National Gardening Association

Provided By: National Gardening Association


Materials Needed

  • high-quality grass seed
  • lime or sulfur
  • compost
  • fertilizer
  • rake
  • roller
  • spreader
  • rototiller
  • shovel
  • mulch
  • water sprinkler

Step 1: Know Your Grasses

Turfgrasses are broadly grouped as warm- or cool-season, based upon their optimum temperatures for growth. Generally it's best to use warm-season grasses such as Bermuda grass, centipede grass, St. Augustine grass and zoysia in southern areas (their best growth occurs above 80 degrees F). Use cool-season grasses such as fescues, Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye grass, in northern areas (their best growth happens between 60 degrees and 75 degrees F). Choose grasses that require less water, such as Bermuda grass, buffalo grass and the improved tall fescues, for dry-climate lawns. Tip: For an attractive winter lawn while the permanent grasses are dormant, overseed warm-season Bermuda grass or zoysia lawns with fast-germinating perennial rye grass seed in mid-October.


Step 2: Amend Soil

Before seeding, spread a 2- to 3-inch-layer of compost, either dolomitic limestone or sulfur, to adjust pH as necessary, and organic or slow-release fertilizer. Use the results of a soil test to determine the correct amount of limestone or sulfur to apply. Mix these amendments into the soil with a rototiller.

Step 3: Rake and Roll

Rake and level the tilled soil, adjusting the soil level to eliminate high and low spots and to slope soil away from buildings. Roll with a heavy water-filled lawn roller to make a firm bed for planting the seed.

Step 4: Sow Seed

Adjust spreader to apply seeds at one-half the recommended rate on the package. Sow seed by walking back and forth across the lawn, overlapping rows by an inch or two. Then, walk at right angles to the first sowing to apply the second half of the seed. Roll the seedbed again.

Step 5: Water and Mulch

Cover lightly with mulch, such as chopped straw, to maintain soil moisture and deter birds from eating sprouted seed. Avoid hay mulch that contains weed seeds. Water with a sprinkler as needed to keep the soil uniformly moist until seeds germinate and become firmly established. Begin mowing with a sharp-bladed lawnmower when grass is about 1/3 taller than the desired lawn height. Caution: Avoid using weed-and-feed fertilizer because it may damage newly sprouting grass.

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