Taking the time to prepare the planting area prior to seeding grass will help you to create a soft, lush lawn in your home landscape. Seeding a lawn is lower in cost, easier to install and creates a deeper root structure than laying sod. The best time to seed a lawn is during the fall season, as the seed does not dry out as quickly and there is more rainfall to assist with the germination process.
Prepare the lawn area by working the soil with a rotary tiller to a depth of 10 inches. Amend poor soil and clay soils by working a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic matter into the soil. Organic compost, composted manure or peat moss are good options.
Contact your local University Cooperative Extension office to have a complete soil test completed prior to planting. The results will indicate the pH level and available nutrients so you can apply the proper nutrient and pH amendments.
Amend the soil for pH based on the soil test results. Add ground rock sulfur to lower the pH number and limestone to raise the pH number. Water the soil well and let it rest for two weeks.
Apply a starter fertilizer to the surface of the planting area. The application rate will depend on the results of the soil test based on the levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium already present in the soil.
Apply grass seed with a broadcast spreader. Sow half the seed in a north/south direction, and sow the remaining seed in an east/west direction. This will give an even broadcast of seed on the area. Apply seed-free straw mulch over the grass seed to protect it from birds and washout.
Water the lawn with a sprinkler three to four times a day for the first two to three weeks of growth. Continue to water the lawn 20 minutes a day until the lawn is established. Provide cool-season grasses with 1 1/2 inches of water during the hot summer months when rainfall is not available.
Fertilize the lawn in late summer to early fall and again in late fall, as this is when turf grasses enlarge their roots. Apply fertilizer based on the rate recommended in a soil test for the type of grass planted.