Beautiful lawns don’t come easy. Like all good things, they require care and attention to reach their full potential. The secret to glorious green grass isn’t just to mow it regularly, fertilise it, or water it just the right amount, it’s to nurture it right from the very beginning. With our awesome tips, you’ll learn how and when to sow grass seed to give it the best chance from day one!
Did you also know that lawns have a purpose other than aesthetics? The grass absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and traps dust in our environment, acting as a filter for the air we breathe every day. They also protect wildlife, provide flood control, and help cool us down in the warm weather.
So if you want to enjoy all the benefits that come with having emerald green grass on your lawn, follow these seven steps on how and when to sow your grass seed. And why don’t we touch on some lawn repair tips while we’re at it?!
When To Sow Grass Seed?
Table of Contents
- When To Sow Grass Seed?
- How To Plant Grass Seed
- Step 1: Site Preparation
- Step 2: Preparing the Ground For Grass Seed
- Step 3: Pick The Best Seed
- Step 4: Plant the Seed
- Step 5: Water and Cover Your New Grass Seed
- Step 6: Water Appropriately and Monitor Seed Establishment
- Step 7: Mow And Maintain
- Final Thoughts
Most grass types you’ll find in the UK are cool-season grasses. Let’s not start moaning about the weather, but I’m sure you won’t find it surprising that warm-season varietals don’t tend to flourish in our climate.
Cool-season grasses broadly prefer the same conditions. So, finding the best time to sow grass seed is about finding the time of the year that reliably provides these conditions over a long enough period for the new grass to establish its roots.
You must strike a balance between several factors:
- Soil warm enough to foster growth without too much heat to burn fresh blades
- Some rainfall to promote deeper root systems but not so much that you have to worry about waterlogged or compacted soil
- Finding conditions where weeds struggle to grow, limiting competition, but not so harsh that grass struggles too
Although it may seem a little counter-intuitive, the best time to plant new seeds is actually autumn, assuming you’re planting cool-season grasses. Seeds should be sown 4 to 6 weeks before the first autumn frost, giving the seedlings enough time to develop strong roots before the cold arrives.
If you plant too early, conditions may be too dry or too hot, or weeds will steal nutrients and water from your new grass, and they may fail to develop a solid foundation. If you plant too late, the first frost may be too much for your juvenile lawn grass, killing it before it gets a chance to mature.
It’s not ideal, but you can plant cool-season grass seed in early spring. Competition from spreading weeds will be high in the spring, and the heat may be too much, but if you water regularly, it can still work. If you have chosen to plant warm-season grass seed, then early spring is the best time.
This is effectively Step 0 on our guide to how to plant grass seed. If you decide to sow at the wrong time of year, you’ll be fighting a losing battle. Do it when the time’s right, and do the job properly, and you’ll have a gorgeous lawn in a matter of weeks!
Now that you know when to sow grass seed, let’s learn how we go about planting grass seed.
How To Plant Grass Seed
Adequate site prep is the foundation of a healthy, green and thick lawn. Properly preparing the ground for grass seed is essential for water drainage and easy mowing. Avoid slightly steeper slopes since they can make lawns dry out faster.
To prevent depressions and moist spots, smooth the surface thoroughly. This can be tough, so check out our guide on how to level a lawn if you have trouble.
You can also uproot the old lawn grass and replant the whole lawn, giving your lawn an even better look and feel. Remove the mature grass at its roots using a sod cutter or apply an all-around herbicide, eliminating broadleaf and grass vegetation.
Step 2: Preparing the Ground For Grass Seed
Ideal soil conditions aid germination of seeds and grass development. Follow these steps to get your soil ready to plant:
1. Test Your Soil
The perfect soil pH for most grasses should range from 6.0 to 7.5. The best way to test your soil is to take samples from different sections of your lawn and send them to a reputable laboratory for testing, but a good quality at-home testing kit should suffice.
The results will provide you with an accurate understanding of the current nutrient and pH levels in your soil, so you can make the proper modifications to help your lawn thrive.
As determined by a soil test, soil supplements may help restore pH balance if your field’s pH is beyond the scope for appropriate grass development. Alkaline soil is soil with an excessively high pH (in this case, higher than 7.5), which would require sulfur to fix.
Your soil may require lime to improve nutrient supply in locations where it is acidic, with an excessively low pH (lower than 6.0 for most grasses).
The germination of seeds and the general health of your grass are affected by the surrounding soil conditions. If it is too heavily packed or very sandy, your grass may struggle to take root. While you must retain soil moisture and nutrients for the grass to thrive, the ground must also have enough air.
Before planting, remove rocks and aerate the soil with a lawn aerator, aeration shoes, or just a plain old pitchfork. Then include organic matter, like compost, to a level of two to four inches to increase water penetration and soil aeration.
Step 3: Pick The Best Seed
Your grass’ health depends on the quality of the lawn seed you use, as well as the climate and growth conditions where it’s cultivated. For the best results, use high-end, pure seed grasses. They’re typically drought-tolerant and water-saving.
Depending on your location, you can also opt to plant cool-season grass seed or warm-season grass seed. Cool-season grasses are convenient for northern regions and thrive in cooler climates. The opposite is true for warm-season grasses, but the weather across the UK hardly gives us much of a warm season, right?!
Step 4: Plant the Seed
Follow your seed mix manufacturer’s suggested sowing guidelines after properly preparing the soil surface. Carefully read the directions on the package label and execute them to the letter. When the lawn seed is misused, the effects are likely to be less than desirable.
