Fall is the ideal time for planting cool season grasses such as fescue and bluegrass, according to Colorado State University. With cooler temperatures in fall, it is easier to maintain the soil moisture required for germination. Fall planting also gives the seedlings time to become established before experiencing the stress of summer heat. Avoid short cuts when preparing the soil for planting because proper preparation is key to successful lawn establishment.
Have a soil test done if growing grass on the site has been problematic in the past. Apply an herbicide to remove perennial weeds from the site, following label directions exactly. Allow 10 to 14 days for the herbicide to work before proceeding with site preparation.
Till the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches, working in any fertilizer needed based on soil test results. If soil contains less than 5 percent organic matter, apply an inch of compost over the seedbed and till that in as well.
Smooth out the soil surface by raking. Remove debris, fill in depressions and level off raised areas. Create a 1 to 2 percent grade away from buildings to promote proper drainage.
Apply starter fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet.
Seed the lawn by sowing half of the seed in a north-south direction and the other half in an east-west direction. Rake the area after seeding to improve seed-to-soil contact.
Sprinkle a very thin layer of straw over the area. Use one bale per 1000 square feet of seeded lawn.
Water the newly seeded lawn lightly and keep it moist until the grass has germinated. Grass will die if soil dries out after it begins to germinate. Water one to three times per day until the grass is up, depending on how warm the weather is. Then keep soil moist until the grass is established, recommends Kansas State University.
As grass roots develop, reduce watering frequency and water more deeply each time. Water once or twice per week, irrigating until water penetrates most of the root zone.