Category Archives: Sowing Grass

How To Plant A Lawn

When you get ready to plant a lawn, you need to prepare the ground first. Good soil preparation is the foundation of a quality lawn. It’s part of what determines if your lawn will succeed at all, and how quickly it becomes established.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re planting a new lawn or just replanting an old one; good site preparation is the key to success either way. You also should do a good job of site preparation whether you’re going to seed or sod. Both need that solid foundation.

First, Clean

The first step is to remove all construction trash, rocks, weeds, large roots, old tree stumps, and everything else that doesn’t belong in or under your lawn. If you need to grade the area, take off several inches of topsoil and pile it away from your work area; you’ll need it later.

Then Grade

Now slope the ground away from the foundation of the house. Don’t make a steep grade; the ground should drop about 6 inches for every 50 feet in distance from the house.

Try to avoid creating a steep slope or a hill if you can. However, if you do have a steep hill, a swale, or another area where soil erosion may occur, plan to plant sod, not seeds, in this area.

Once you have the site graded, return the topsoil to the area and rake it smooth. If there are any weeds growing in it, now is the time to apply herbicide to kill them.

If you’re planting seeds, the level of the soil should be even with or slightly below any hard surfaces such as sidewalks, driveways, etc. If you’re going to lay sod, the soil level should be 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches below those surfaces.

Soil Samples

You should always take a soil sample before you to go the trouble of planting a lawn. Use a garden trowel to get 10 to 15 samples of the top six inches of soil. Use locations scattered evenly about the lawn area.

Mix the samples and let them air dry. When they’re dry, submit about 1 cup of the mixture to the state Extension Service soil testing program in your area. The results will tell you whether you need to add fertilizer, and how much. Follow the recommendations of the Extension Service, based on the results of your soil sample and the species and variety of grass you plan to plant.

If you want to save money and do this yourself, try something like a Digital 4 Way Soil and Light Tester for Plants and Lawn which tests for pH, moisture, temperature and light level.

Install Sprinklers

If you’re going to put in an irrigation or sprinkler system, now’s the time. This is not entirely a do-it-yourself project; although you may be able to handle the installation, you need to get an expert to help you design it. A badly designed system won’t ever do what you want it to do, which is deliver the amount of water your grass needs, uniformly spread over your lawn, while conserving water at the same time.

Soil Amendments

This also is the time to apply any pre-plant soil amendments. You want your soil to be in the best shape possible in terms of organic matter, fertility, water-holding ability and drainage. All of these are affected by the amendments you add to the soil.

You may use organic or inorganic soil amendments. Organic soil amendments include compost, manure, and peat. Inorganic or mineral amendments include fertilizer, lime, sulfur and other chemicals that affect the fertility or pH of the soil.

Rely on the results of your soil sample tests to know exactly what to add in your situation. Every site and every lawn is different, and you need to know your own site conditions to add the correct amendments.

Till the Soil

Once you’ve added your soil amendments, run a tiller over the site. This loosens the soil and encourages grass to root quickly.

Grade Once Again

Just before you plant, grade the site one last time. You can hand rake, or use a drag such as a metal doormat. Follow that up with irrigation to “settle” the soil before you spread seed or lay sod.

How To Lay Sod

When you get ready to plant a new lawn, you have three choices: seeds, plugs, or sod. Which one you choose depends on several factors, including the species of grass you’re going to plant, the price, and whether or not seed is available of the species you’ve chosen.

For some species, such as St. Augustine grass, sod is the only really practical alternative. For other species such as Bermudagrass and Bahiagrass, it’s one of several options.

One thing is clear, however: using sod is the fastest and easiest way to establish a lush, green carpet of grass in your yard. Even those species for which seed is readily available will take most of a growing season to become established and spread, but sod—when put down correctly—will give you a beautiful lawn in just a few weeks. Best of all, you can lay sod any time during the growing season if you’re prepared to water it enough to help it get well established.
 

Begin With the Soil

If you want your lawn to be successful, you need to do some preparation before you actually start laying the sod. This means preparing the soil so that you have a good foundation for your lawn.

