Preparing lawn for seeding

How to Prepare Soil for Grass Seed

Chapter 1 – Test Your Soil’s pH

Set the Right Foundation for Your Grass Lawn by Testing Your Soil’s pH

Soil is the foundation for any grass seed. It’s how they receive nutrients. Knowing the pH of your soil helps determine how to improve your soil for your lawn grass seed.

A pH test will determine how acidic or alkaline the soil is. It’s measured on a scale of 1 to 14 with 7 being neutral. Below 7 is considered acidic and above 7 is considered alkaline. The majority of plants prefer a neutral soil. Not only does a soil test determine its pH attributes, it also reveals what is missing from the soil.

Testing Soil pH with a Testing Meter

There are several ways to test the pH level of your soil. Testing meters are inserted into the soil and offer a result. Another option is a testing kit wherein you would prepare samples and send them off for analysis. Then you’ll need to interpret the soil report.

DIY Soil pH Testing

One more option is using vinegar and baking soda to test soil pH levels. Simply collect 1 cup of soil from different areas of your lawn, split into separate cups. Then, add ½ cup of vinegar to one cup and ½ cup of baking soda into the other. The soil’s reaction to these elements can help you determine if the soil is acidic or alkaline. If the soil reacts to the vinegar, it’s more alkaline. If it reacts to the baking soda, it’s more acidic.

No matter which method you use,it’s a good idea to test your soil only when it’s dry as wet soil won’t yield accurate results. After you have your results, it’s time to improve it with planting aids.

Important: Grass prefers a pH range of 6.5-7.0. If more acidic (below 6.5) or more alkaline (above 7), you’ll want to adjust.

How to Raise the pH Levels in Acidic Soil

Lime: Limestone is the most common soil additive for raising soil pH levels. You’ll typically see calcitic limestone (mostly calcium carbonate) and dolomitic limestone (adds magnesium to the mix). Both are equally effective at raising pH levels of soil, although there are a few things to consider:

  • Dry vs Damp Lime:

    Damp lime reacts quicker than dry lime. This is due to the fact that water reacts with lime to neutralize the pH. It is also much more efficient when it comes to spreading evenly. The drawback is that it’s much more labor intensive.

    Dry lime is both more efficient and more affordable. It goes great with agricultural equipment and is easily transported. For large projects, dry lime is a better financial move. On top of that, dry lime can balance your soil’s pH levels in just one application.

  • Pulverized vs Pelletized Lime:

    Pulverized lime is best applied during moist weather. That’s because windy and dry conditions can cause it to scatter, making it less evenly-spread. Pulverized lime is best for large fields.

    Pelletized lime on the other hand is easier to spread if you don’t own large-scale agricultural equipment. It also typically reacts faster because it is processed thoroughly before being pelletized. Finally, pelletized lime isn’t vulnerable to windy or dry conditions.

Wood Ash: This is a more organic approach to raising soil pH levels. Simply sprinkle approximately 1/2 inch of wood ash over your soil and mix it into the soil about a foot deep. While this method does take longer (smaller applications over multiple years), it is very effective. It’s also convenient if you have extra fireplace ashes that need recycling!

How to Lower the pH Levels in Alkaline Soil

Organic Matter: There are many types of organic matter that will gradually lower your soil pH over time. These include compost, composted manure and acidic mulches (i.e. pine needles). Soil pH levels are lowered over time as these materials decompose and bacteria grow. While not the fastest-acting solution whatsoever, this method is great for long-term goals (many gardeners will add organic matter annually to lower pH levels subtly throughout the year). Organic matter can also improve soil drainage and aeration.

Sulfur: Compared to some other methods (Aluminum Sulfate in particular), Sulfur is generally cheaper, more powerful (when it comes to amount needed) and slower-acting. That’s because it must be metabolized by bacteria in the soil to turn to sulfuric acid, which can take up to several months.

Aluminum Sulfate: Aluminum Sulfate rapidly lowers soil pH levels. In fact, this is one of the quickest-acting options available. That’s because it produces soil acidity as soon as it dissolves. In essence, that means it works instantly. Do not use aluminum sulfate, however, for large applications. It can result in aluminum accumulation and aluminum toxicity.

