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Guide To Growing Healthy, Green Grass
Grass. The cornerstone of every great yard, garden, or landscape design. It’s as American as apple pie. There’s nothing quite like stepping back onto your driveway and looking out over your freshly-mown, deep, beautiful green grass. So it’s no surprise that most homeowners want to know everything there is to know about growing great grass. Well, we’ve got what you need. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to grow grass from A-to-Z, as well as some best-kept secrets from our team of lawn care professionals. Let’s get to work.
What’s in This Article?
When to Plant Your Grass Seed
- The Best Lawn Seed
- Testing Your Soil
- Preparing Soil for Seeding
- Seeding the Lawn
- Cover the Seed
- Repairing Bare Spots
- Watering Your Lawn
- Feeding Your Lawn
- Mowing Your Lawn
How to Plant Grass (The Right Way)
If you’re getting started with a fresh lawn or starting out your lawn maintenance season, it’s likely that you need to plant some fresh seed. Whether you’re going with a full new lawn or just repairing bare spots, take care to plant your seed the right way.
Choose the Perfect Grass Seed
There are two major categories of grasses: warm-season and cool-season.
If you’re in a northern climate with cold winters, cool-season grasses are usually your best option. Some common examples include:
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Fine and Tall Fescues
- Perennial ryegrass
For the southernmost states with rare hot, dry summers, warm grasses are more popular. These grasses are hardier and drought tolerant, which makes them less likely to scorch. Examples of warm-season grasses:
- Bermuda grass
- Centipede grass
- Bahia grass
- St. Augustine
If you’re not sure which grass to choose, ask a professional. Most lawncare shops will stock primarily the grass that’s well-suited for your local area, and lawn care expertsNewberg Landscaping Pros are sure to know what will work best for you.
When to Plant Your Grass Seed
Timing is everything when it comes to grass seed. Different grass varieties are best planted at different times of the year. To further complicate matters, your local climate plays a big role in the perfect timing of your planting.
Generally, cool-season grasses do best when planted at the beginning of Spring, or at the end of the Fall. Warm-season grasses tend to prefer warmer soil, and these are best planted in the summer. If you’d like to get more precise, look up the ideal planting conditions for your specific seed type. Sometimes these are included in your seed bag.
Test Your Soil
Soil tests aren’t always required, but they’ll provide you with a wealth of insight into the conditions you’re laying your grass down in. If you’ve had bad luck with your lawn in the past, it’s possible that your soil isn’t amenable to the grass you’re attempting to plant. It might be too acidic or basic for that species. Nearly all grass does best with a soil pH of between 6.0 and 7.0.
Soil tests can often be performed by your county. Give your local government a call to see if this is a service they provide. Or, if you’d prefer to DIY, you can buy soil test kits in most Home & Gardening shops.
If your soil is too acidic (<6.0 pH), try adding some limestone or alkaline fertilizer. If you have alkaline soil (>7.0pH) add compost or sulfur.
Preparing the Soil for Planting
New grass can be finicky; it likes to have ideal soil conditions to germinate. Properly soil conditions for new grass means:
- Soil has a balanced pH
- The ground has a level grade (no holes or uneven slopes)
- Soil is free of stones and debris
Take a walk around your yard or the planting zone before scattering seed. If necessary, add in the dirt, rake rocks and debris, and aerate the lawn before you get started with seeding.
Seeding Your Lawn
Now for the fun part. Seeding lawn is relatively straightforward, most people have done it at least once before. Use a spreader to evenly distribute the grass seed over the soil surface. When you’re done, make sure to fertilize the same area on the same day. Your new seed will need to be fed to germinate properly.
How much grass seed should I use?
The amount of grass seed to spread depends a bit on the type of seed you’re using, but most species fall somewhere in the range of 250-400 feet per pound of seed for maintenance, or “overseeding.” For a new lawn, or when repairing bare spots, you’ll want to use approximately two times as much seed. Check your bag for instructions.
Cover the Grass!
Once you’ve planted your grass seed, it’s vital that you cover the seed with a layer of dirt about ¼ to ½ inches deep. This allows the fresh seeds to germinate, which they do best in a dark, moist, underground environment. Additionally, consider covering this area with lawn netting. You’ve probably noticed netting over your neighbor’s lawns, new constructions, or a local business. This netting is used to prevent erosion and protect the soil while your new grass is taking root.
Watering Your Seed for the First Time
With your grass seed and fertilizer spread, covered, and protected in the soil, all that’s left to do is your first watering! Be sure to water the soiled area thoroughly so the water reaches at least a half-inch into the soil to your seed.
How long does it take for grass to grow?
New grass seed takes between 7 to 30 days to grow, while germination completes and the new grass takes root. Be sure not to disturb the seeds until they’ve reached a height of about 2-3 inches.
Pro Tips: Lawn Maintenance for Lush, Green Grass
With your lawn established, the hard part is over. Now you can coast with a few simple maintenance activities, and watch your lawn thrive.
Repairing bare spots
After a new seeding, bare spots are not uncommon. If bare spots appear on an established lawn, it’s important to understand what exactly caused the bare spot in the first place. Is it the traffic from kids or pets? Perhaps a pest infestation? When in doubt, try a soil test.
To repair bare spots in your lawn:
- Loosen the soil on the surface by bringing in the use of a rake.
- (Optional) Add topsoil to even out the soil.
- Spread grass seed, at approx. 1lb per 300 sq. ft.
- Water with at least 1.5 inches of water every week for 4 weeks.
- Mow the grass when it reaches around 3 to 4 inches tall.
Your watering schedule will change over the course of the year, and as you might expect, it’s highly variable depending on your local climate conditions and the type of grass you have. In general, grass needs about:
- 0.75 inches of water per week in cool temperatures (42°F – 55°F)
- 1.5 inches of water per week in moderate temperatures (55°F – 70°F)
- 2.5 inches of water per week in hot temperatures (70°F+)
For more specific watering schedules, you’ll want to consult your local professionals. Sprinkler and irrigation systems make it easy to stay on top of your watering, as the controllers can be programmed once — making them the perfect “set it and forget it” upgrade to your lawn maintenance.
The 3 most important letters in lawncare are N-P-K. These stand for:
- (N) Nitrogen helps your grass grow
- (P) Phosphorus helps plants set healthy roots down
- (K) Potassium buffs your lawn’s “immune system” – making it resistant to disease and drought
In the pursuit of healthy green grass, you need to make sure you are optimizing the ratios of these nutrients in your soil. When you are growing your lawn from seed, use a high phosphorus fertilizer to help with the root growth and establishment. Once you have an established lawn, look for more Nitrogen-forward fertilizer blends (usually a 3:1:2 or 4:1:2 ratio.)
Mowing your grass regularly will keep the grass healthy, and besides, the lawn never looks quite as good as when it’s freshly mown. But there is definitely a threshold of overkill to mowing schedules, and particularly mowing height. Cool-season grasses should be cut typically between 2-3 inches, and warm-season grasses should be cut no shorter than 1 inch, typically 1.5.
Wrapping it All Up
With your trusty tools in hand, and now that you’re equipped with all the lawn care knowledge you’ll ever need, you’re ready to set off on your lawn care adventure. If you’re still looking for a bit of extra assistance, reach out to one of our local landscaping and lawn care professionals. They’re standing by to provide you the services you need to score the best lawn in your neighborhood.