Start by removing any existing grass and weeds, and then spade the soil to loosen and aerate it. You also need to take the thickness of the sod into consideration, so when you rake the soil, its surface needs to be approximately an inch and a half below any sidewalks, driveways, or other hard surfaces.
Then apply a “starter” fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus, and rake the soil again to distribute it well. Now you’re ready to start laying the sod.
 

Laying Sod

Once the sod is harvested, you need to lay it as quickly as possible so it doesn’t dry out and die. If it’s a big job that’s going to take several days, store the sod in the shade so it stays cool and moist.

Choose the straight edge of a hard surface as the guide for your first row. Place each piece tightly against the last piece so there aren’t any gaps between the pieces of sod, and put the rows tightly together as well.

When you start the second row, cut a piece of sod in half crossways for the first piece in the row. The point here is to stagger the seams like a bricklayer lays bricks. If you’re laying sod on a hill or slope, turn the pieces of sod so they’re perpendicular to the direction of the slope.

As you work, if you need to stand on the sod you’ve already put down, lay a board on top of the sod so your feet don’t dig into the sod you’re already laid. Trim or cut pieces as necessary to go around odd-shaped flower beds, sidewalks, or other obstacles; not everything in your yard will have straight lines, and you want the sod to fit tightly everywhere it can.

When you have all the sod laid down, use the back of a rake to tamp down all the edges so the roots are in firm contact with the soil underneath. The object of this is to get rid of any air pockets that will cause the sod to dry out.

The last task in this process is to water the sod. Plan to water long enough to get the top 6 to 8 inches of moist; this encourages the grass to put down deep roots. Do the same thing each time you water, but space out your watering days so the soil doesn’t get soggy.
 

Watch it Grow

Try not to walk on the lawn until the sod has rooted well and it starting to grow. The way to tell if it’s getting established is to lift up on the grass. If it “sticks” down, it’s rooting into the soil.

At the end of a month, the sod should be starting to grow well. Apply lawn fertilizer according to the needs of whatever grass species you have chosen, and start a regular schedule of watering and mowing. Enjoy your new lawn!

Buffalo Grass


For extreme environmental conditions, nothing beats Buffalo Grass. Native to the Great Plains, this is a very tough grass that the buffalo thrived on as their huge herds moved from place to place; hence the name.

The western settlers used it also, cutting squares of it to build sod houses against the bitter Plains winters. Although it’s a warm season grass it survives deep cold and high heat, as well as drought conditions. With irrigation it even will grow in desert areas. It’s this country’s only truly native turf grass. Buffalo Grass and curly mesquite look a lot alike and often are found together in the wild, so sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.

If you live in a wet environment, this probably is not a grass for you, as it doesn’t handle lots of rainfall very well. It does best when it receives between 15 inches and 30 inches of water a year.

Propagation

You can start a lawn of Buffalo Grass either by seed or by sod. It spreads from seeds and stolons or surface runners, so once you get it started, it spreads on its own. However, it makes on a shallow root system so it’s not aggressive in flower beds or other places you don’t want it, and it’s easy to pull up or kill by cultivation.

If you’re going to start from seed, get treated seed; its germination rate is about 90%. Plant in the spring—usually in April and May—when you have good soil moisture and mild temperatures.

Sod also works well for establishing Buffalo Grass, as do sod plugs. Prepare the soil well so plugs survive, and plant them in 18-inch rows from 6 inches to 2 feet apart. Each plug should be at least 2 inches by 2 inches.

Be sure to keep plugs damp while you’re planting them, because they’ll die if they dry out. After you’ve planted them, water them well for several weeks until they get established.

When you plant from seed you will get patches of male and female plants; the male plants produce seed stalks that some people don’t like. When you get sod plugs, you almost always get female plants, since they don’t produce tall seed stalks.

Care & Maintenance

buffalo plush toy
One of the biggest advantages of planting Buffalo Grass is that it takes very little maintenance. However, it doesn’t do well in high traffic areas or whether other turf grasses are planted. It also doesn’t like shade or very wet environments.

Because Buffalo Grass doesn’t get very tall—8 to 10 inches—it doesn’t need a lot of mowing. And because it produces only a thin turf, it’s ideal if you want a “native” landscape; you can mix other native plants with it and create a wildflower landscape with an under planting of buffalo grass.