How to Overseed or Reseed Your Lawn

Return to Regular Maintenance

Keep your newly revived lawn looking its best with a regular, comprehensive maintenance plan that includes diligent watering, best mowing practices and proactive overseeding. A simple weekday lawn maintenance schedule can keep your lawn lush and your weekends free.

For a simple, all-in-one approach to a thicker lawn, you can put your lawn on the fast track with Pennington Lawn Booster. This easy-to-use product simplifies overseeding to give your lawn the boost it needs. In just one application, your lawn will grow quicker, thicker and greener than ordinary grass—guaranteed.

Available in formulas for sun & shade or tall fescue lawns, Lawn Booster combines three essentials: seed, fertilizer and soil enhancer. Lime-enhanced, pure-bred Pennington Smart Seed, backed by years of breeding and research, adds beauty and sustainability. Once established, these water-conserving grasses require up to 30 percent less water than ordinary grasses. That’s year after year, for the life of your lawn. Plus, they stay green up to three weeks without watering. That means less work and more leisure time for you.

The premium fertilizer in Lawn Booster stabilizes nitrogen in the soil, to reduce leaching and other nitrogen loss to the environment. Your seed gets nitrogen for immediate feeding and for extended feeding for up to eight weeks, without extra fertilizer inputs on your part. Moreover, the soil-enhancing gypsum in Lawn Booster corrects soil conditions to allow for better root growth, so your newly boosted lawn can flourish and be the talk of the neighborhood.

For the lawn of your dreams, don’t wait to overseed until your lawn looks less than its best. Give your lawn the boost it needs, step-by-step or all-in-one. Pennington’s here with premium grass seed and lawn care products to help you keep your lawn at its peak.

Pennington, One Step Complete, Smart Seed, and Ultragreen are trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc.

Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance is a registered trademark of NexGen Turf Research, LLC.


1. Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance ; “Simple Tips,” October 2014

Create a healthy lawn by starting over

Let’s get this straight right from the get-go: A healthy lawn doesn’t get taken over by weeds. So if it looks like you’re raising weeds instead of grass, that’s a sign of a more serious problem. And that may mean killing off the grass and starting over. It’s a big reseeding lawn project that’ll take several weekends and may cost you up to 25¢ per sq. ft. for equipment rentals, soil conditioners and seed. If you’re willing to spend more, you can lay sod instead of planting seed, but don’t skip the soil testing and remediation steps. Here’s how to balance your soil’s pH level properly.

Are you ready for a fresh start? Just follow our guide for how to plant grass seed on an existing lawn and you’ll be the happiest gnomeowner on your block.

Evaluate Your Lawn

Going “nuclear” shouldn’t be your first option. Instead, start with spot applications of weed killer, dethatching and core aeration. But if you still see more than 60 percent weeds at the start of the next growing season, your lawn is too far gone to save. Your best option is to nuke it and replant.

Note: To find out how to dethatch and aerate for greener, healthier grass, check out these tips.

How to Plant Grass Seed

A healthy, attractive lawn starts with proper site preparation. Proper grading of the site prior to planting is important, as it helps ensure water drains away efficiently and allows for easy mowing. Sloping the lawn area away from buildings at a rate of 1 to 2 percent is recommended.2 Avoid creating steeper slopes, as they tend to cause lawns to dry out too quickly. Smooth the site well to avoid depressions, which can create wet spots that are hard to mow and prone to disease.

If you intend to replace the entire lawn, it’s important to do a thorough job of removing the old turf. Use a sod cutter to take out the old grass at the roots. Another option for clearing the area is to spray the lawn with a non-selective herbicide, which kills both grass and broadleaf plants. If you choose to spray, follow label instructions for your product closely and avoid any contact with grass or plants you want to keep.

After the product’s designated waiting period, reapply as needed to kill any remaining grass. Once you’re certain that the turf you want to replace is dead, clear the dead grass from the site and make any needed adjustments to the grade to prepare for seeding.

