Growing a healthy lawn has benefits beyond the expected expanse of green. A thick, lush carpet of green adds value to your home, absorbs rainfall and reduces soil erosion. Plus, a lawn has a unique advantage over other plantscapes: It’s entirely walkable, able to handle foot and paw traffic without worry.
When you plan your lawn, you need to know that there are two main types of grasses: warm-season and cool-season. If you live in the South, you can plant warm-season grasses in the spring. Cool-season grasses are favored in the North and are planted in late summer, early fall and early spring.
Choose the type of grass that performs best in your area. Warm-season varieties include Bahia, Bermuda, Centipede, St. Augustine and Zoysia. Cool-season grasses are Bent Fescue, Kentucky Blue Grass and Perennial Rye Grass.
Grasses need at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight a day to thrive, but some grasses will perform well with an equal amount of filtered sunlight. Zoysia and St. Augustine are the warm-season favorites for shade tolerance. Cool-season varieties like Rye, Fine and Tall Fescues can handle dappled light. If you have shade, cover your bets and select a seed mix with more than one variety, so if one type doesn’t come up, another one will.
6 steps to planting your lawn from seed:
- Assemble the equipment. A tiller makes the job of preparing the soil easy. Choose between two types of spreaders: drop or broadcast. You’ll also need a lawn roller to tamp the seed. All can be rented from The Home Depot’s Tool Rental Center.
- Choose grass seed. Calculate the square footage of the area you need to cover (Area = length x depth, minus buildings, driveways and gardens) and follow package requirements and these guidelines from The Home Depot Community experts.
- Prep the site. Remove debris and large rocks. With the tiller, turn the soil to a depth of 2-4 inches. Use a landscape rake to remove any small rocks and to level the soil.
- Spread and tamp the seed. The experts at Vigoro recommend incorporating seed and fertilizer into the soil 1/3-1/2 inch and raking very lightly. Check the package directions to determine how thick to sow the seed.
- Water in the seed. Grass seed will not germinate in dry soil, and for that reason, the surface must be kept moist with frequent, light waterings up to several times a day in hot and dry weather. Plan your planting with an eye to the weather forecast. Perhaps a well-timed steady rain will help. Under ideal conditions, grass will appear after 5 to 28 days. Factors like high temperatures, moisture and type of grass seed will affect germination.
- Top dressing. A light covering of peat moss, sawdust or straw will protect your future lawn from birds that love to eat large quantities of seed. A top dressing also helps to retain the planting if a heavy downpour threatens to wash away the grass seed. Warm weather and high winds can combine to blow light, dry seed and soil away. Keep the top dressing moist to hold the seed in place.
Mow Your Growing Lawn
Mow when new grass is approximately 3 inches tall. Set your mower on a high setting, approximately 2 inches, until your new lawn is established. Follow the Rule of Thirds for a healthy lawn: Vigoro experts say that because 2-2½ inches is the ideal height for grass, try not to cut more than a third of the grass blade to prevent shock.
Once you’re able to mow the lawn, water at a rate of 1 inch per week to keep the grass roots healthy. The key is to water deeply to encourage root growth.
TIP: Buy extra grass seed and store it in a dry place lacking extreme temperatures. Use for over-seeding or spot repairs. Learn how to repair dead patches in your lawn.
Planting Sod and Plugs
Grass seed isn’t the only way to start your lawn. Sod and plugs have their advantages, too. Although it comes with a higher price tag, sod offers a near-instant lawn, is weed-free and easily covers slopes without worries over seed washing away. Plugs are a small space solution. Learn more about selecting and installing a sod lawn.
Prep, plant and enjoy your lawn and gardens this year.
COMPLETE YOUR SPRING GARDEN PREP WITH THESE GARDEN CLUB STORIES:
- How to Prepare Your Garden for a Season of Flowers
- How to Prep for the Lawn of Your Dreams
- Prep Your Garden for Edibles Now