Manually preparing your lawn is more time consuming than using mechanical methods, but may be necessary for small or difficult-to-reach areas in the landscape. Most grass seed is spread or planted on bare ground and kept moist until sprouting, or germination. Begin preparing the planting site one to two months prior to planting the seed. New grass seedlings cannot tolerate freezing temperatures, so wait until all danger of frost has passed before seeding.
Conduct a soil test to see what amendments your soil needs for the variety of grass that you growing. Contact your local County Cooperative Extension office for information on conducting a soil test. A basic test is inexpensive and results return from the soil lab in three to four weeks.
Prepare the planting area. Spray all vegetation with an herbicide containing glyphosate. Two weeks after the first application, repeat the application of herbicide to kill any newly sprouted weeds. Wait a week after the last application before preparing the soil. This step can be skipped if all vegetation is to be removed by hand. However, the herbicide helps kill perennial weeds down to the roots that may be left after removing the weeds manually.
Remove all vegetation that remains in the planting area using your hands, a shovel or hoe. All live and dead vegetation must be removed so the seed has contact with the soil.
Spread a 1-inch layer of compost and soil amendments recommended by the soil test over the top of the soil using your hands or a shovel. If not using any tools, spread the compost and amendments as evenly as possible. If using tools, work the compost and amendments into the top 3 inches of soil and rake smooth.
Sprinkle the seed bed or prepared area with water so that is damp but not wet. The area is now prepared for seeding.