Prepare the Soil

Optimum soil conditions boost successful seed germination and support healthy turf growth. To prepare your soil for planting, do the following:

  • Test your lawn’s soil. Proper soil pH is critical to a healthy, thriving lawn. Most lawn grasses do best when soil pH is between 6.0 to 7.5.4 Taking accurate soil samples is simple to do on your own, but you’ll need to send those samples to a reputable soil laboratory for testing. Your local county extension office can help with soil testing kits and information about testing facilities. The test results will give you an accurate picture of the state of your soil’s pH and nutrient levels, plus recommendations for changes you should make.
  • Amend to alter soil pH. If your soil test shows that your lawn’s pH is outside the range for healthy turf growth, soil amendments can restore pH balance. Soil with overly high pH, called alkaline soil, is common in the West. Applications of elemental sulfur may be recommended to correct it. In areas where soil is acidic, having overly low pH, your lawn may need lime to restore nutrient availability. This is often the case in the Northwest, Northeast and Southeast. Always follow your soil test recommendations and product label instructions carefully.
  • Add nutrients to soil. The recommendations from your lawn soil test will outline your soil’s nutrient needs. A high-quality lawn fertilizer, such as a premium Pennington fertilizer for lawns, can help restore optimal nutrient levels for healthy grass growth. Recommendations may include a phosphorus-containing lawn starter fertilizer.4 However, some states have environmental restrictions on phosphorus fertilizers, so check with your local extension agent on your state’s lawn fertilizer requirements.
  • Amend to alter structure. Conditions such as very sandy soil or heavy, compacted soil affect seed germination, growth and the overall health of your lawn. For healthy grass growth, soil needs to contain sufficient air, yet it also needs to retain the nutrients and moisture grass needs. Improve your new soil’s aeration and water penetration by removing rocks and incorporating organic matter, such as compost, at a depth of 2 to 4 inches before planting. Local hardware or garden stores often rent tillers or aerators, which improve compacted soil by pulling out plugs of soil to allow for air and water.

Choose the Best Seed

To succeed at growing a healthy lawn, it’s important to buy quality grass seed that is well-suited to your climate and your growing conditions. Premium, purebred Pennington Smart Seed grasses are water-conserving, drought-resistant and developed for superior performance in home lawns.

Whether you grow warm-season or cool-season grasses depends primarily on where you live. Warm-season lawn grasses are best suited to southern climates and grow most vigorously during the warm months of the year. They typically go dormant and brown in the winter. Cool-season grasses are typically used in northern and transition zone lawns, growing best where summers are moderate and winters are cold. They remain green all year, but can go brown and dormant in heat and drought.

In many areas of the country, you can opt for a mix of seed specific to your region. Smart Seed mixes are designed for lawns in the Midwest, Northeast, Pacific Northwest and Pennsylvania State. If you’re growing lawn grass in shade, choose a grass seed product such as Pennington Smart Seed Dense Shade, which is formulated especially for challenging low-light conditions. For lawns with variable shade and sun, Pennington Smart Seed Sun & Shade provides the solution you need.

Plant the Seed

Once amendments are complete and your soil surface is smooth and prepped, broadcast the seed evenly according to your seed product’s recommended seeding rates. Remember to carefully review the seed package label instructions and follow the guidelines. Misapplication of seed can lead to unsatisfactory results.

Choosing the right type of spreader for your situation helps you get the results you need. A drop spreader drops seed straight down in a path the width of your spreader as you move across your lawn. This type of spreader maneuvers well in tight spaces and is ideal for small lawns (less than 5,000 sq. ft.), which typically require more precision in where the seed lands.

A broadcast or rotary spreader comes in walk-behind and hand-held types that spread seed by fanning it out in all directions, providing more uniform coverage. These spreaders are ideal for large lawns, but they lack the precision drop spreaders provide.

Once you finish spreading the seed, use a rake to lightly work it into the soil at a depth of about 1/4 inch. Don’t bury the seeds any deeper; grass seed needs adequate light to germinate quickly. After raking, pass over the area with a roller, which helps ensure the good seed-to-soil contact your new seed needs.

Overseeding is the process of planting grass seed into an existing lawn. This is done to improve your lawn’s overall look and health, thicken your grass, minimize weeds, fill in bare or damaged areas, or convert to another type of lawn grass. Also, southern lawns are often overseeded with a cool-season grass to provide green color during winter months. When overseeding, broadcast the seed over the lawn, and water it in well, following the same instructions as for new lawns.

Water Appropriately

Keeping grass seeds and seedlings constantly moist but not soggy is critical to successful grass-seeding efforts. Water newly seeded areas two to three times a day with a light spray to keep the seeds moist. Stop watering when puddles begin to appear on the soil surface. Once the seeds germinate and grass seedlings begin to grow, gradually transition to watering less frequently but more heavily. Taper off watering as the grass becomes taller and more mature.

