How to seed a lawn: a 6-step guide

How to seed a lawn: a 6-step guide



A lush green lawn can add to your home’s curb appeal. Whether new construction, fresh landscaping, or a way of filling in bare spots in your existing lawn, seeding is essential for lawn care and keeping your lawn healthy. While you may think sprinkling grass seed does the trick, proper seeding can yield far greater results and give your lawn an added boost. 

This article explains what to know before you plant grass seed, how to select the best type of grass seed for your region and climate, and the steps for seeding a lawn. 

What you need to know before planting grass seed

Before planting grass seed, it’s important to consider the ideal time of year for seeding and how to prep the lawn beforehand. 


Timing is key when planting new grass seed. Cool- and warm-season grasses require the right temperature for germination. For instance, spring or early fall is best for Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue or perennial ryegrass. These cool-season grass seeds cannot tolerate extreme temperatures during the summer and winter months. Warm-season grass seeds thrive best and germinate in warm soil. Warm-season grasses such as Bermuda, zoysia or centipede do best when planted in early summer.  

Soil pH

Good soil is essential for a healthy lawn. If unsure about your soil pH, you can pick up a soil test at your local home improvement store. This test determines the alkalinity of the soil and measures essential nutrients. Ideally, soil pH should fall between 6.0 and 7.0. Falling below 6.0 is too much acidity. To bring it back in balance, you can add ground limestone. When soil pH exceeds 7.0 and is too alkaline, adding sulfur, composted manure or compost can balance the pH level and increase phosphorus, an essential nutrient for lawn health. 

Avoid applying weed-seed preventer or fertilizer before planting grass seed. These products interfere with seed germination, and the seeds will not sprout. For optimal results, wait until you have mowed the new grass four times. 


How to select the best grass seed for your home

When choosing a grass seed for your lawn, identify the grass seed that will best fit your home and suit your region and climate. Turfgrasses in the northern region of the U.S. can differ from what grows best in the southern or Gulf regions. Below you can find features of warm- and cold-season lawn grasses. 

Warm-season grasses

Grasses such as Bahia, Bermuda, centipede, St. Augustine and zoysia can tolerate the extreme temperatures and humidity in the Gulf and southern states such as Florida and Texas. 

Bahia grass is hearty and can take a lot of foot traffic. Bermuda grass has a reputation for excessive growth and can become a problem near flower beds, but its weed resistance makes it an appealing choice. Also weed-resistant, centipede grass naturally resists pests and is a low-maintenance option for homeowners. Best in sandy areas such as the Gulf, St. Augustine grass’s wide, blue-green blades can withstand high humidity and salty sea air. Resilient against humidity, drought, cold weather and moderate foot traffic, zoysia is a popular turfgrass requiring frequent mowing. 

Cool-season grasses

Cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, fine and tall fescue, and perennial ryegrass thrive in low temperatures, including below freezing, and go dormant during the winter months. 

Cold-tolerant with a high growth rate, Kentucky bluegrass is popular in northern areas, such as Washington state. Fescue turf types include a variety of fine and tall, and can tolerate different conditions. For a year-round green lawn, overseeding with perennial ryegrass can help keep cool-season lawns lush all year. 


How to seed a new lawn in 6 steps

Whether filling in sparse areas, overseeding or starting a new lawn from scratch, the steps for seeding remain the same. The following list explains how to seed your lawn step by step.

Step 1. Prepare the ground

Before seeding, you need a smooth foundation for the grass seed. Remove rocks or other debris and fill in any low areas with soil. For compacted ground, use a tiller to break up the area into smaller, pea-size pieces. To ensure a level surface, use a garden rake over the ground. Avoid adding topsoil to recessed areas because this can transfer unwanted weeds. 

Step 2. Add nutrients

Nutrients can enrich and balance the pH of your soil and feed new grass seedlings. Apply starter fertilizer with a spreader for best coverage. Check the product bag for directions on choosing the right setting for spreading. 

Step 3. Plant the grass seed

Now it’s time to plant the grass seed. With the drop spreader, apply the grass seed around the perimeter and work inward using a crisscross pattern to ensure even coverage. If you have a new lawn or a bare spot, spread a heavy application of grass seed. Use a lighter coverage of new seed when overseeding your existing lawn. 

Step 4. Protect the grass seed

Once applied, cover the seeds with soil for protection. Sowing the seeds prevents wind or water erosion and birds or other animals from eating them. After covering the seeds, use a rake across the entire area, working the seeds into the soil. Cover the seeded area with weed-free straw or use an erosion-control blanket for added protection. 

Step 5. Water the seed

Keeping the soil moist after seeding is important. Avoid over-saturating to the point of soggy and aim for the top inch of soil to remain moist. If you live in a hot or dry region, watering once daily should provide enough water, and the earlier in the day, the better. Aeration of the soil can help improve water absorption. 

Once germinated, increase to 2 inches of moist soil until the new grass reaches approximately 3 inches tall. At that time, you can cut down on watering to two times per week and water for a longer period to reach 6 to 8 inches of soil. This technique helps encourage root growth. 

Step 6. Mow the new lawn and control weeds

When fresh grass reaches three inches tall, it’s time to mow. Keep the mower’s blade setting high to avoid weakening the grass. This higher setting ensures your new lawn grows thick and lush. Apply a crabgrass control product after mowing at least four times. It will stop the germination of this fast-growing grass. 


Tips to maintain your lawn

After seeding, there are some things you can do to maintain your lawn and avoid dead grass or patchy areas. Tips for maintaining your lawn after seeding include:

  • Limit foot traffic during the first season of growth
  • Water weekly (less if it rains)
  • Feed warm-season grasses fertilizer the following spring
  • Feed cool-season grasses fertilizer four to eight weeks following seed germination
  • Mow during growth season following the recommended height for your grass


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