For the best outcomes, choose the correct spreader for your seed mixture. A drop spreader works perfectly, spreading seeds in a straight line, leaving a good spacing for your lawns. This sort of spreader is appropriate for tiny lawns, which often need greater accuracy when planting seeds.
Alternatively, you can use a broadcast spreader. They come in either walk-behind or hand-held options and scatter seed uniformly over the field. Although they are suitable for large grass fields, they don’t have the accuracy that drop spreaders can deliver.
Grass seed germinates more rapidly when exposed to sunlight. After you’ve finished distributing it, use a good quality rake to push the seeds into the soil to a depth of approximately a centimetre.
Once raked in, using a roller to run over the area guarantees the proper contact level between the seed and soil that your fresh lawn seed requires for germination.
Step 5: Water and Cover Your New Grass Seed
Efficient grass sowing depends on keeping the seeds continually wet but not waterlogged. Keep freshly sown areas moist by spraying them two or three times a day with a gentle mist. Stop watering when puddles start to form.
Cover the seeds soon after sowing to safeguard them from birds, preserve moisture, and protect them from being washed away in a strong storm.
You may choose from a variety of mulches for this project. Straw, mushroom soil, or screened compost are perfect options. When these materials decompose, they work as soil supplements, improving the productivity and structure of your soil. You can get them from your local farmers market or landscaping supply centre.
Peat moss isn’t a brilliant idea since it repels water after drying. Another alternative approach is to use erosion mats. They are biodegradable and can be unrolled across the region with minimal mess, but they are pricier than the previous options.
Whatever you use to cover the seeds, remember to use it moderately. Use a cover that’s a quarter or less than an inch thick. Topping autumn-planted seed with compost and mushroom soil is a solid move to promote growth.
They have a dark tint that absorbs sunlight and maintains ground warmth at night. This promotes rapid grass development and accelerates germination before the approach of winter.
Step 6: Water Appropriately and Monitor Seed Establishment
Gradually reduce the watering frequency while increasing the time and volume of water after the seeds have germinated and the grass seedlings have begun to develop. Eventually, decrease spraying as the lawn grows higher and more established.
Grasses have germination times ranging between five to twenty-one days. After coming to the surface, it takes about four to ten weeks for the grass to gain a foothold and become rooted. Most lawns need to grow for a whole season before they are suitable for heavy foot activity.
Check for bare soil or areas you perhaps overlooked after the seedlings attain a height of approximately one inch. To ensure your new lawn has the best chance, reseed any regions that might have struggled to grow.
Step 7: Mow And Maintain
It’s time to mow your lawn when your seedlings have grown to at least three inches tall, but when to mow your lawn can depend on several factors, including the time of year of the type of grass.
A single mowing session should take less than a third of the grass blade since this may cause stress and open the door to disease, weeds, and poor development. If you’re caught in a bind, take one-third off and leave the grass for a few days before returning for another trim.
In the case of autumn-planted grass, you should do the initial mowing during the subsequent spring. This would only be recommended for cool-season grasses and may require two mowing sessions in that first week of spring to get your lawn height under control.
Irrigation is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lawn, but you need to know when to water your lawn. Although your new grass will naturally receive a drink when it rains, this is typically not enough and will still need manual watering, particularly during dry spells. Irrigation, a simple sprinkler, or just spraying for a few minutes with a regular old hose is enough.
You must avoid heavy foot traffic in the first year of development while the lawn is still immature.
After three to seven weeks of seed germination, start fertilising cool-season grasses, but not if it’s now after November. You should not fertilise warm-season grass seed until the spring season.
Determine how often you should test your soil and make adjustments as necessary. Depending on your soil tests, you may need to fertilise your plants up to five times annually.
Planting grass seed can be a simple operation to spruce up your backyard, so long as you choose a suitable grass for your location, plant when conditions are ideal, and implement these easy instructions.
The duration it takes to completely transform lawns is anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks, but that depends on your geographic location, when you choose to plant, grass species and of course, how well you follow this guide!
Start by sowing your grass seed at the right time of year. For the cool-season grasses usually seen in the UK, this will be early to mid-autumn. If you are using warm-season grass seed, then early spring seeding is your best bet.
Preparation is critical and will set your seed up for success. Seeding and sowing are much easier with the right tools and should be followed by a good long drink for your soon-to-be-seedlings. Covering with compost, biodegradable mats or other suitable coverings will give your seed the best chance to germinate.
From there, it’s about watering appropriately, monitoring growth and mowing your lawn regularly so you never need to chop off more than a third at a time. Fertilising your lawn is likely a good idea too.
- The timing on when to plant your grass seed depends on the size of the area and whether you’re overseeding the existing lawn, fully replacing it, or starting fresh. Plan on preparatory work taking about 2 minutes per square metre of lawn for overseeding or starting fresh, and 5 minutes per square metre for a total lawn revival. If you need to also level the lawn, this could add a lot of time to the equation. Add in a couple of hours for soil testing and finding quality seeds.
- For lawn seeding and sowing, target 2-4 minutes per square metre, depending on your tools and your skills.
- Spring and summer spraying should begin with 10 minutes a day or more based on sprinkler performance metrics for 10 to 14 days, then decrease to twice weekly irrigation.
- During autumn and spring, apply fertiliser for one hour to cool-season grass species and up to three times to warm-season species annually.
Looking for more information on how to grow the perfect lawn in the UK? See our buying guide on the best moss killer to remove moss from your lawn or check out our review on the best petrol lawn mowers in the UK.