How to Sow Seed 

If you need help choosing seed for your lawn

Prepare Your Soil

After you’ve chosen lawn seed that will best suit your project you can begin to prepare the soil for sowing. Make sure your soil doesn’t have any weeds, rocks, stones, grass or other debris in it. Use a rake to clear it out and flatten the surface as much as possible. For more in depth instructions on preparing your soil .

Apply a Fertiliser Before Sowing

Give your new lawn the best start possible. Apply a pre-seeding Starter Fertiliser to the seedbed a few days prior to sowing the seed or on the same day and rake it into the soil. This will stimulate root growth and provide the essential early feed to get the lawn off to a good start. When sowing a new lawn use our Advanced Seed Starter Fertiliser applied at a rate of 3kg of fertiliser per 100m2.

Spread the seed

For a good establishment follow the suggested sowing rate recommended on the product. We have sowing guidelines on all our product pages.

An easy way of sowing the seed is to divide the area into easily manageable sections and then divide the seed into as many lots as there are sections. Then sow half of the seed for one section from left to right of the section and then from the other half across the first sowing going from front to the back of the section. This will help ensure an even spread of seed over the area.

A Starter Fertiliser with higher levels of phosphorus will assist with the growth of your seedlings. View our Starter Fertilisers Here.

For best results and germination ensure that your seed from Great Aussie Lawns is sown at the optimum time. When you’ve sown your seed you then need to be careful to always water with a fine spray. Anything stronger will remove the seeds! During the establishing period for a new lawn the surface needs to be always kept moist. If you get periods of dry or particularly windy weather make sure the seedbed is kept constantly moist until the grass is about 4-5 cm.

It’s also a good idea to protect the seedbed from kids, pets, and any other threats!

Ongoing Maintenance

Once grown, your new lawn should be fertilised once in early Spring, again in mid Summer and once more in Autumn. Fertiliser applied in early spring and mid-summer should have a good Nitrogen content to encourage growth and colour. View our Fertiliser Range Here.

View our range of Seed Blends and Varieties

Next Step – Feeding Your Lawn

Back a Step – Fertilising before Sowing

Download a full copy of our FREE Step by Step Lawn Guide by clicking here.

Spreading grass seed on a new lawn.

Preparing a new lawn for grass seed is a bit of work, but it’s not that difficult to do successfully if you are armed with just a bit of basic information.

A few basics that you must get right…

  • The area has to be properly graded before you start.
  • It’s best if you have a few lawn installation tools to make the job easier.
  • You use a good blend of grass seed.
  • You pay close attention to what cover you use and why.

Pam and I recently built a new house, you know, all one floor, no steps.

I tell people that we built a convalescent home.

Wide hallways, grab bars in the bathroom.

The lot that we chose to build on is quite small, just enough room for the house really.

And a little bit of lawn.

We needed something easy to care for, we have plenty to do at Mike’s Plant Farm.

And the new place is only about 2 minutes from the nursery which is really nice.

We hired contractors to do most of the construction but when it came the lawn and the landscape I just wasn’t going to pay that kind of money to do something I could do myself.

I have a tractor so I was able to do most of the final grading myself and with a 3 point hitch tiller on the back of the tractor I was able to loosen the hard packed soil around the house, level it, then we still needed to hand rake the entire area.


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I first started installing lawns back in 1974 and back in the day we never trucked in topsoil to make a lawn.

We quite simply worked with whatever soil was there. And it worked!

When you truck in a bunch of topsoil two things happen.

  1. You take a lot of money out of your wallet and give it to somebody else.
  2. You take soil that is riddled with more weed seed that you can imagine and move that to your house. How crazy is that?
  3. And really good topsoil is pretty hard to come by these days.

But these landscapers today just have it in their head that you can’t grow grass without topsoil.

I’m sorry, but I don’ just don’t subscribe to that theory.

I’ve installed lawns in some the most hard packed clay and rocky soil imaginable and I proud to say that I’ve produced some pretty darn nice lawns.

Many also believe that if you don’t hydro-seed, your new lawn doesn’t have a chance.

Nothing could be further from the truth and I Cover that in Detail Here.

Once you have the lawn area leveled or graded as needed so no water stands in the lawn area, you are ready to start preparing the soil for the planting of the grass seed.

