Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Plant Grass Seed in North Carolina

By Jacob J. Wright ; Updated September 21, 2017

With the variation in elevation and climate across North Carolina from west to east, the popularity of turfgrass is high--although the type of grass may differ based on location. Cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass and fescue, are best sown from seed in the autumn. Warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass or St. Augustine grass are rarely sown from seed, but planted as plugs or sod. Loosening the top one to six inches should precede the scattering of lawn seed. Keeping the soil and seeds moist until they germinate and put on substantial growth is key to establishing a thick, healthy lawn.

Till or scratch the soil surface with a garden rake to a minimum depth of one inch. If a roto-tiller is available, consider a shallow tillage of the area to a depth no deeper than six inches. A shovel may also be used. In bare spots in an established lawn needing reseeding, the rake is the best method to loosen the soil surface.

Even out the bare soil areas with the rake or a broom so that the soil is even and smooth. Smash and pulverize any clumps of soil with your hands or the back of the rake or its tines.

Sow the turfgrass seed by scattering it across the planting area. Broadcast it in two opposite directions for an even but well-covered manner. Consult the seed bag for any recommendations on sowing.

Lightly scratch-in the seeds into the loose soil surface. This is done merely to increase soil contact with the newly sown seeds. Do not bury seeds during the scratching, just coat them with soil so they are no deeper than 1/16 to 1/8 inch.

Gently water the area with a garden hose with hand-held nozzle or portable sprinkler base. An irrigation system may also be manually turned on. Add enough water so that the soil becomes moist and drains within 5 minutes. Never water the area so much that it is waterlogged.

Mulch lightly with oat straw or hay to lightly shade the soil and retain moisture as the seed germinates.

Keep the newly sown area moist until grass seedlings become visible, watering lightly and frequently as needed. Again, do not make the soil soggy by over-watering.

Lessen the frequency of watering once the grass seedlings are at least 1 to 2 inches tall and they begin to fill in, or "knit" the seeded lawn area. As temperatures cool in autumn, the waterings should be about 1 inch per week, less if temperatures or natural rainfall dictate. Encourage deeper, healthier roots by making the waterings longer but irregularly spaced across the weeks.

Consider adding a light turfgrass fertilizer on the area after 1 month has passed. Follow label directions on the slow-release fertilizer product for dosages.


Things You Will Need

  • Garden rake
  • Tiller
  • Garden hose
  • Nozzle or movable sprinkler base
  • Irrigation system
  • Oat straw or hay


  • Across North Carolina, the best time of year to sow cool-season grasses is late August in the western mountains, mid-September in the Piedmont, and mid-to-late October in the coastal plain.
  • If a fall sowing was missed, the second best time is early to mid-March statewide.
  • Sod of both cool-season and warm-season turf can be installed year-round as long as soil is moist and the ground is not frozen.


  • Cool-season grasses need cool, moist soils and temperatures under 65 degrees Fahrenheit for successful and dense germination. Do not sow this type of grass seed in the heat of spring and summer in North Carolina.

About the Author


Jacob J. Wright became a full-time writer in 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. He has worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Wright holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.