8 Easy Steps to Sow Grass Seed

Reseeding your lawn is a great way to get beautiful grass without spending a fortune. But if you’re contemplating doing it yourself, it can be hard to know where to start.

What seed should you buy? How do you plant it? And how do you make sure you get a nice, level surface at the end?

That’s where we come in! We’re going to take you through the process step by step. And we’ll give you extra hints and tips to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Tools for planting grass seed

  • Your choice of grass seed (see step 1)
  • Garden fork or rotovator
  • Systemic weedkiller
  • Manure or fertilizer specially formulated for lawn seed
  • Four 1-metre bamboo canes
  • String
  • Plastic measuring cup
  • Rake

Step by Step Guide on How to Sow Grass Seed

Step 1: Choose the right seed

Choose the right seed

To get the best results you need to select the right seed for the conditions in your garden.

The Royal Horticultural Society provides advice on what species to look for. Mixtures designed for shady conditions will say so on the packaging.

If you want a manicured look and are prepared to put in lots of work, consider a bowling green mixture. That will give you very fine, soft grass. But it is difficult to cut and vulnerable to fungal diseases.

For a good all-purpose lawn, look for mixtures that include higher proportions of dwarf ryegrass. It’s attractive and hardwearing. And unlike finer mixtures, it doesn’t produce long tufts that slip through the blades of your mower.

Step 2: Dig over the soil

Dig over the soil

The next step is to make sure your grass seed has a well-prepared bed to put down strong roots. To do that, you’ll need to dig over the soil.

Grass doesn’t have particularly long roots – usually not more than three inches at most. But healthy grass also needs good drainage, so digging down deeper than this will bear dividends.

If you’re working on a smaller patch of ground, you can use a garden fork to turn the soil. As you do so, break up clods of soil with the back of the fork. And remove any large stones or weeds you spot. That will help with drainage and prevent the weeds re-emerging in your new lawn.

If you’ve got a larger area, the task will take much less time and energy with a rotovator. If you don’t have one of your own, you may be able to hire one locally.

Step 3: Improve your soil

Improve your soil

Take this opportunity to enrich your soil before planting. To do this, it’s helpful to know what kind of soil you have in the first place. This guide from Gardeners’ World will help you find out.

If you have heavy clay soil, work in some sharp grit. That will help water drain away more easily.

If your soil is light and sandy, add manure or other organic matter. That will help it retain moisture, as well as providing nutrients for your grass. You can also buy fertilizer that’s specially formulated for grass seed.

The best approach to any weeds you come across is to dig them up. But if you encounter any very stubborn specimens, use a systemic weedkiller. Make sure it’s a kind that won’t leave behind residual chemicals that could damage your lawn.

Step 4: Make the surface level

Make the surface level

Now that you’ve forked over or rotovated your soil, you need to make the surface flat and firm again. To do this, all you’ll need are your feet!

Stand at the end of your prepared ground with your feet together, then shuffle forward. You want to keep your feet close together as you move, so that you cover every bit of soil. Your weight will make the surface flatter and smoother.

This YouTube video from gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh shows the technique in action.

Step 5: Get rid of remaining bumps and hollows

Now you’ve finished trampling your soil and created a much flatter and smoother surface. And you’ll have got rid of all the air pockets.

But you’ll also find that your shuffling feet have left behind some smaller bumps and hollows in the ground. The next step is to get rid of those.

To do that, you’ll need your garden rake. As when you shuffled over your lawn area, start at one end and work methodically along to the other. Bend down low and use long, even strokes. That will help you create a nice, level surface.

So are you ready to plant that seed yet? Not quite!

Step 6: The second shuffle

The second shuffle

While raking will give you an even surface, it will also make the soil fluffy again. You want your seeds to have a good firm bed to sit in. That means it’s time to get shuffling again!

As before, start at one end of your lawn and keep your feet close together as you move. Press down with your heels to break up clods of soil and trample out air pockets.

There’s no denying this is a fairly boring part of the process, but stick with it! You’ll get a much healthier lawn at the end of it.

Step 7: Measure out your lawn seed

Measure out your lawn seed

At long last, it’s time to plant your lawn seed!

It’s important to make sure you sow the seed at the density recommended on the packet. If you’ve got a larger area to seed, you may want to invest in a seed spreader. That will help you sow at a consistent density across your lawn.

But for a smaller area, it’s just as easy to go low-tech. Tie together four one-metre bamboo canes into a square. Then measure out the amount of seed required for each square metre using your measuring cup.

Place your cane square on the ground at one end of the lawn. Then sprinkle the seed as evenly as you can across the area inside the canes. Dropping it from a height of about 18 inches above the ground will help you get even coverage.

Move your cane square along, and repeat the process until you’ve covered the whole surface of your lawn.

Step 8: Give it a light rake

Give it a light rake

Last but not least, give the ground a gentle, light rake over. Your grass seeds need some light in order to germinate, so don’t cover them up entirely.

Now just wait for your lawn to grow! If you’re seeding it at the right time of year – more on that below – there’ll be no need to water. Let the British weather do that for you.

Extra tips

When to plant grass seed

  • The best time to seed a new lawn is in late Spring or early Autumn – the end of March to May, or September to mid October. The ground will be warm and moist. And you’re unlikely to need to wait long for rain to come and help the seeds germinate.
  • If you find you have an unexpectedly dry period, you can give your lawn an occasional watering. Use the shower setting on your hose, so that the seeds get a gentle sprinkle. You don’t want to dislodge them with a more powerful jet of water.
  • Choose a day that isn’t too windy to sow your lawn seed. That will help ensure your seeds land where you want them to, rather than on neighbouring paths or flowerbeds!

Don’t overseed

  • Don’t be tempted to use more seed than is directed on the packaging. Not only is it more expensive, you’re unlikely to get good results. If the roots of the grass are too close together, they can rot, especially if the soil is damp.
  • Don’t be tempted to estimate how much seed you’re sowing. Yes, it takes a while to mark out every square metre and measure out seed – but it’s time well spent. Grass seed is very fine and light, and it’s easy to get it wrong and overseed by accident.

Protect your lawn seed from pests

  • Lawn seed is a tempting treat for birds. You’ll almost inevitably lose some of it as bird food, but you can minimize the losses. Tie some foil containers or old CDs at intervals along a string. Then hang it a couple of inches above your soil. The noise and flashing light will deter the birds.
  • If you have cats in your neighbourhood, all that freshly turned soil makes an equally tempting loo! The strings will get in their way too. Alternatively, spread out some fine netting just above the surface of the soil to keep feline visitors at bay.

Carry out the first mow when the grass is 2 to 3 inches high

  • Don’t panic if your grass doesn’t appear immediately! You can expect to see a light green covering in about three weeks.
  • Don’t worry if your grass appears patchy at first. After the first mow, it will begin to spread out and establish itself.
  • Carry out the first mow when the grass is between 2 and 3 inches tall. Don’t cut it too short – just take off the top half an inch.
  • Reduce the height of the grass gradually with each subsequent cut. Those cuts should take place between once a week and once a fortnight.
  • Your new lawn will be fully established in about 9 months to a year.

You’re all set to seed your new lawn!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our step by step guide to how to sow grass seed. Choose the right seed, prepare the ground carefully, and sow at the right density, and you’ll get great results.

Just remember to give it the occasional watering if needed. And start cutting when the grass is between 2 and 3 inches tall.

A little patience will be rewarded with a beautiful new lawn. And you’ll have the satisfaction of having achieved it at a fraction of the price of laying new turf!

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