In order to effectively plant grass seed you need to create at least a little bit of a seed bed.

Ideally proceed in this order;

  1. Loosen the soil to a depth of at least 3 to 4 four inches.
  2. Hand rake the entire lawn after you’ve loosen the soil.
  3. Apply a seed starting lawn fertilizer.
  4. Spread the grass seed over the raked area.
  5. Broom over the seed to mix it with the soil.
  6. Mulch over the seeded area with straw.

Using my Mantis Tiller to prepare a seed bed for a new lawn.

As I prepared our lawn for seeding I rototilled it to a depth or at least 4″ with the tiller on my tractor.

By loosening the soil that deep you accomplish a couple of things.

One, you allow the soil to absorb water when it rains or when you water, actually watering the seed into the lawn instead of the water just running off and taking the seed with it.

This is a crazy photo but it shows the aggressiveness of the Mantis Two Cycle Tiller. If things hits something, and there were a lot of “somethings” in this lawn, it just bounces up and becomes monetarily airborne. I love this little tiller!

The second thing that you do by loosening the soil you make it much easier for the roots of the new grass plants to firmly anchor themselves in the soil to a reasonable depth.

When raking a lawn you need a nice wide rake like this one because it allows you make the lawn more level without little dips and bumps in your lawn. These are called lawn or landscape rakes. I think I ordered this one from Amazon.

Tools of the trade. A nice wide landscape rake.

When you are doing a lawn by hand like Pam and did at our house it’s far better to tackle one area at a time and do all of the steps in that one area before moving on to another area.

Why? Because if you are doing this by hand without the help of three or four laborers, it’s going to take some time and once you have an area ready for seed you want to get it seeded, broomed and mulched before it gets rained on.

Spreading seed on the lawn, doing small sections at a time. Mulching with straw.

We did pretty well but we only got a third of our lawn done before we left on a week-long vacation that had been scheduled for many months.

And of course, it rained on the lawn.

That was good for the area that we had seeded, but not so good for the areas not yet done.

After the seed is down I broom over the seeded area mixing the seed with the soil and pressing the seed down into the soil. This actually makes the seed germinate better but also protects it from birds who love to eat grass seed.

Because the soil was a bit sticky I didn’t want to get back on the lawn with my tractor and make ruts so I relied on my old faithful friend my Mantis Tiller!

I used the Mantis Tiller to loosen the soil and prepare a seed bed before raking the area level for seeding.

Please note!

Everything that you rake off of your lawn is not necessarily debris that needs to be disposed of.

In our case, I had a pretty big hole left where they put the water line in and the soil settled.

Everything that we raked up went into those low areas then got covered with soil.

As you can see, after only a week or so the grass is coming up. And no, I do not rake up the straw. It will decompose.

When we finished we only removed about 1/4 yard of debris from our lawn.

I’ve seen landscapers haul away tons and tons of soil and stuff when installing a lawn.

Once you prepare your seed bed and hand rake the area you can apply the grass seed starting fertilizer. Then start seeding.

Most grass seeds are applied at a rate of 5lbs per 1,000 square feet but look on the bag of seed or speak to your seed dealer for application rates.

Grass seed sizes can vary greatly thus the application rate can be less or more.

The best way to apply the grass seed is with a spreader so your get good even coverage, but I’ve probably spread hundreds of pounds of grass seed with my hand.

Once I spread the grass seed on the lawn I take a push broom and drag it backwards over the lawn area, applying some pressure to the broom.

I want the broom to drag some seed and soil as I do that.

This process actually helps to push the grass seed into the soil just enough so it’s not just laying on top of the soil and it buries some of the seed so it’s not just laying on top of the soil.

Once the seed is spread and broomed it’s time to mulch the seeded area.

My favorite mulch for planting grass seed is straw and I’ll tell you why.

When you spread mulch over the lawn the straw lands in a criss-cross pattern and doesn’t lay flat on the soil.

These suspended pieces of straw actually shade the grass seed!

Grass seeds are tiny so a piece of straw suspended overhead actually provides a considerable amount of shade as the sun moves over the lawn area.

When you mulch with peat moss or hydro mulch many of the seeds are exposed to the elements.

Straw actually provides great shade for those little tiny grass seeds and that shade can mean the difference between life and death for those new grass plants.

