to clear the area of them and make sure that their seeds and vegetative parts don’t remain in the ground to prevent them from growing again. This ensures that there is no competition for your fragile grass seeds to germinate. You can use a non-selective herbicide for this. After the application, wait three weeks before starting the next step so that the herbicide does not affect the grass seed growth.
- Test the soil pH: Perform a soil test by completing the steps mentioned in one of the sections above to determine if you need to fix the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. The soil test will also help you recognize and correct any nutrient deficiencies in your soil.
- Remove debris and till your soil: You need to ensure that the planting site is free of any debris like rocks and stones to ensure that the root development of the grass is not blocked. For smaller-sized lawns, you can use a landscaping or garden rake to rake the area and remove all the soil clumps and rocks. For larger-sized lawns, you will need a rototiller to till the ground to loosen it and remove debris. If you are planning to add topsoil on top of the existing soil before planting, you should do so while tilling the ground to ensure it is integrated well and prevent soil interfaces. Tilling your soil will loosen compact soil and provide adequate air, water and nutrient flow to the grass seeds.
- Install an irrigation system: If this is a completely new site that does not have an irrigation system, now is a good time to install one. Consult a landscape professional, and they will inspect your land and install an irrigation system that will match the requirements of the grass type you are planning on planting and your soil type. The irrigation system you install should provide head-to-head coverage, which implies that one sprinkler head should shoot water till the sprinkler head that is adjacent to it. This will ensure that there are no dry spots in your yard.
- Level your soil: After the irrigation system has been installed, level the entire planting area using a garden or landscaping rake to ensure that there are no high or low spots. If you find any low spots, fill them in. Also, remove any remaining debris you find during this process and break down large clumps of soil into pea-sized particles.
- Roll your yard if required: Not all yards need this, but after tilling, light soil types become too fluffy. One way you can figure this out is by walking on the land after tilling. If your feet start sinking a few inches into the soil, then your soil is too fluffy and needs to be rolled to make it firmer. You can use a lawn roller to firm up your soil so that all the water and nutrients do not drain off it when you plant the new grass seeds.
How to Select the Best Grass Seed for Your Lawn
All grass is not the same. This is the first thing you need to know when selecting the best grass seed for your lawn. Grasses have different characteristics and preferences based on the type, and even within the same type, different species react to growing conditions differently. It sounds a little complicated, doesn’t it? No need to worry; Edenapp brings you all the information you need to select the right grass seed for a thriving lawn.
Here are the factors you need to consider when selecting your grass seed:
- Region: Your geographic location will determine which grass will survive when you plant and which will die. If you live in the northern regions, you should choose cool-season grasses like perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, turf-type tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, while if you live in the southern regions, you should plant warm-season grasses like bermuda, centipede and zoysia grasses. If you belong to the transitional zone, then this choice is a little more ambiguous. Therefore you should consult your local county extension for the correct information.
- Soil Type: Your soil type – sandy, clay, acidic, alkaline – will also play a role in determining the right grass seed for your lawn. Warm-season grasses like bermuda, bahia and bentgrass tend to grow on sandy soils, while most cold-season grasses (except tall fescue) do not. Most grass types require slightly acidic soil. Therefore if your soil is too alkaline, you will need to make the appropriate amendments.
- Sun Exposure: The shade tolerance of grass types differs according to the species; while some require full sun exposure, others have a certain amount of shade tolerance and can grow in partial sun exposure. Bermuda and Kentucky bluegrass require full sun exposure while others like fescues, perennial ryegrass, St. Augustine grass, zoysia and centipede grasses can tolerate partial shade.
- Maintenance Requirements: The maintenance requirements like mowing, irrigation, fertilization, etc., differ according to grass type. For example, warm-season grasses like bahia, bermuda and buffalo grasses are drought tolerant and therefore do not require frequent watering. Kentucky bluegrass, on the other hand, requires frequent irrigation and has good cold tolerance.
- Traffic: Some grasses tend to handle high foot traffic better and repair faster than others. So if your lawn is going to see a lot of activity, you should choose to plant one of these grasses – Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, bahia, bermuda, buffalo or zoysia grass.
What is the Best Way to Get Grass to Grow?
When you plant a lawn, there are generally two results – a thriving lawn or dying seeds; and no one wants the second one. So, what is the best way to get grass to grow and not die? The process of growing grass right begins even before the planting of the grass seeds.
First, you need to determine some factors like the right grass type according to your region and the growing conditions in your soil and prepare the land before you plant the seeds. While planting the seeds, you need to remember to fertilize the soil on the same day as well to ensure the seeds have enough nutrients to sprout.
Irrigate frequently after planting so that one inch of the soil remains moist at all times. Once the seeds have germinated, you can slowly start reducing the frequency of watering. Mowing should wait till the grass has grown one and a half times its recommended mowing height.
As your lawn is vulnerable during the growing process, you should not use it or walk on it till two months after planting at the least. A little bit of patience at the beginning will ensure a long life for your lawn.
Each of these steps has been explained in detail by Edenapp in the above sections, and it is important that you follow all the instructions given so that you can get the lawn of your dreams at the end of the process. For more information on how to grow grass, you can read the article by Edenapp.
What should a Grass Plant Look Like
While one of the most common signs of healthy grass is the absence of disease and pests, there are some less obvious ones as well, like the color of the grass and the absence of weeds.
Healthy lawns typically have grass that is dark green in color. If your lawn has yellow or dull grass, then it is an indication of a lack of water and nutrients. Ensure that the water requirements of the grass (according to its type) and nutritional needs are adequately met to restore the rich color.
Another way to check if the grass is healthy is whether weeds invade your lawn frequently or not. Healthy grass that has all its nutritional, irrigation and mowing requirements met will be able to fight off weeds effectively. If you are constantly facing weed problems, then you should monitor your maintenance routine and see what changes you can make.
If you require professional service for planting your lawn to ensure that you get the best result for your investments, you can contact Edenapp for a consultation. We offer landscaping services throughout most of the U.S. and even some cities in Canada.
Lawn care is all in the details, and we take care of every single one to give you the lawn of your dreams. Contact us today!