Is one of the most popular yard coverings the world around. Not only does its verdant green blades look appealing to the eye, but it also plays a functional role in preventing soil erosion. There are quite a few people who would even argue that it smells nice right after a fresh cut.
For some homeowners who are looking to develop a new lawn, or to expand their yard into an area that previously didn’t grow grass, the choice of grass seed over sod is preferable. Not only is grass seed much more affordable per square yard than sod, but it’s also easier to the source, and you don’t have to shoulder the cost of labor to haul it and install it.
Though that’s not to say that there isn’t some elbow grease and added work that comes with growing a significant patch of grass from seed. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the humble grass seed, how to get it started, how to nurture it, and how to help it grow to its full potential.
Choosing The Right Grass Seed
Two or three decades ago, choosing the right grass seed on your own was like a roll of the dice. Unless you were well-versed in the difference between creeping red fescue and nuances of zoysia grass, you simply had to hope that the people in your local hardware store were putting the right types of grass on the shelves for you.
Today grass seed companies make every effort to provide you with descriptors and thoughtful blends of grass seed that grow well together. This includes adding “Nurse Grass” seeds that help keep other grasses from eroding away.
How Does Nurse Grass Work?
The most common type of nurse grass is annual ryegrass. It tends to germinate quickly and develops a stable root base. Not only does it help keep the soil loose for other more desirable types of grass, but it also reduces erosion problems that can be caused by things like heavy rainfall of accidental overwatering.
This question varies both by your regional climate as well as the conditions of your lawn. These days grass seed companies do their best to ship the right grass seed blends to the regions where they will thrive. That way you don’t end up with tropical-loving Bermuda in Northern Minnesota or cold-tolerant, fine-bladed perennial ryegrass in South Florida.
At that point, you can further narrow down your options based on the conditions of your lawn. You might even want to buy two different types of grass seed blends to handle distinctly different parts of your yard.
For instance, let’s say that you have some parts of your lawn that see less than 6 hours of full sun in a day and other parts that are exposed to full sun nearly all day long. In a scenario like this, you might want to purchase a grass seed blend designed for “Partial Shade” and a grass seed blend designed for “Full Sun.”
What Is The Best Way To Plant Grass Seed?
We put together an article that will teach you how to grow grass from seed for a new lawn, so we encourage you to check it out. However, Right off the bat, you need to keep in mind that grass seed needs a little bit of light, and consistent moisture to germinate. If you bury the grass seed, it will simply decompose. At the same time, it’s also a tempting treat for certain seed-loving birds and other pests.
You also have to keep in mind that once a grass seed sprouts it’s first anchor root that it is highly vulnerable to overwatering. If the anchor root is broken away from the seed by excess rain or too much sprinkler time, the rest of the seed will be worthless.
The goal is to get your grass seed to germinate as soon as possible. The following steps give you the best chance of doing this.
- Remove all rocks, sticks, and other debris from the planting area.
- Vigorously rake the exposed soil to maximize the texture.
- Lightly water the planting area to eliminate dust and increase the chance of the grass seed sticking in place.
- Use a broadcast spreader or a wide area manual seed spreader to spread the seed out evenly. If you are going to try to spread it by hand, do your very best to avoid clumps of grass seed.
- Lightly water the planting area to ensure the seed has adequate moisture. In the case of a seed with a protective coating or a fertilizer coating, this might be necessary to activate it.
How Long Does It Take For Grass Seed To Germinate?
This depends a lot on the type of grass seed in your particular blend. Though under the right conditions, a nurse grass like annual ryegrass could germinate in as little as 7 to 10 days.
How Fast Will New Grass Seedlings Grow?
Newly germinated grass tends to sprout up quickly, then linger as the roots try to spread out to capture available moisture and nutrients. As the root mass develops it will create layers known as “Turf.” This is a mixture of aerated material, organic material, and roots all existing in a natural balance.
As the turf layers start to develop the blades of grass will start to widen into their natural shape and grow longer. Depending on the type of grass, this should take roughly 3 to 4 weeks.
How Long Before I Can Walk On New Grass?
In a perfect world, you would stay off a newly seeded area of grass for at least 3 to 4 months. Though this might be impossible if you have kids and outdoor pets. If possible, try to keep everything off the grass for at least 6 weeks.
How Do I Properly Water Grass Seed & Seedlings?
The newly seeded area will have different watering needs than an established section of the lawn. Ideally, you want to give it 2 to 3 light watering sessions a day rather than one long soaking one. This will reduce concerns about erosion, as well as helping the turf to develop the natural aeration it needs without being compacted by heavy water. If your grass is wet, you should wait before mowing wet grass otherwise it could cause damage to the lawn or your mower.
Depending on the type of grass you have will determine the most common heights before you should start mowing them. Typically 1 – 3 inches high is the right height. Any longer and you risk causing unnecessary strain on your mower.