Keep in mind, it’s easy to get grass seed to germinate.

The challenge is keeping those little tiny plants alive until they can fatten up and send some roots down into the soil.

Once the seed germinates it is spent. If you lose the grass plants post germination your lawn is toast.

That’s why it’s so important to use a mulch that not only holds some moisture, but also provides shade for the grass seeds and tiny grass plants.

That’s also why it’s so important to stay on top of the watering once you initiate germination. Do Not Allow Your Lawn to Dry Out.

Questions, comments or mean things to say? Post them below and by any and all means, stay inspired.

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Even in well maintained lawns, spot or general lawn seeding is sometimes needed. Lawns can thin because of weather, a result of damage caused by insects, or grass diseases. Some badly damaged lawns need to be completely “rebuilt” before regular maintenance can do much good.

There are three general categories of seeding: spot seeding, lawn renovation and overseeding a lawn, and renovation. What type is right for growing grass on your lawn depends on the condition of your turf. Spring-Green professionals can help with all of your lawn seeding questions and needs.

Whatever type of seeding is done, there are three important rules to follow when seeding a lawn:

  1. High quality seed should always be used
  2. The seed has to make good contact with the soil
  3. Enough water has to be supplied to assure germination and establishment.

Tip #1: Choose the lawn seeding system that’s right for you and your turf.

Spot seeding is a quick and easy way to repair things like ruts along driveways, areas worn by foot traffic, and small areas that have died for any reason. When spot seeding a lawn, use a stiff rake or potato hoe to cultivate the soil and break open the surface. Apply seed to the open seedbed and gently tamp down.

Overseeding a lawn broadcasts the seed over a large area. This works well when the lawn just needs a general “thickening up.” Overseeding can be done along with lawn aeration or by itself, but doesn’t work too well when there is a heavy thatch layer.

Lawn renovation is for lawns that have excessive thatch, or are so thin, that only a complete rebuild will get the lawn back on its feet. Lawn renovation can be done several ways: old sod can be removed with a sod cutter; the lawn can be de-thatched and seeded; or slice-seeding can be used. Slice-seeding (or verticut seeding) is probably the best for growing grass because it “drills” the seed into the soil without having to remove a large amount of thatch.

Tip #2: Before you begin seeding a lawn, consider the current season.

It’s true that seeding can be successful any time of year, but spring and summer lawn seeding require more care and water, and weeds and crabgrass cause a lot more competition. Seeding a lawn in late summer or fall is ideal. Early fall is preferred because seeds can germinate faster in the warm soil and continue to establish itself through the cooler weather of fall and winter. There’s also more natural water in the fall so less sprinkling is needed.

Tip #3: Whatever time of year you choose for seeding your lawn, remember to keep the seed moist until you have good germination.

Tip #4: Sprinkle lightly several times a day during hot weather until the grass is 1” tall.

Tip #5: Avoid any type of weed control until the new grass has been mowed 4 or 5 times.

Check with Spring-Green before lawn seeding. We can advise you regarding the best time to seed, the type of seed, and watering for complete success. Contact your local Spring-Green today.

Learn more about…

Thatch Control

Watering Tips


More Watering Tips

11 Tips for Spring Grass Reseeding

When your lawn revives in the spring, it may not be as thick or green as you would like. Even if you are mowing, fertilizing, and watering your lawn properly, a yearly reseeding might be necessary to keep it in tip-top shape. Here are ten easy steps to help you with the reseeding process.

