Growing a great lawn can seem overwhelming at first. Upon walking into a garden center, you will find multiple brands offering products with similar names at varying prices. When purchasing grass seed for your lawn it is best to look at the label on the back to get a better understanding of what you are purchasing. This label will list the types of grass seed the package contains and their percentages by weight. Oftentimes grass seed packages contain other products in addition to grass seed. These may include fertilizers, inert material (seed coating), other crop seeds, and weed seeds. The germination rate of the grass seeds will also be listed on this label. The higher the germination percentage, the better your seeds will likely grow. There are also test dates and sell-by dates listed on this label. These explain when the germination rate was tested. Grass seed germination rates need to be retested after the sell by date and relabeled accordingly.
Determining What Seeds to Purchase
First you need to determine which grass seeds will thrive in the region that you live in. The Northern half of the United States should plant what is considered “Cool-Season Grasses” while the center of the country should plant transitional grasses, often a mix of warm and cool season grasses. This may depend on sun exposure, altitude, and foot traffic, water availability or a combination of those factors. Finally, the states ranging from Texas to South Carolina should plant “Warm-Season Grasses”. Performance Seed is based in Minnesota and our grass seeds perform best in the “Cool-Season” region. These grasses include Kentucky Bluegrass, Fine Fescues, Tall Fescues, and Ryegrasses.
Planting Grass Seed
There are several key steps that must be taken to grow grass seed. The first is having proper soil temperature. The soil temperature range that will give your grass seed the best chance for successful germination is between 50 and 65 degrees. This equates to a daytime temperate range of 60 to 75 degrees. Soil temps below 50 degrees will cause poor germination and most likely the seeds will lay dormant.
The most popular time grass seed is planted is during the spring. However, the fall is considered the best time to plant grass seed. Soil temps are less likely to drop below the desired range and weeds are more easily controlled in the fall. This does not mean that planting grass seed in the spring is unfavorable.
- New LawnsLevel the ground where the grass seed will be planted. Apply any products to your soil necessary after reviewing your soil test results. Lightly rake to loosen the soil before spreading the grass seed. Spread the seeds evenly over the desired area at a rate of about 5lbs per 1000 square feet. Lightly rake or roll the area to assure good seed to soil contact. Water the area several times per day to keep the seeds damp until germination occurs. This may be as fast as 5-10 days or as long as 21 days. Be careful not to overwater the area. Once germination has occurred continue to water the seedlings multiple times per day until the grasses reach about 1 inch tall. After your new lawn reaches about 1 inch tall you can reduce watering to once per day. Wait to mow until the grasses have grown at least 2 inches tall.
- Overseeding Established LawnsMow your lawn and rake vigorously to remove thatch (dead grasses) to expose the soil. This can also be done using a dethatcher. These can often be rented at a local hardware store. Loosen soil in any areas that have been badly damaged. Spread the seeds evenly at a rate of about 4lbs per 1000 square feet along with any products needed that were determined by a soil test. Water several times a day until the seeds germinate and once per day thereafter. Wait to mow the new grass until it is at least 2 inches tall.
Performing a soil test will help determine what your lawn may need for optimum grass seed growth. These are often found at a garden center as well as can be purchased online. Your lawn may need lime in areas of high acidity, or fertilizer where the soil is lacking nutrients. Finding out what your soil may need will help your new lawn off to a great start.
While it may be tempting to use weed killers when you plant grass seed, it is best to wait until you have mowed your new lawn a few times. This ensures that the new grass is well established. Using weed controllers too soon may kill immature seedlings and prevent germination. Weed killers are more effective during the fall as the springtime weather promotes weed growth and flowering. Once weeds begin to flower, they are extremely difficult to control. During the fall, weed seedlings have not yet been well-established, which allows for more effective weed control.
Lawn Care Tips
Whether you have just planted new grass seed or are maintaining your existing lawn, there are additional steps that can be taken to assure that your lawn stays healthy and looking great.
Most grasses that grow in the Northern Region do best when they are mowed to a height of between 2 and 3 inches. Mowing grasses any shorter will damage the plant as they will receive too much sunlight and will be harmed from the heat. The grass may also turn into an undesirable brown color. It is also important to keep your mower blades sharp. When mowing with dull mower blades, it often rips the blades of grass instead of cutting them. The torn tops often turn brown and leaves the grasses more susceptible to diseases and pests.
Fertilizing and Weed Control
It is important to keep your soil full of the nutrients that your lawn needs to stay healthy and looking good. Research your soil type and using a soil test determine what your soil may need. Locate the appropriate product and follow the instructions for the best results. If necessary, fertilizers can be applied multiple times per year to replenish nutrients. Weed killers are typically more effective in the fall as weeds are growing slower and seedlings are more vulnerable. Determine what weed controllers will perform best for your lawn and follow the instructions for the best results.
When you aerate your lawn, it allows water and nutrients to better enter your soil. This is accomplished by butting small holes in the top layer of soil. Soil will compact over time as the lawn is mowed and children and pets play in the yard. It is recommended that this be done up to once per year in high traffic or clay soils and every 2-3 years in sandy soils, lower traffic areas, or if your lawn is growing well. Aerators are often available to rent at local hardware stores.
It is recommended that you dethatch your lawn approximately every five years. Doing this during the beginning of spring may damage your lawn as it is coming out of its dormant state and is in a more fragile state. This may also allow weeds to grow much easier as more sunlight will reach the soil. Dethatching your lawn in the late spring or early fall is considered best. It is also important to remove debris from your yard throughout the year as this will help keep your lawn healthy. Whether this is leaves, pinecones and needles, sticks, or grass clippings, these will build up over time and block the sunlight to your lawn. These will also dull your mower blades over time.
We hope these tips will help you grow and maintain a healthy and great looking lawn! If you have any other questions about our grass seed or your lawn, please use the Contact Us page and we will do our best to assist you!