How to sow your grass seed

New Lawns

Start by removing any weeds and rotovate the soil to a depth of 15-25cm. Leave the seedbed to settle for several days. Apply a lawn seed fertiliser a few days before sowing.

1 Sow the seed at 35grams per square metre. The easiest way to do this is to divide the area into sections (ideally square metres).

2 Divide the seed mixture in half.

  • Sow half the seed in parallel rows from left to right
  • Sow the other half in parallel rows from top to bottom

This ensures even distribution of the seed and decreases the chance of missing patches.

1 Lightly rake over the newly seeded area, this covers the seeds with a light layer of soil.

2 Water gently with a sprinkler.

The grass should begin to establish after 7 days.

Over Seeding

For over seeding an existing lawn, sow at 25g per square metre following the same instructions as above. Lightly water the over seeded area.

Try and keep off a newly seeded lawn for around 6 weeks, or until the grass has had a chance to establish.

How to prepare the ground

Putting effort into preparing the ground is essential to achieve superb results when sowing a new lawn. Start with the basics; remove stones, weeds or debris from the area. Thoroughly dig up the soil to a depth of about 15-25cm and break up any clods that may make a heavy texture. You want to achieve a soil that crumbles, but is not too dry. If you want to correct the soil structure add in some peat or sand to make it less heavy and clay like.

It is vital to get a level surface on the soil, so that when the grass starts to establish, it doesn't have any bumps and hollows. Applying a lawn fertiliser a few days before sowing will help the plant establish and result in a healthy, green lawn once developed.

How to plan your lawn

Try and keep the shape of your lawn as simple as possible, gentle curves and straight edges are the easiest to mow and maintain. Make a plan of what it is you want from your garden, for example, if you have a family with an active lifestyle, create a lawn with plenty of space to move around.

Some things to think about are:

  • If you're going to put in narrow entry points such as steps and paths, high levels of compaction may occur from foot traffic, so keep access points as spacious as possible
  • Try and avoid too many obstacles within the lawn such as trees, bird baths or ponds, as these can be time consuming when mowing
  • Think about the amount of light that would reach the lawn, if there are shaded areas, consider using a lawn seed that is designed for shaded areas

It is important to think about practicality when planning a lawn, the look of your lawn will be important however it needs to be durable and suit the needs for you now, and in the future.

When you should sow grass seed

Realistically, you can sow grass seed anytime between mid-February to October. As long as the seed bed is kept moist, and the soil temperature is around 6-8 degrees Celsius the grass will germinate.

Late summer to mid-autumn is the best time to sow the seed.

This is down to a few factors:

  • There are less weeds that will compete with the new seed for light and water
  • The soil is warm which will aid germination
  • Rainfall should have made the soil damp

These all create a perfect seedbed for maximum establishment. Mid spring is also alright to sow, however make sure you give the new grass plenty of water.

Tips for luscious lawns

Lawns are fairly low maintenance to look after, however there are certain things you can do to keep your lawn looking its very best.

  • Lawn Fertilisers: Feeding your lawn will improve the root system, making it more resistant to heat, cold, drought, foot traffic and other stresses. Putting effort in to regularly feed your lawn will make it a lot more lush and green.
  • Weed and Moss Control: Getting rid of weeds and moss can make a massive difference to the overall appearance of your lawn. Using a weed killer once a year will get rid of any unwanted weeds in your garden. Weeds tend to germinate during spring, so May is a good time to use a weed killer to get rid of any that have sprouted during the mild weather.
  • Water: Water can also be necessary to keep your lawn looking healthy. Using a sprinkler in long periods of dry weather can make your lawn look a lot greener.
  • Raking: Use a rake to get rid of any dead grass after mowing. Focus on heavily used areas such as around washing lines or paths, this relieves compaction when the air has been crushed out of the soil.

