Seeding a lawn: step-by-step instructions for sowing grass seed

Kati
Kati
Kati
Kati

I am a qualified gardener and horticulturalist and love everything that grows! Whether it's a shrub, a tree, a useful plant or a supposed weed: for me, every plant is a little miracle.
In the garden I look after my 13 chickens, grow fruit & vegetables and otherwise observe how nature manages and shapes itself.

Favourite fruit: Blueberry, apple
Favourite vegetables: Braised cucumber, kale, green pepper

If you want to replant or simply improve your lawn, you can sow new lawn seeds. Here you will find our step-by-step guide to doing this with expert tips to get your lawn looking like new.

Grass seeds spread over soil
Autumn is the best time to lay a new lawn or sow seed [Photo: Eag1eEyes/ Shutterstock.com]

Seeding is the most popular method for growing a new lawn. And even for existing grass lawns, seeding is still occasionally necessary. Choosing the right time of year and the right type of lawn seed for this are key to success. Watering and care after sowing are crucial too. And even years after the lawn has been seeded, reseeding is often necessary to restore the lawn to its former glory. In the following article, you will find everything you need to know about seeding and reseeding lawns.

From when to sow a lawn to caring for it afterwards, here are the six essential steps to successfully sowing and tending to your lawn. We will also give tips on how to make sure your lawn grows healthy and strong.

1. When to sow grass seed

Lawn seeds can be sown from April to October. The ideal times are early autumn and spring when the soil is warm enough, but conditions are not too hot or dry. For germination, most grass seeds need a bit of moisture and a minimum soil temperature of 8 °C − 14 to 25 °C is optimal. These conditions are common in late summer or early autumn, which is why we suggest this time of year for sowing grass seed. However, be sure not to sow too late in autumn either, as the seeds could emerge incompletely or unevenly due to the decreasing temperatures.

Tip: The young grasses sown in early autumn are just as frost resistant as the mature lawn. Nevertheless, during the sensitive phase of grass seed germination and emergence, the soil temperatures should not drop below 8 °C − soil frost can damage the grass during this phase.

Apart from autumn, spring is also suitable for sowing lawns. From mid-April to the beginning of May, soil temperatures are usually optimal, but care must be taken to ensure the seeds have enough moisture. Hot temperatures in June can damage the young grass seedlings.

Summary: When to sow lawn seed

  • Lawns can be sown either in autumn (September) or in spring (mid-April to early May)
  • Soil temperatures at germination should ideally be between 8 and 12 °C
  • When sowing, the soil should be dry, and then watered afterwards

2. What to do before sowing

Before planting your lawn, complete all other work in the garden that could stress a young lawn. After the other plants and trees have been planted and beds, paths or garden ponds have been created, you can start seeding your lawn.

Dig the soil

For each area where the lawn is to grow, soil preparation begins with tilling the soil to the depth of a spade or digging fork. Autumn is the best time for digging because the soil tends to be dry and crumbly. When digging, remove all debris from the soil, like weeds and large stones, to allow you to carry out the necessary soil improvement afterwards. Later in this article, we will cover exactly how to improve soil. Ideally, there should be a couple of months between digging and sowing so that the soil can settle, and the lawn does not sink and become uneven later.

A shovel digging up earth
Digging up is a chance to remove any debris from the soil, like weeds and large stones [Photo: Georgy Dzyura/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: If areas of the lawn become overgrown with troublesome weeds, such as couch grass or goutweed, they should not be tilled under any circumstances. A tiller would cut up the weed rhizomes, making it more difficult to extract every bit of them and likely even spreading them to other parts of the lawn. It is therefore better to dig up the weeds by hand, meticulously removing every root.

Prepare the ground for grass seed

Grass needs a lot of nutrients which can quickly deplete the soil and cause it to dry out easily. This is why it is important to prepare the soil before sowing your lawn, to make sure the grass will grow strong and healthy for years to come. Here is our guide to preparing different kinds of soil.