In a lawn situation, mow Buffalo Grass to a height of 2 to 3 inches. You may need to mow once a week to keep it at that height.

Buffalo Grass doesn’t need to be fertilized, but you can put a light application of nitrogen on it. Don’t over fertilize or overwater it, as both will encourage Bermudagrass to crowd it out.

Varieties Of Lawn Grass

There are many different varieties of lawn grass available but knowing the right one to choose for your area is vital.
varieties of lawn grass for a manicured lawn
Lawns are grown in every U.S. state, but the grasses in the lawns aren’t the same all over the country. Like most plants, grasses grow in some climates and conditions but not in others. It’s very important to choose the right grass for your location if you want an attractive and healthy lawn.

You can plant a new lawn from seed, sod, plugs, or sprigs. If you are planting a large area, seeding is the least expensive choice. The downside of seeding is that it takes a longer time for the grass to become established.

St. Augustine grass, hybrid bermudagrass, and some varieties of zoysiagrass are only available as sod, plugs, or sprigs. Plugs are small squares of sod, while sprigs are pieces of mature lawn grass. They are all more expensive than seeding, but take much less time to establish.

Following are brief descriptions of the major turf grasses, including where they grow in the U.S. Keep in mind that mixes of various kinds of grass seed increase your lawn options.

Types of Lawn Grasses

Bahiagrass is a low maintenance, drought- and shade-tolerant, low quality turf grass grown widely in the southeast.

Bermudagrass is the most popular lawn grass in the warm southern states.

Blue gamma grass is a native grass well suited for growing in the northern plains where summers are very hot and winters are very cold.

Buffalo grass is a native grass that grows well in high drought areas of the west.

Centipedegrass is a warm season grass that thrives in poor, acidic soils.

Creeping bent grass is a soft, tightly knit turf grass well suited to golf greens in northern states.

Fescue, fine – or needle-leaved. Mixed with perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass this turf grass increases shade and drought tolerance.

Fescue, tall – or broad-leaved. Traditionally coarse-bladed pasture grasses, tall fescue has new varieties that look and feel like Kentucky bluegrass but are more tolerant of low soil fertility and compacted soil.

Kentucky bluegrass is the most important turf grass in the northern half of the United States. It is also grown in southern coastal areas of California.

Ryegrass, annual, is a low-cost choice for overseeding warm season lawns.

Ryegrass, perennial, is often combined with Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues. Like annual ryegrass, it can also be used for overseeding warm season lawns.

St. Augustine grass is one of the most important lawn grasses of the south and west. It grows fast and has a coarse texture.

Zoysiagrass makes a high quality lawn in subtropical areas of the country.

Choosing the Right Grass

Cooperative Extension agents can tell you which grasses or mixtures of grasses are best for your situation. Every state has a Cooperative Extension service, usually within the state university. You can find the office closest to you from the USDA website. Extension agents can also give you information on how to grow a lawn and help you with insect and disease problems.

Bermuda Grass – A Southern Favorite


Bermuda grass is a Southern favorite, and one of the most sun loving turf, lawn and pasture grasses available. It’s easy to grow from seed, and provides good coverage as a lawn grass in most of the southern half of the US. It’s an easy-care grass that’s resistant to most pests and needs only a moderate amount of care.

Origins

Originally from Africa, Bermuda grass came to the Americas by way of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. First used as just a forage and pasture grass, Bermuda grass has become so popular that it’s now used on golf greens worldwide. It forms a solid, perennial sod, is pest- and drought-resistant, loves full sun, tolerates some salt, and will stand up to close mowing. Although it goes dormant and turns brown as soon as nighttime temperatures drop below 60 degrees, it’s the first grass to turn green when temperatures start to rise.

Growth Habits


Even though it’s easy to grow from seed, that’s not the only way to establish a Bermuda grass lawn. Long before seed was commercially available, Bermuda grass lawns were established from sod or sprigs, and it’s still planted that way sometimes today. It spreads quickly by stolons and rhizomes, so it’s easy to get started no matter how you do it.

