Seeding A New Lawn- Can take on a variety of grass types, different methods of seeding and different levels of difficulty. For this discussion we are assuming a new construction or a lawn that is being totally renovated, completely tilled up and re-graded. For this type of job you will need a tractor with tiller or skid steer with a rock rake or for very small lawns you can use a walk behind tiller. What ever the piece of equipment, the end objective is the same. We want a smooth, well tilled lawn with powdery soil 3" deep or so. You can do this with the walk behind tiller but it is a lot of work, so be prepared.
I like to spray all of the existing vegetation with round up to kill it first. This gets it out of the way and lets the tiller cut the soil up quicker and smoother. Follow label directions and spray the lawn with Round Up, or any Generic version of glyphosphate, and kill off all the existing grass and weeds. Let that set for about a week until it dies off. Then take your mower and set the deck very low to scalp off all of the dead vegetation. This will mulch it up and get it out of the way and actually add to the organic material in the soil when you till up the lawn. Watering the lawn the night before you till will knock down the dust and helps the tiller work easier if it has been hot and dry like it was here during the summer of 07. In our area, West Tennessee, we hit a 120 year record for heat and drought, so the ground was very hard and dry starting in Sep. when seeding time came around. If you can't water the night before, you can put a water sprinkler out in a section of the lawn where you are working and wet the lawn down while you are tilling up an area. It helps keep the dust down so you can at least breath and helps the machine work. How ever you go about it, just get the lawn tilled up and loose. If you are using a tractor, after tilling I take a harrow, a drag, piece of fence or anything to drag over the soil to smooth it out. You will have to use a rake in some spots to level it out, around the house and in tight spots. Once you are happy with the levelness of the lawn, or the grade, you will be ready for seed and fertilizer. I will assume you have already decided what type of grass you need for the conditions in your lawn, be it all sun, all shade, part both, etc. After you have the lawn level spread your seed at the recommended rates. Those will be in the neighborhood of:
Fescue 7-10# seed per thousand sq. ft. Rye, Perennial 6-8# per thousand sq. ft. Bermuda 2# per thousand sq. ft.
Other seeded grass varieties are available depending on where you live. I can't tell you what the rates are for every section of the US, these are for the transition zone. After seeding fertilize with a starter fertilizer, as discussed in the Lawn Establishment Page
Now is a good time to apply lime to sweeten the soil or bring the ph up. Most soils in our area are heavy in clay and tend to be very acidic and need lime. To be certain you can have a soil test done, however most soils will need lime and usually don't get enough. After lime is applied, you need to straw the lawn. We use about 80 bales per acre for strawing. You want to cover the soil so you can still see dirt, but no big bare spots with no straw. The straw is going to do two things, the most important is to conserve moisture so the soil doesn't dry out too fast not letting the grass seed germinate. The second is to help hold the soil in place when it rains heavily. Just having straw down won't keep the soil from washing away in a downpour, but it will help.
After the straw is down you will need to water, start watering just as soon as you can, the grass seed cannot germinate without water, soil to seed contact and the right temps. You need to water to the point of soaking the ground good and puddles start to form. After the first watering, water every few days to keep the ground moist, not soaking just moist. Keep this up until you have a solid green haze across the lawn, should take about 2 weeks. Then you can back off on the watering for a couple days and mow the grass. Cut it high the first time 3" or so, with a sharp blade. Be careful on the turns so to not tear out grass and soil around trees and obstacles. Keep watering until the grass is tall enough that it covers up the straw. And by the way, the straw stays in place, don't rake it up, it will rot away and add to the organic content of the lawn. After the lawn gets tall enough that you have mowed it a couple times it should be getting a good enough root system that you can back off on the watering. Just use common sense and water if the grass starts to look dried out, it will have a different look and the foot prints in the grass will not "spring back" after you walk across the lawn. In about a month the grass will start to turn yellow. This is from the grass using up the nutrients in the fertilizer you put down when you seeded. Use a 15-15-15 at the rate of 6# per thousand sq. ft. This will be enough nutrients to get the lawn through winter, or if seeded in Spring, get it up to summer. You can refer to our page on lawn care tips, for more details on fertilizing.
You can follow these instructions and seed most any lawn, if you have any questions you can email us, we will be glad to answer them for you. Questions? Email us
LawnMasters Lawn and Landscape 124 Whitlock Rd. Paris, Puryear, TN.