Preparing normal soils for lawn seeding

Normal soils are prepared by applying fertiliser. A soil activator with beneficial mycorrhiza fungi is particularly suitable. Alternatively, compost or well-rotted manure can be used as fertiliser: work 10 to 15 litres per square metre into the top 10 to 20 centimetres of soil.

Preparing heavy and clayey soils for lawn seeding

You can tell you have a heavy, clay-rich soil if it goes as hard as stone when dry and sticks to your boots in thick clods when wet. Soils like this provide lawns with plenty of nutrients, but not enough water and oxygen to the roots. Extremely heavy soils can be improved with up to 50 litres of sand per m² to allow the grass to grow healthy roots and be able to absorb water easily. Alternatively, you could use other structural materials such as lava rock or expanded clay. Likewise, as with normal soils, you can add fertiliser or compost to the soil.

Prepare compacted soils for lawn seeding

Compacted soils have been compressed so tightly that they can barely absorb water or allow water and air to flow through. Compacted soil benefits greatly from green manuring. In late summer, sow strong-rooted plants into the soil that die back in winter, for example lupins (Lupinus) or oilseed radish (Raphanus sativus var. oleiformis). By the time the lawn is sown, these green manure plants will have largely broken down into the soil, adding structure and nutrients. Alternatively, heavily compacted soils can also be aerated. In both cases, sand and fertiliser or compost should be mixed into the soil before sowing the lawn seed.

A field of purple lupins
Lupins are a good green manure, but growing this way will not result in any beautiful flowers [Photo: Alla Sheptiienko/ Shutterstock.com]

Preparing light soils for lawn seeding

Sandy, nutrient-poor soils are not ideal for growing lawns. So, in gardens with light soil, the nutrient levels and water retention capacity must be improved. We suggest green manuring with nitrogen-fixing legumes. In addition to sowing a green manure, mix in some fertiliser with a long-term effect. Another option is to incorporate 20 to 30 litres of mature compost or three to five kilograms of well-rotted manure per square metre a few days before seeding the lawn.

Tip: Soils that are originally light and sandy cannot be permanently changed even with the above-mentioned improvements. Therefore, using a lawn seed mixture adapted to dry regions is the best long-term choice. That is why we have developed our drought-tolerant Plantura Drought-Resistant Lawn Seed.

Plantura Drought-Resistant Lawn Seed
Plantura Drought-Resistant Lawn Seed

Premium lawn seed: particularly drought-resistant & heat-tolerant, for regions with hot & dry summers

Measure the pH value of the soil

Two months before sowing the lawn, test the pH of your soil using a soil pH test. Most grasses for gardens like a pH value of around 5.5 to 7. Read our article on applying fertiliser to your lawn to learn how to alter the pH of your soil.

Prepare the soil

Start preparing the soil one or two weeks before you sow the grass seeds. The rough, uneven soil below the surface must be smoothed out. This can be tedious work with a shovel and rake and may require machinery instead − consider asking a professional for help if necessary.

The last step before sowing is to level the lawn surface evenly and carefully – use a wooden rake for this. Take your rake and level out the soil to the same height or two centimetres below any connecting areas or paving. Carefully press down this top layer of soil, keeping it level. Allow the soil to settle over the next one or two weeks.

Tip: Perhaps you were a little late in getting your soil dug and the surface has not had the time to settle properly. If this is the case, try rolling or pressing the surface down with footboards before creating the fine surface level. Unevenness can be levelled out later, but it is easier to sort it out before sowing the lawn seeds.

