Not every lawn can be saved. Sometimes there’s just too much work to be done or you’re in the wrong season to bring a dying, or completely dead, lawn back to life. At that point, it’s can be better to just pull the plug and start fresh with seeding a new lawn. Planting a fresh lawn isn’t a quick job, but it’ll take less work and require less attention than rehabilitating an ailing lawn.
Some people will swear that laying down sod is the way to go for a new lawn. While it will work, seeding your lawn is far less expensive and you don’t have to worry about that expensive sod dying before the roots set in your soil. If you’re willing to put in the work, follow these tips for a nicer, healthier lawn.
HOW TO PLANT GRASS SEED
Pick the Right Seed & Season
There are cool season grasses and warm season grasses. Which one you pick will affect when you can plant it so it can make full use of its growing season. Planting a warm season grass in the cooler months, or vice versa, will cause your new lawn to have a shallow root system that will struggle to absorb enough water to keep your lawn healthy.
Warm season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine need to be planted in late Spring to early Summer so they can germinate through the warm months. Cool season grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescues, and Bentgrasses need to be seeded in early to mid Spring or mid Fall depending on where you live. Planting outside of that will expose the seeds to extreme temperatures which can kill the seeds.
REMOVE THE OLD LAWN
Once you have the seed picked and the time is right, it’s time to rip out the old lawn. There are a few ways to go about it and it mainly depends on the size of your lawn. If you have a small lawn, you can remove your lawn with a manual sod cutter or a square pointed shovel. It’ll be hard work, but your lawn isn’t large enough to warrant renting a gas powered sod cutter from Home Depot or Lowes.
If you have a big lawn, you definitely want to rent one of these. It’ll probably run you about $75 – $100 a day, but you’ll save an enormous amount of time and you won’t be laid up for a week because you blew out your back.
Regardless of which method you use, make sure you get rid of every trace of the old lawn. Grass blades, roots, all of it. Cut it out, scoop it up, and dispose of it. Once that’s done, you’re ready to prep the soil.
PREPARE THE SOIL
Well prepared soil is key in giving your new lawn the best chance to take root. Rocks, roots. sticks, and any other debris needs to be systematically removed from every square inch of your bare lawn and when you’re left with nothing but earth, it’s time to till the soil and repeat the process again.
The primary goal here is to have nothing larger than the size of a pea or a marble in your soil. This allows your grass seed to set a thick and uniform root system throughout your yard. Once that’s done, you’ll need a tamper to level the surface of your soon to be new lawn. You don’t want peaks and valleys that can be exacerbated by inclement weather. This will also cause your grass seed to not be spread evenly which can leave room for weeds to take root.
SPREAD THE GRASS SEED
When your soil is flat and free of debris, it’s time to spread your grass seed. You may be tempted to spread it by hand, but take it from us, you want to use a broadcast spreader. Like we said before, you want to have uniform coverage and growth throughout your lawn and using the spreader will guarantee that coverage. A handheld spreader can do the job, but we prefer the walk-behind variety. The only thing you have to focus on is maintaining the same walking speed while you walk your lawn.
Our preferred method for spreading is to walk your lawn in one direction and once you’ve covered it, turn 90° and spread in the opposite direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s a criss cross pattern or a grid, it simply helps ensure even coverage and we’ve gotten the best results using this method.
WATER & KEEP WATERING
The first time you water is very important because the seeds are at their most vulnerable. They’re on the topmost layer of soil and are exposed to the element as well as birds who will chow down on them the first chance they get. You’ll want to soak 6” deep during this first session using the mist setting on a hand sprayer or a gentle sprinkler.
Over the next ~14 days, you want to make sure that you water your lawn 3 – 4 times per day, at minimum, to keep your soil moist until your grass is about 1/2″ high. At this point, you’ll be able to swap to a once a week watering schedule to encourage deep root growth that will help your lawn get through possible droughts down the line.
We’d like to say that you can’t water your lawn enough, but that’s not true. Over watering will erode your soil and wash away the grass seed before it can take root. Take your time, be diligent, and be consistent with watering your lawn.