If you’re looking to spruce up your lawn but don’t want to go through the hassle of tearing out the old grass and installing new sod, you may be considering using grass seed instead. However, many homeowners aren’t sure if this will work or how to do it correctly without damaging their existing lawn area, so we’ll cover that here.
Can I just throw grass seed down on an existing lawn? No, you cannot just throw grass seed down on an existing lawn and expect it to take root and grow.
The ground needs to be prepared first for the seed to have a chance at germination. If you’ve got a patchy lawn, you’re better off starting from scratch.
To prepare your existing lawn for grass seed, rake the surface of your lawn until it’s smooth and level.
You can also use a power rake to break up clumps of dirt and remove stones or other debris that might interfere with rooting.
Spread any remaining debris evenly across the entire surface of your yard using a rake or leaf blower so there are no bare patches.
How to Plant Grass Seed Over Dead Grass
You can’t just throw grass seed down on an existing lawn and hope for the best.
You need to take some time to prepare the area first. This means removing any dead grass, weeds, or debris. Once the area is clear, you’ll need to till the soil so that it’s loose and easy for new seeds to take root. After that, you can sow your seeds and water them regularly until they sprout.
If you’d rather not start from scratch, you may be able to re-seed your existing lawn.
There are two ways to go about it: overseeding or topdressing. The latter means just spreading a layer of seed on top of your existing lawn; then, lightly watering and mowing regularly so that they can germinate in their new surroundings.
The former is similar except that you’ll sow more seeds than usual, taking into account how many will be lost over time.
How to Check For Germination
- You can test for germination by taking a small sample of seeds and putting them in a moist paper towel. Fold the towel over the seeds, place it in a plastic bag, and then place it in a warm spot.
- Check the towel every day to see if any roots or sprouts have appeared. If you see any growth after five to seven days, then your seed is viable.
- If you don’t see any sprouts after three weeks, then your seeds are not viable.
- It is worth trying one more time to see if new growth will appear in four to five days.
- Let’s say that you’re testing some broccoli seeds but no sprouts have grown after 10 days.
- Wait for another two to three days before concluding that they are not viable and starting again with new broccoli seeds.
- If there still aren’t any signs of life, discard the old ones.
- The next step is to rake up all the grass clippings and remove any weeds. Fill in the bare spots with an inch-thick layer of compost (it should be moist).
- Then scatter on grass seed, water it until the soil feels damp, and keep watering daily as needed until you get some sprouts popping up through the soil.
- If you want to keep your lawn looking lush all year round, you can plant seasonal varieties.
- These grasses tend to be finer and don’t require as much maintenance as other grasses.
The downside is that they may need to be reseeded or top dressed every few months depending on your climate, and they’re not suitable for certain areas of your garden such as play areas where children will be running about.
How Long Does Grass Seed Take to Grow?
It takes grass seed anywhere from 7 to 30 days to germinate, depending on the species and soil temperature. So if you’re hoping for a lush, green lawn, you might be out of luck. The best time to sow grass seed is in early spring or late summer/early fall when the weather is warm but not too hot.
Once your seed has germinated, it still needs a few weeks to reach maturity.
The size of your lawn will determine how long it takes for a single layer of grass to grow tall enough that you can mow it. For instance, a medium-sized lawn (1,000 square feet) should take about six weeks to become thick enough for mowing. A larger property will require more time for grass to fill in.
ALSO SEE: Soil Facts
Fall Transition Tips
As the temperatures cool and the days grow shorter, your lawn care routine should change too.
Fall is the best time to plant grass seeds, and there are a few things you should do to prepare your lawn beforehand.
First, use a garden hose or some other form of irrigation to give your lawn a good soaking. Then, use a rake to loosen up the top layer of soil. This will help the new grass seed take root.
After you’ve raked up your lawn, use some sort of tiller to work utilized and other nutrients into it. If you’re using grass seed that contains fertilizer, there’s no need to apply any additional products.
That said, if you plan on waiting a few weeks before planting grass seed, now is a good time to test your soil for pH levels as well as for certain types of nutrients.
Applying lime, sulfur, and/or compost can boost fertility and strengthen your lawn against disease and insects.
Lastly, rake the area again after fertilizing so that the entire product gets worked into the ground where it belongs.
Now it’s safe to go ahead and spread the grass seed over your lawn! Once you’ve spread it evenly, water the area lightly with a garden hose or sprinkler system. Keep in mind that seeds planted in the fall won’t be able to fully germinate until early spring, but they’ll have plenty of time during winter to become established.
Should I Mix Grass Seed With Topsoil?
The answer to this question depends on the condition of your lawn. If you have a healthy lawn with just a few bare spots, you can simply seed those areas.
However, if your lawn is in poor condition or has large bare patches, you’ll need to mix the grass seed with topsoil before spreading it. This will give the new grass a better chance of taking root and growing.
It’s best to do a combination of both methods.
First, spread topsoil over your entire lawn. Then use a broadcast spreader to apply grass seed evenly over your entire lawn. If you’re working on larger patches of bare ground, though, you’ll need to remove most of the existing soil before spreading new topsoil and seeding with grass seed.
You’ll want to water your lawn frequently until it’s well established. New grass seed needs consistent moisture to germinate and grow. This is especially true in hot weather when it can dry out very quickly.