Overview: What to do before sowing your lawn

  • Complete all other garden work that might stress the young lawn
  • Dig up or till the soil to the depth of a spade and carefully remove weed and large stones
  • Add sand, lava rock or expanded clay to heavy clay or loamy soils
  • Light soils can be improved with a compost or green manure
  • Heavily compacted soils are improved with green manure or by aeration
  • All soils benefit from an application of fertiliser
  • Two months before seeding the lawn, measure the pH of the soil and make adjustments as necessary
  • About two weeks before sowing, smooth out and level the uneven soil
  • If the soil has not had long enough to settle after tilling, roll or press it down
  • Finally, before sowing, level the fine top layer of soil with a wooden rake
Installing new garden with pond and lawn
Complete all other work in the garden before laying the lawn [Photo: photowind/ Shutterstock.com]

3. How to choose the right lawn seed

Lawns are not made up of one single type of grass, but of a mixture of different grasses. Each grass type in the mixture plays its part in creating the perfect, dense carpet. The lawn seed mixture you choose will determine the quality and shape of your future lawn. When making this decision, it is important to consider how you intend to use your lawn. A recreation and sports lawn, for instance, will withstand different stresses than an ornamental lawn that is rarely walked on. There are also seed mixtures that are adapted for shady lawns or dry lawns where normal lawn mixes could not grow. Our Plantura lawn collection includes lawn seed mixtures for different all kinds of conditions and also tells all you need to know about how to sow and tend them later on.

Summary: Which lawn seed is the right one for you?

  • Depending on whether you want to reseed, grow a lawn in the shade of trees or a lawn that will get a lot of foot traffic, there are various seed mixtures to choose from
  • It is worth investing in high-quality standard seed mixtures
Spreading seeds on dark soil
Choose yoor lawn seed based on how you will use the lawn and where it is located [Photo: Dean Clarke/ Shutterstock.com]

4. How to apply lawn seed

The perfect weather for sowing lawn seeds is warm, not hot, with light rainfall forecast − a sprinkler will do too. The soil should also be thoroughly moist. With these factors in place, you can go ahead with sowing the grass seeds. If you want to fertilise your lawn, we recommend applying 100 grams per square metre of our Plantura Lawn Feed just before sowing. Then, sowing with the right seed density is key. This can be the difference between a thick, even looking lawn or a patchy, uneven lawn in the long term. Seeding can be done either by hand or with a spreader.

Lawn Feed 10.5kg, 250m2 coverage
Lawn Feed 10.5kg, 250m2 coverage
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star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
(5/5)
  • Perfect for a healthy & lush green lawn without moss
  • Supports your lawn with all the nutrients it needs in spring & summer
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly
£29.99

Sowing lawn seed by hand

If you have a small area and want to sow by hand, proceed as follows: measure an area of one square metre and weigh out the right amount of seed (the amount per square metre is usually indicated on the seed mix). Spread the measured seed evenly over the area. This will give you a feel for how close together the seeds should be. Divide the remaining area of lawn into pieces or strips and measure the seed to fit each section. Sow the seeds criss-cross over the entire area, width and length.

Spreading lawn seed with a spreader wagon

Using a spreader makes it easier to spread the lawn seed precisely over large areas. If you have a spreader at your disposal, this is the best option.

Expert tip: To adjust the spreader to the perfect spreading rate, lay out a sheet or cloth several square metres in size and run the spreader over it as a test. Fill the spreader and run it over one square metre of the sheet. Now pour the seed that was spread onto the sheet into a container and weigh it. If the weight is over or under the recommended amount per square metre for your seed mixture, adjust the spreader accordingly.

After sowing, cover the lawn seed thinly with our Plantura Organic Lawn Compost, to create the optimal starting conditions for the young lawn. Alternatively, work the seeds shallowly into the soil with a rake − 0.5 to 1 cm deep. The seeds must be in good contact with the soil to be able to absorb water for germination, and covering them protects them from drying out and being eaten by birds. Then seal the soil (i.e. gently press it down) with a light roller or treaders.

Summary: What is the correct way to spread lawn seed?

  • The soil beneath the seed should be moist but the surface layer should be dry and crumbly
  • Spread a natural lawn fertiliser, such as our Plantura Lawn Feed, directly before sowing
  • Depending on the seed mix used, a specific seeding density is recommended. For our Plantura Hard-Wearing Lawn Seed, for example, 20 grams of seed per square metre is required
  • Seeds can be sown by hand or with a spreader. The spreader provides a more even result for large areas
  • After sowing, cover the seeds with a special lawn soil or shallowly work the seeds into the soil and then lightly press the soil down.

