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How to Plant Grass Seed

A person holding a bag of Scotts Turf Builder Tall Fescue Mix Grass Seed.

Updated August 21, 2020

Marc M.

By Marc M.

A well-manicured lawn is one of the first things people notice about your house. A healthy lawn starts with proper seeding with the best grass seed for your desired look and climate.

Before You Start Planting Grass Seed

If you’re learning how to plant grass seed, you should know a few basic things first.

  • A healthy lawn needs good soil. Most turfgrasses prefer neutral soils. To be sure that your efforts aren’t in vain, always perform a soil test first and make the recommended amendments.
  • Don’t apply a weed preventer (liquid or granular) or use weed and feed fertilizer when growing grass. You can control weeds only after you’ve mown new grass seedlings at least four times. Any weed controls applied when you sow seed will prevent germination or kill immature seedlings.
Caution

When using lawn treatments or lawn-care products, always follow package directions regarding proper clothing, protective equipment, application procedures and safety precautions.

Selecting the Best Grass Seed for Your Home

Southern warm-season, middle transitional and northern cool-season zones on a United States map.

Before seeding, first identify the type of turf currently growing in your lawn. If you’re starting from scratch, select a turf type suited to grow in your region and remember the specific requirements for your yard.

Grass seed labels describe specific care requirements — such as light tolerance, hardiness and resistance to drought — for that particular species of grass. Turfgrasses are either cool-season grasses or warm-season grasses. In general, where you live determines your lawn type.

On the map, cool-season grasses are suited for areas shaded in blue. Warm-season grasses grow well in the areas shaded in brown. In the transition zone (green on the map), mixtures or blends of warm- and cool-season grasses are sometimes required. Normally the transition zone has more success with the cool-season grasses over the warm-season varieties. Additional factors — such as altitude, the amount of sun and shade, degree of foot traffic, and availability of water — affect the success of a turfgrass variety. See our guide Choose the Right Grass for Your Lawn to learn about different types of grass seed.

Warm-Season Grasses

The major warm-season varieties are Bahia, Bermuda, centipede, St. Augustine and zoysia. If you decide to go with Bermuda grass seed, check out our Bermuda Grass Buying Guide. Here are some quick facts about growing grass for best heat tolerance:

  • Should be seeded from March through September, depending on your specific location and weather patterns
  • Need hot summers and mild winters
  • Grow during summer
  • Go dormant in fall and winter
  • Thrive in temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Generally need less water than cool-season grasses, making them more drought tolerant
  • Tend to have wide, coarse blades
  • Should be mowed close to the ground
  • Are often overseeded with annual grasses for year-round color
  • Are usually creeping varieties

Cool-Season Grasses

The major cool-season varieties are Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, tall fescue and ryegrass. See our article to learn when to seed and fertilize cool-season turfgrasses. For excellent results, keep in mind that cool-season grasses:

  • Are seeded mid-August through mid-October, depending on specific location and weather patterns
  • Thrive in regions where winter temperatures reach below freezing
  • Grow during spring and fall
  • Go dormant in summer
  • Thrive in temperatures from 60 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Have long, fine blades
  • Are maintained at a higher mowing level than warm-season grasses
  • Are generally bunch varieties

What a Grass Plant Looks Like

A diagram showing the different parts of a grass plant including the blade, crown and roots.

Creeping grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass and most warm-season grasses, spread by above- or below-ground runners. Bunch grasses, such as fescue and ryegrass, spread from the crown of the plant. Mow these varieties high to protect the crown to ensure the survival of the grass.

The Composition of a Grass Plant

  • Blade: What most of us call a blade of grass is actually a complex combination of the grass stem, sheath and nodes. If it grows tall enough, a seed head develops.
  • Crown: This is the base of the grass where all new growth originates.
  • Rhizome: This is a horizontal below-ground stem or runner. Creeping grasses are spread by rhizomes or stolons.
  • Roots: This is the below-ground system that sustains the grass. Water and nutrients are absorbed by the roots.
  • Seed Head: This is the flower of the grass plant.
  • Stolon: This is a horizontal above-ground stem or runner. Creeping grasses are spread by stolons or rhizomes.
  • Tiller: This is made up of leaf blades and sheaths, the stem, and sometimes a seed head. They grow from the crown of the plant. Bunch grasses spread by producing new tillers.

How to Read Grass Seed Labels

A bag of Sta-Green Bermuda Grass Seed.

State laws require labeling on grass seed. Be sure to carefully note the following information on the label:

  • The amount of the named variety by percentage of weight
  • Other crop seeds in the package by percentage of weight
  • Any inert ingredients in the package by percentage of weight
  • Percentage of weed seed in the mixture (if any)
  • The germination rate of the seed (a higher number means a better chance that each seed will germinate)

In addition to reading the label, you’ll need to determine how much seed to buy for your yard. Lowe’s Grass Seed Calculator can help you calculate this. Also check for information on the drop rate for your model of spreader.

Seed Blends and Mixes

In addition to pure seed options, blends and mixes are also available. A blend is a combination of two or more cultivars of the same species — for example, two types of fescue. A mix is a combination of different species of grasses. Both blends and mixes are formulated for specific regions and needs, using the most desirable traits of each grass type to improve the lawn.

Other Considerations

  • Apply the seed with a broadcast spreader or hand spreader. The coverage rates vary based on the type of seed you choose.
  • Consider how you use your lawn. If you have a lot of foot traffic or children playing, look for a lawn seed with a high traffic tolerance. Play areas, especially under swings and other play equipment, also need a tougher turf.

How to Seed a New or Existing Lawn

A freshly mowed Bermudagrass lawn in the back yard of a two-story brick house.

Seeding is the most common method of planting turfgrass. Whether you’re starting a new lawn or overseeding an existing lawn to fill it out or add green for the winter months, the basic principles are the same. The general steps for seeding a lawn are below, but some types of grass have specific planting and care requirements. Follow all of the label’s instructions for your particular seed.

How to Seed a New Lawn

How to Overseed an Existing Lawn

How to Repair or Renovate a Lawn

Follow these steps if your lawn needs extensive repairs.

How to Repair Your Lawn’s Bare Spots

How to Renovate or Reseed Your Lawn

How to Water New and Established Lawns

You must keep newly seeded lawns moist with light, frequent watering in order for the seeds to germinate. Keep the soil moist (but not saturated) until the new seedlings are about 1 inch tall. Be careful: Too much water can rot the seeds or wash them away.

After your grass is established, remember these tips to keep your lawn adequately watered:

  • Water in the early morning, if possible. The lack of wind minimizes evaporation and the chance for fungal diseases. However, if you see that the lawn or garden is becoming stressed or endangered from lack of water, go ahead and water without delay. Avoid watering with sprinklers on windy days.
  • Water lawns irregularly, rather than on a strict weekly schedule. This replicates natural weather patterns and helps make lawns more drought tolerant.
  • Water deeply and allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings. This will help promote root growth. A strong root system creates hardier turfgrass. Light, shallow sprinklings evaporate before water is able to sink into the soil where it’s needed.
  • Remove lawn thatch and aerate when needed to increase the soil’s water absorption.
  • If you have an underground sprinkler system, keep it adjusted and well maintained.
  • Locate and remedy any spots that are prone to runoff and erosion.
Caution

Be sure to observe any water-use ordinances or restrictions for your area.

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