Many people might imagine that seeding a new lawn from scratch is a difficult and time-consuming task, but it’s a rewarding undertaking that’s probably a lot easier than you think – and taking the time to do it can also save you a lot of money.
For anyone who thinks they might like to try, here’s our guide to how to grow new lawn from grass seed & care tips to help you achieve the best possible results.
If you want a preview of some of the stuff we’re going to be talking about – as well as a few extra tips and tricks – you can also watch this video before reading on.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of growing from seed?
Before we look at how to grow a lawn from scratch using seed, let’s talk briefly about why you would choose to do so.
You also have more choice over the kinds of grass you can grow, whereas, with turf, you are effectively limited to whatever is available locally.
Furthermore, once you buy it, if the weather is not favourable for seeding, you can keep it until conditions are more suitable – something you can’t do with turf since it needs to be laid within 24 hours of delivery.
It is also much easier and less labour-intensive to spread seed than it is to lay rolls of turf.
On the other hand, turf gives you a new lawn almost instantly. You won’t be able to walk on it for a couple of weeks, but after being left for a short period to bed in, a turf lawn is ‘ready to go’.
This means if you’re in a hurry and don’t mind paying more, turf can offer you a shortcut; seed is only suitable for those with a bit more time to spare as well as the patience to nurture their new lawn into existence.
If you still think seeding is the way to go for you, let’s have a look at how it’s done.
Step 1. When to sow grass seed?
In the UK, there are two optimum times for starting new lawns from seed – you can either begin in mid-spring or early autumn, and of these two options, the latter is slightly preferable.
In early autumn, the ground is still warm, which is conducive to germination. This will take place within around ten days or so, and once the grass seeds germinate, your lawn will spend the winter months working on its root system.
The ground in mid-spring may still be a little cold, so germination might be a bit slower. Once the grass begins to grow, it will then want to flower with the warming season so will direct its energy into that rather than concentrating on sending down deep, strong roots.
However, seeding at either of the times works well, so these are the windows you should aim for.
Step 2. Choosing your seed mix
When you have decided when you want to seed your lawn, the next step is choosing the seed mix you want to use.
For many non-gardeners, grass is just ‘grass’, but not all grasses are the same, and not all grass mixes are equal.
First, you need to consider what kind of lawn you want and what it will be used for. Will it be a general-purpose lawn used for barbecues, sunbathing and games of football? Or will it be a more decorative lawn with much less foot traffic?
If you want a lawn designed for heavier use, you should choose a seed mix containing grass species suited to this purpose. Mixes vary, but they usually contain grasses like perennial ryegrass and strong red fescue.
One the other hand, for more delicate, carefully manicured lawns, you can choose mixes that include things like fine-leaved slender red fescue and bentgrass. However, be aware that grasses like this won’t enjoy life much if you walk on them too much.
Another point to bear in mind is that if your lawn is in the shade, mixes also exist for those specific conditions.
Step 3. Buy quality seed
You might imagine that once you have chosen the type of grass mix you want, one bag of grass seed is much the same as another – but you’d be wrong.
With grass seed, just like everything else, you get what you pay for, so if you want a lush, healthy and weed-free lawn, you should invest in high-quality seed.
Poor quality seed may contain seeds from weeds, and some of the grass seed may be agricultural-grade.
This might be fine if you plan to keep goats in your garden, but perhaps less so if you are hoping for the kind of stunning green lawn you can be proud of – so shop around and check the label carefully before you decide.
The amount required will be determined by the size of the lawn to be seeded – use this measurement against the supplier’s recommendation to work out how much to buy.
Step 4. Preparing the ground
Having chosen your seed, you need to prepare the ground. Start by removing any weeds, either by hand or using weedkiller – although if you use weedkiller, make sure it is not the residual kind or it will prevent your new grass from germinating.
If you use weedkiller, you will need to wait a certain amount of time before sowing, so make sure you do this several weeks and ideally at least one month before you plan to sow. However, we recommend doing it by hand where possible.
At this point, make sure you also remove any rocks and large stones you don’t want in your lawn.
Next, rotovate or turn the soil to a depth of around 25cm and tread it down to make it more compact. Rake it over to create a smooth surface and then tread it down one more time to firm it up again.
Step 5. Sowing the seed
After you have finished preparing the ground, you can either spread the seed by hand or using a spreader.
If spreading manually, the best way to do it is to divide the area into metre-squares using string and canes and then to weigh out the correct amount into a cup for each section.
If you have a large area to seed, this may be time-consuming, in which case you may be better off using a spreader to expedite the job.
Once done, give the ground another light rake, and if no rain is forecast, give it a water. If the forecast is for dry weather, keep watering it every day or two to ensure the soil stays moist but not wet.
Here’s a fun short video that shows you what happens next!
Step 6. After it sprouts
Once the grass begins to grow, if there is no rain, continue watering every few days to ensure it doesn’t dry out. Leave it to grow to at least 5cm or more before mowing for the first time and make sure you don’t take off more than a third of its length when you cut it.
If you sowed the seed in spring, you won’t need to fertilise it again until the following year. However, for autumn-sown grass, you can give it a feed before the growing season starts the following spring.
Tips for success
Here are a few extra pro tips that will help you achieve the best results.
- Keep off the grass as much as possible for the first season – After your grass begins to grow, try to keep off it as much as possible for at least the first season to allow it to become established. Autumn-sown grass will be ready to walk on the following summer while spring-sown lawn will be ready by late autumn the same year.
- Use nets or horticultural fleece to keep birds off – The most effective way to prevent birds from pecking up your seed is to use nets or agricultural fleece. This will also help with germination.
- Pull weeds up by hand while grass is becoming established – As your grass begins to grow, inspect it visually for the presence of any weeds or undesirable grass species – and if you see any, pick them out by hand.
- Avoid weedkiller for at least six months – Don’t use weedkiller on your new lawn for at least the first six months or you risk killing the grass as well as the weeds.
- Time spreading your seed to coincide with rain – Spread your seed just after rain or when rain is forecast. This will save you the trouble of watering the area and will also conserve water.
- Avoid seeding in the middle of a dry spell – Similarly, don’t spread seed in the middle of a dry spell or you will have to water it constantly – and if you forget, your grass will die.
- Test soil before sowing – If you want to be more scientific, you can have the composition of your soil tested before sowing. This way, you will know more accurately about its pH level and nutrient composition, allowing you to amend it accordingly.
An enjoyable job and something you can be proud of
Although seeding a lawn from scratch takes longer than buying pre-grown turf, it can be an enjoyable job to work on, and when it’s finished, you can feel rightly proud of the beautiful grass you nurtured yourself from baby plants into a luxuriant green lawn.