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How to Plant a Lawn From Scratch

By Elton Dunn ; Updated September 21, 2017
Turn dirt into a lawn with grass seed.
dirt image by jackie from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Planting a lawn from scratch turns a patchy dirt yard into a plush green carpet where kids and dogs can run, athletes can train and new homeowners can settle in to their house. The cheapest and easiest way to establish a new lawn is via grass seed. Homeowners have a wide array of seed choice and can generally establish a new lawn in either the spring or the fall. Once sown, seed takes up to four weeks to begin looking like a true lawn.

Call your local county extension office and ask for a soil test. Their tests are much more accurate than any home test, plus they will prescribe the right amount and type of fertilizer you should apply to the soil so your lawn will develop properly.

Apply the prescribed amount and type of fertilizer. Spread the fertilizer over your lawn then turn it into the top 4 to 6 inches of your soil with a shovel.

Amend the grade of your soil to create a gently sloping lawn. Sunset Magazine recommends a 1-foot slope per 100 feet of lawn. Add topsoil until you create a slope so that water runs away from buildings that could be damaged by standing water in heavy rains. Also add topsoil to low patches on the lawn so you don't end up with valleys.

Scatter grass seed over the soil using a mechanical spreader, which helps you apply the seed evenly so you don't end up with patchy grass.

Rake the soil once you've scattered the seed, until the seed becomes covered with 1 inch of soil. Alternately, cover the seed with 1 inch of mulch.

Water the newly planted seed until the soil becomes moist but not wet. Continue to water the soil twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, until your grass seed germinates and begins to grow.


Things You Will Need

  • Fertilizer
  • Shovel
  • Topsoil
  • Grass seed
  • Mechanical spreader


  • Select a grass seed designed to grow in your climate and either sun or shade, depending on the amount of light your lawn receives.


  • Avoid walking on the soil while the seed is germinating, since you could damage the developing grass.

About the Author


A successful website writer since 1998, Elton Dunn has demonstrated experience with technology, information retrieval, usability and user experience, social media, cloud computing, and small business needs. Dunn holds a degree from UCSF and formerly worked as professional chef. Dunn has ghostwritten thousands of blog posts, newsletter articles, website copy, press releases and product descriptions. He specializes in developing informational articles on topics including food, nutrition, fitness, health and pets.