  1. Don’t jump the gun and plant before the temperatures are right. Cool-season grass seeds will germinate when soil temperatures are between 55 and 65°F, and warm-season grass seed will germinate when soil temperatures are between 70 and 80°F. Your lawn should be actively growing when you reseed, and there shouldn’t be any danger of another frost. When these temperatures occur will depend on where you live, so make sure you are listening to weather reports and relying on an accurate thermometer.
  2. You don’t just have to sit around and wait for the timing to be right. Make sure that you know a) what kind of seed you are planting, and b) what kind of soil you are planting them in. Be sure to choose a product that has a high live seed percentage. Choosing a different grass variety or even a different species to reseed with will increase your lawn’s tolerance for stress.
  3. Consult your most recent soil test or have one done. If the pH level is too acidic for good grass growth, now is the time to do a lime application.
  4. Before you grow tender new grass, you should get all of the stressful maintenance practices out of the way. So if your lawn is growing on a thick layer of thatch or compacted soil, take care of it with a vertical mower or a core aerator. Give the lawn a couple of days to recuperate before you begin reseeding.
  5. Remove anything that makes the ground uneven: sticks, stones, leaves, etc.
  6. Using a straight rake, rake across the lawn to get the soil loose and ready for new seeds.
  7. Check to seeing what the reseeding rate is on your bag of seed—not the seeding rate! It shouldn’t be over 3 or 4 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn. You can sow them by hand or use a drop spreader. For ensured evenness, spread half in a horizontal direction across the lawn, and the other half in a vertical direction.
  8. Rake the ground again (lightly this time), and run a half-filled roller across the lawn to help firm up the soil.
  9. Spread a light layer of soil, peat moss, or other compost on top of the lawn. It shouldn’t be thicker than ¼”; otherwise seed germination will be reduced.
  10. Apply a light, slow-release fertilizer with more phosphorus. Phosphorus is an element that helps new lawns become established.
  11. Keep the soil moist through brief and light irrigations, as many as two to five per day. Be patient! Some grass seed, like perennial ryegrass take only ten days to germinate. Others, like the notoriously slow Kentucky bluegrass, can take up to thirty days. Don’t let the soil dry out until you see the new grass growing. Once that goal is achieved, you can start letting the soil dry out between deeper irrigations. Wait to mow the lawn until the grass is 1 ½ to 2” long.

Tips for seeding your lawn during summer

Summer is certainly not the ideal time to establish cool-season turfgrasses due to high temperatures, long day-length, disease pressure and especially weed competition. The optimum growing temperatures for cool-season turfgrasses are in the range from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so occasionally during some of our warmer stretches of weather the nighttime temperatures might not even fall within this range. Long day-length or more hours of sunlight results in more hours in the day for drying the soil. Maintaining that delicate balance of soil moisture between too wet and too dry is more challenging during the summer due to the extended drying period.

Periods of high temperature, high relative humidity and heavy rains or overwatering can also make new seedings subject to devastating diseases such as Pythium blight. Finally, weed competition from summer annuals such as crabgrass, goosegrass and broadleaf bandits such as purslane, knotweed, clover and prostrate spurge can quickly take over a new establishment in the summer if herbicides are not used.

If you’re still interested in establishing in the summer, keep on reading. If not, wait for the optimum establishment time of late August and early September.

Weed control

Weed control during summer establishment is definitely one of the keys to success or failure. Tupersan (a.i. siduron) is the traditional standby for controlling weeds during seeded turfgrass establishment. Tenacity (a.i. mesotrione) can also be used safely at the time of seeding. There are also combination products with quinclorac and carfentrazone that provide control of broadleaf weeds in addition to crabgrass and goosegrass. Mesotrione and siduron can be applied on the day of seeding of cool season turfgrasses for control of crabgrass during establishment. Quinclorac + carfentrazone (SquareOne) can be applied early after turfgrass seeding (seven days after emergence) to control crabgrass and broadleaves.

Always read, understand and follow the label directions. Mention or exclusion of specific products does not represent an endorsement or condemnation of any product by Michigan State University.

Weed control is critical for summer turfgrass establishment.
Photo credit: Kevin Frank, MSU

Fertilizer at seeding

At the time of seeding, apply a starter fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound N per 1,000 square feet to help those young seedlings get established. A starter fertilizer is a fertilizer with an N:P2O5 ratio similar to 1:1 or 1:1.5. Under the phosphorus restrictions in place in Michigan, starter fertilizer is still allowed for turfgrass establishment. The maximum amount of phosphorus that can be applied in a single application is 1.5 pounds P2O5 per 1,000 square feet with a yearly maximum of 2.5 pounds P2O5 per 1,000 square feet.

If you have the time to take a soil test, follow the soil test recommendations for establishment. Homeowners can purchase a soil testing kit from the Michigan State University Extension bookstore. More information on soil testing can be found at MSU Soil

Mulches for moisture retention

Make sure to keep the seeded area moist throughout establishment. In many cases, this may require watering several times a day. A good mulch cover will help the area stay moist so the site may be watered less frequently. Water lightly when irrigating; there is no need to see water puddling or running off the site.

Dr. Frank’s work is funded in part by MSU’s AgBioResearch.

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