Imagine there’s a large area in your garden that is bare and scruffy and you’ve decided it would be nice to transform it into a lush lawn. Rather than buying rolls of turf you quite like the idea of using lawn seed. That’s great, because it’s cheaper than turf and there’s a much wider choice of seed for particular conditions. With good soil preparation, sowing a new lawn with seed is not complicated. Follow the steps below for the best possible results.
Here, Mike James has put together a plan of growing a lush lawn from seed – on the advice of friend and landscaping star, Andy Sturgeon:
What type of grass seed should I choose?
With such a range of seed mixtures available, choosing the right one for your lawn can sometimes be confusing. Consider what you’re looking for as far as maintenance and hardiness are concerned and bear this in mind. Generally, seed mixtures fall into three main categories:
- General purpose lawn: This is the most popular, and is a mix of durable grasses, perfect for areas where there’s plenty of activity or wear and tear from pets and children. This type of lawn grows quite quickly and will need regular mowing.
- Luxury or fine lawn: This is a mix of fine-leaf grasses not suitable for pets, children or high traffic. It’s rather slow growing, has a very fine appearance, will need mowing but a lot less than general purpose lawns.
- Shady lawn: If your lawn is in an area of shade, then this mix is the right choice. But take care because this seed only tolerates light to medium shade and the grass is not very hard-wearing.
Choose the best possible seed mix
Remember, you get what you pay for, so it’s a good idea to spend a little bit more and buy a well-known, reputable brand of seed – ask your supplier to recommend a good mix.
When is the best time to sow a new lawn?
Because the soil is moist and not too cold or too warm, the ideal time to seed a new lawn is in early autumn or mid-spring. Germination of the seed normally takes around 7-10 days.
Preparing the seed bed
- First, remove or eliminate all weeds before preparing the seed bed for sowing. Use a weed killer, or better still weed by hand. It’s not a good idea to use a residual weed killer, as this remains in the soil and will stop the seed from germinating.
- Dig over the whole area to a depth of somewhere around 8-10 inches (20-25 cm).
- Mix in a good amount of well-rotted manure and let this settle for anywhere up to five to six weeks, or even more.
- Before sowing, remove any weeds that may have sprung up since you mixed in the manure, then tread up and down the area to flatten the soil.
- Rake in different directions until you have a finely-tilled soil in which to sow the seed.
- Mix in some general purpose fertilizer – 70g per square metre should do the trick.
Sowing the seed
Your seed supplier will have advised you how much seed mix you’ll need for the area to be sown. Now sow as follows:
- Divide up the area into square metres and sow half the seed over the whole area, working in parallel rows lengthways. Then do the same with the remaining seed, but this time work widthways.
- Cover the sown area by lightly raking over the soil.
- Water very gently with a light sprinkler and keep the soil slightly moist while the seeds germinate and the seedlings establish themselves.
- To stop birds eating the seed, cover the area with fine netting.
What to do when the seed starts growing
- When your grass has grown to about 5-7 cm high (2-3 inches), use a light garden roller to depress the soil, or else tread on the area to flatten it.
- A few days after this, mow the lawn and cut about a third of its length. Ideally, you should use a sharp-bladed cylinder mower, but remove the front roller of the mower so as not to flatten the grass.
- If you’ve sown your seed in the autumn, no further mowing will be needed until the following spring. For seed sown in spring, keep mowing every 3 to 7 days and progressively reduce the height of the cut to that of a mature lawn.
- Keep off the grass during the first season.
- You won’t need to feed spring-sown grass in the first autumn but you should feed autumn-sown lawns in the spring immediately following sowing.
- Some weeds will undoubtedly germinate in your new lawn, so remove these as soon as possible.