Starting a lawn from seed is a cost-effective way to grow a new yard. However, the time commitment can be steep. It generally takes two weeks from seeding to germination, depending on the type of grass used. The payoff is a lush lawn for the price of seed and a little sweat equity.
One grass-seeding problem is not sowing the correct grass in the correct season. For warm-season grasses, sow in the late spring when the temperatures are consistently 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, according to "The Everything Lawn Care Book" by Douglas Green. Warm-season grass is formulated to grow during warm weather, and planting it before warm weather hits will ensure the maximum growing time.
Cool-season grasses should be sown during the late summer or in the early fall after the heat of summer dissipates. The ground is still warm enough for the seeds to germinate, and the cool air temperatures will spur the grass to grow.
No matter when the grass is sown, sow on a day when the weather is calm and rain-free. Winds will blow the grass seed off the lawn, and heavy rains will wash the grass seed away.
Uneven coverage is another grass-seeding problem. First, determine how much seed is needed based on the square footage to be covered. Per 1,000 square feet, use 1 to 2 lbs. of Bermuda grass; 2 to 4 lbs. of Kentucky bluegrass; 6 to 8 lbs. of annual or perennial ryegrass and 2 lbs. of Buffalo grass, recommends Jerry Baker in "Green Grass Magic."
Second, divide the seed in half and sow the yard in rows using a broadcast or drop spreader. Sow the other half of seed at right angles to the first row in a crisscross or checkerboard pattern for even coverage. Lightly rake the area to make sure the seeds are in contact with the soil. Add a thin layer of mulch on top of the seeds to keep the soil moist.
The No. 1 reason why new grass seedlings fail is because the soil surface was not watered properly, according to "Lawns" by Nick Christians and Ashton Ritchie. The newly seeded ground must be watered to allow the seeds to germinate. Do not water the ground too much to cause soil erosion or allow the seeds to float away. Water the surface lightly, three to four times a day, and do not let the surface dry out. Seeds can dry out and die within a few hours, especially in hot weather.
The number of days to germination varies with the grass seed. The cooler the air temperature, the longer it takes the seeds to germinate. Grass has germinated after it reaches a height of 1 inch. Change the watering schedule to twice a week, watering thoroughly to ensure that the lawn receives a half inch of water each watering session.