A beautiful lawn starts with planting grass seed, but improperly planted grass seed can wash away, fail to germinate, or wind up feeding the birds instead of growing grass. Choose the best time of year to seed your new lawn, and make sure the seed is planted properly to maximize germination and yield a lush, green lawn.
Timing may not be everything, but when it comes to planting grass seed, proper timing certainly helps. The University of Minnesota's Prairie Yard and Garden report recommends fall planting, as does the University of Illinois Extension. Early autumn seeding allows new grass to establish strong, healthy root systems before the cold of winter settles in, and then to expand that root system in the spring so that the lawn is in the best possible condition to withstand the dryness and heat of midsummer. Spring-planted lawns may not thrive when hot August sun and summer drought stresses small roots that have not yet grown down to deeper, more consistently moist soil.
Sweep Your Seeds
Simply sprinkling grass seed over the surface of the soil, or worse yet, over areas of dead grass is, as Sandra Mason writing for the Illinois Extension puts it, just an expensive way to feed the birds. Grass seed must be worked into the soil, establishing good contact between the seed and the dirt while lightly covering the seed to encourage germination. The Illinois Extension suggests using a stiff broom to work the seed into the top quarter-inch of soil. After broadcasting grass seed over prepared soil at the density rate recommended by the seed supplier, work a garage-type broom or a kitchen broom made of broom corn back and forth in short, jerky sweeping motions, holding the broom bristles perpendicular over the seed and soil. Continue until the seed and soil surface are well mixed. Clean the broom bristles out with a strong stream of water from the hose when you are done.
Consistent watering is key to germinating new grass seed. The University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System advises that newly planted grass seed must remain moistened through germination and initial establishment of the plants' roots. Water regularly with a light sprinkler, but be sure not to let the lawn area flood, which will wash grass seed away. Mulching also helps prevent the soil from drying out. The Connecticut Extension recommends a light mulching with either straw or pelletized paper mulch, but avoid hay or other mulches that may contain weed seeds to infest your lawn before it even gets growing.