5. How to water the lawn after sowing

After sowing, a continuous supply of moisture ensures that the germination process starts and continues. We recommend watering grass seed daily for about a month, provided it does not rain. However, the soil must not be soggy either as this deprives the seeds of oxygen. In especially dry weather, we recommend watering two to three times a day for about 10 to 15 minutes on the lightest sprinkling setting.

Sprinkler system watering a lawn
Don’t let your lawn dry out completely [Photo: topseller/ Shutterstock.com]

Summary: How do you water a lawn after sowing?

  • Ideally, keep the lawn continuously moist without being waterlogged
  • The freshly sown lawn is still sensitive, so be careful with powerful hoses and other such things that could damage it

6. How to care for a lawn after sowing

With the right preparation and lawn seed mixture, you are laying the foundation for a beautiful, dense lawn. To maintain this beauty, proper lawn care is essential.

Regular mowing is an essential part of lawn care. Mulching or mowing continuously covers the weeds, helping to keep on top of them. However, extra measures should be taken against stubborn weeds such as couch grass, dandelions and ribworts.

Allow the grass to grow to a height of 6 to 10 cm before your first cut, then cut it to a height of 4 cm. Make sure your mowing blades are sharp as blunt blades on a lawn mower pull the young grass shoots out of the soil. After the second or third cut, it is time to apply some fertiliser to your lawn – but keep in mind the time of year as there is no need to apply fertiliser after October.

Tip: It is better to mow regularly so that the grasses do not become too long. When the fast-growing species are too tall, they deprive the shorter grasses of light, causing them to die. If you have made this mistake and your lawn has become thin, apply a reseed mix. Otherwise, weeds can easily take the place of the shorter grasses.

Lawns need a good supply of nutrients to stay healthy and competitive against weeds. For this reason, it is best to apply fertiliser two or three times a year. Some fertilisers, such as our Plantura Lawn Feed, have a natural long-acting effect, so in a pinch, one single application per year will actually do.

Grass seeds sprinkled over lawn
This sprinkling box makes it easy to evenly distribute our Plantura Lawn Feed

Tip for lazy lawn owners: Regular applications of a lawn fertiliser is an excellent precaution against moss, lawn thatch and weeds. It also saves you from needing to scarify and/or sand your lawn− both of which are an avoidable expense. Our Plantura Lawn Feed ensures active soil life all year round, loosening the soil, providing nutrients and eating away at lawn thatch. Its counterpart for autumn is our Plantura Autumn Lawn Feed, which has extra potassium to prepare the grasses for the coming winter frosts.

Autumn Lawn Feed 10.5kg, 200m2 coverage
Autumn Lawn Feed 10.5kg, 200m2 coverage
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star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
(4.4/5)
  • Perfect for fertilising lawns from July to October
  • Promotes a winter-hardy lawn & fast regeneration in spring
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly
£29.99

Summary: How do you care for a newly sown lawn?

  • Allow a growth height of 6 to 10 cm before the first cut
  • After the second or third cut, fertilise the lawn − depending on the season, with our Plantura Lawn Feed or Plantura Autumn Lawn Feed
  • Mow regularly between spring and autumn
  • The lawn will need fertilising 2 to 3 times every year to grow healthy and dense
  • Lawn fertilising is preventative and can save you from future scarification

Tip: Does your lawn have some bare spots from heavy furniture or even mischievous moles? To remedy this, we recommend sowing a fast-germinating seed mixture that will quickly close the gaps. Our Plantura Lawn Repair Mix is made up mainly of fast-germinating ryegrass and competitive red fescue. Both come out on top in the battle against weeds.

To keep your lawn healthy and strong after sowing, you can find more information on year-round lawn care here.

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