Starting a lawn from seed is the cheapest and easiest way to plant grass, according to the University of Florida. Preparing the seed bed for the sowing of the grass seed is just as critical as the actual sowing. A properly prepped soil surface ensures optimal grass seed germination and fast establishment for a vigorous and dense lawn. Start your preparations at the end of summer. Michigan State University says this is ideal to give the grass adequate time to establish itself before the heat and drought of next year's summer.
Remove all surface vegetation. Dig the plants out by hand and discard them. Alternatively, spray the entire area with a systemic, broad spectrum herbicide formulated with glyphosate. Such herbicides are safe for using shortly before sowing as they do not linger in the soil, according to the University of Illinois.
Break up the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Use a garden spade or, for larger areas, a mechanical rotary tiller. If you don't own such appliances, most garden stores and hardware outlets rent out tillers.
Test the soil's pH levels. Many nurseries sell soil test kits. Alternatively, obtain a kit from your local cooperative extension office (see Resources). Grass seed germinates best when the pH ranges between 6.0 and 7.0. An application of agricultural lime can raise the pH while aluminium sulfate or urea phosphate can lower the pH. The amount of amendment needed varies according to the soil area and the level of adjustment required. Your cooperative extension office can give you further guidance.
Stir 2 to 3 inches of aged compost into the soil. This boosts the soil's organic matter content, provides micronutrients to the future grass and helps conserve soil moisture.
Spread an application of lawn starter fertilizer (e.g. 12-12-12 fertilizer), available at garden stores. Scatter the fertilizer on the soil according to its labeled guidelines, as potency varies by product. The area is now ready for planting the grass seed.