Bermuda grass is grown extensively in the South, an area to which it’s well adapted. It’s a perennial grass, so once you have it established it will come back year after year. For this reason many parks and other public facilities use it for putting greens, golf courses, sports fields, and other areas that need good grass coverage and receive full sun.

Although Bermuda grass began its tenure in the US as a southern grass, cold tolerant varieties mean that it now can be planted throughout most of the southern half of the United States. Some of the newer cold tolerant varieties include Yukon Bermuda Grass, Mohawk, and Rivera.

Sowing Bermuda Grass

If you’re going to plant Bermuda grass seed, sow it as a spring crop after the soil temperature has climbed above 65 degrees and you’re sure you won’t have any more frost or freezing temperatures. Generally speaking, this means that daytime temperatures are consistently 80 degrees or above.

One important ingredient in establishing Bermuda grass from seed is sufficient moisture. Cover it with 1/8 to ¼ inch of mulch or soil; if Bermuda grass seed is right on the surface of the soil where it’s exposed to hot sun and dry air, you can’t keep is moist enough to germinate well and develop a good stand no matter what you do. Yes, you can water it, but even so you won’t be able to keep it moist enough for it to germinate evenly or become established well during its first season. That said, however, don’t cover it with more than ¼ inch of soil or it won’t germinate.

You can buy Bermuda Grass from Amazon.

When To Mow

If you’re growing Bermuda grass from seed and it germinates well for you, you may be able to mow it as soon as three weeks after it germinates. The first couple of times you mow it, don’t cut it close, but only take about 1/3 of the height of the blades. A good general rule of thumb is to set the mower height at about 1 inch until your lawn is well established or until the second season.

As fast as Bermuda grass grows, however, if you plant it early in the spring you probably will be mowing it regularly by late summer. It’s just simply one of the best lawn grasses around.

How To Overseed Your Cool Season Lawn

Your cool season lawn may not look its best after a hot summer. Heat, weeds, insects, drought, neglect, and diseases take a heavy toll on cool season lawns.

You can make your lawn healthier and more attractive by overseeding, which for a cool season lawn involves sowing seeds over existing lawn to cover spots where the grass is patchy. If at least half of your lawn is fairly healthy and strong, overseeding is a good way to revitalize it. In fact, you may want to overseed your cool season lawn every year to keep it looking great. However, if more than half your lawn looks worn out and weak it’s best to start over with a new lawn.

Preparing Your Lawn for Overseeding

If you haven’t had your lawn soil tested in few years do that before you overseed. The test results will give you recommendations for fertilizer or amendments for growing a healthy lawn. Cooperative extension services all over the country provide inexpensive and convenient soil testing.

Grass seed needs sunlight and good contact with soil to germinate and grow. When you sow grass seeds over a lawn the blades of the existing grass shade them, plus thatch and clippings create a barrier between the seeds and the soil. You can help the new seeds by mowing lower than usual before overseeding to reduce shading. Even if you don’t usually remove grass clippings, bag or rake the clippings before overseeding so they don’t interfere with the seeds.

Work the soil lightly with a verticutter or power rake to loosen 1/4 inch of soil. Or use a core aerator to remove plugs of turf and give seeds places to germinate.

If you have protruding roots or rocks you may need to add a layer of topsoil before overseeding. By raking in a 1/4-inch layer of screened loam or topsoil you can increase the depth of the topsoil.

Overseeding cool season lawns in September gives the new seeds time to grow before winter sets in. Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are good turf grass seed choices, either on their own or in mixes. Sow 6-8 pounds of tall fescue or 2-3 pounds of Kentucky blue grass per 1,000 square feet of lawn using a rotary seeder or drop seeder. The tall fescue will germinate in 2-3 weeks, with the bluegrass following a week later.

Apply a slow release nitrogen fertilizer when you overseed. Six-eight weeks later apply a quick release nitrogen fertilizer. Water at least daily to keep the seeds moist until they sprout, then reduce watering after about three weeks.

When the grass is three inches high mow it to two inches and keep mowing it to this height for the rest of the season.

Long after the blades of grass stop growing the root systems of the turf grass will continue to get stronger, in preparation for a lush, green lawn in the spring.