Problems that can affect your lawn

Compaction

Compaction can occur on lawns in heavily used areas. Areas such as washing lines, football posts, birdbaths and ponds can all cause foot traffic that will heavily compact the soil. When designing your lawn try and avoid making any narrow entry points, as in narrow areas, the foot traffic will be more highly concentrated. A compacted soil holds little air or water, these are both vital for the health and survival of the roots, so compaction should try to be prevented at all costs

Raking away dead grass will help air get to the base of the plant which will reduce the risk of compaction. Scarifying uses steel blades to cut out thatch. Thatch is a layer that forms under the lawn, this layer is compacted grass, roots, clippings and debris that accumulate over time. Scarifying cuts the grass vertically rather than horizontally, in a plucking motion to reduce the amount of thatch in the soil.

Worm Casts

In general, earthworm activities in a garden are beneficial as they improve soil structure and recycle nutrients, however worm casts can spoil the appearance of a lawn. When the casts are dry they can simply be broken up with a wire rake, however there are currently no pesticides to control the amount of worms in your garden.

Drought

When lawns are very deprived of water, they may stop growing and start to turn brown. The only remedy for this is to provide water using a sprinkler or hose pipe, however most lawns would recover from any drought damage during the autumn rainfall on their own.

Waterlogging

Waterlogging occurs when the soil is heavily compacted and water drains slowly, or doesn't drain at all. This can cause the roots to drown, as the water excludes air from the soil. It is best to keep off a waterlogged lawn if possible. Spiking the soil using a garden fork or something similar, these holes allow the water to drain to the deeper layers of soil that are less compacted. Spiking your lawn every few years can prevent waterlogging if it is a common occurrence.

Common Lawn Diseases

Red Thread

Red thread occurs in humid conditions or after heavy dew, usually from May onwards and is the most common lawn disease. They show as pink or red patches, and the fungus causes the leaf of the grass to die. Removing clippings after mowing, feeding your lawn, aerating and scarifying will all prevent recurrence.

Fairy Ring

Fairy Ring will appear as a ring of dying or dead grass, with a border of dark, healthy grass. The name 'Fairy Ring' comes from the fact that there is quite often moss and toadstools present. There will also be fungal growth within the soil. The lawn will become water repellent where the fungus is growing, which is why the grass will start to die.

There are a few things you can do to control Fairy Ring. The first is to spike around the area using a garden fork, then apply a wetting agent. This will help break down the water repellent nature of the soil. If after 5 days, the soil hasn't had a good amount of rain it's important to provide water using a sprinkler or hose.

Fungicides can be used to kill the fungal growth within the soil, the best time to apply is during spring, as the Fungus is most active.

Fusarium & Snow Mould

Fusarium often occurs in autumn and spring in cool, wet conditions. It presents itself in yellow, straw-like patches. This can also occur when grass has been covered for long periods by snow, giving it the name 'Snow Mould'. This disease is damaging because it can kill grass plants.

Lawns with a heavy thatch layer, compaction, poor drainage and shade are more prone to Fusarium, so if an outbreak is present, it probably means that your lawn conditions are not the healthiest. Putting a little effort into looking after your lawn can go a long way, and should help prevent Fusarium. Try and avoid compaction, and make sure there are no problems with drainage in your lawn.

Rusts

Lawn rust generally appears as patches of yellow grass, and spores will be present on the grass leaves. Rust does not usually kill the grass, however may damage it severely. Maintaining vigour by feeding your lawn when necessary will help prevent rust. If you already have rust present in your lawn, mow and remove the clippings. This should lower the amount of rust present on the leaves.

Algae

Algae will appear as dark green or black jelly on a lawn, and usually occurs in damp, cool weather. It usually appears on grass beneath trees or on over mowed grass. Underlying conditions such as poor drainage and non-aerated soils are usually the cause of algae on lawns, so correcting these will reduce the chances of recurring algae.

Looking after your lawn

A lawn is relatively easy to look after as grass plants are tough. However there are things you can do to make sure you keep your lawn healthy and green.

Feeding

Using a pre-seeding fertiliser can make a massive difference when seeding a new lawn. For best results, rake in 3-5 days before sowing. Feeding the lawn will increase vigour and help prevent weeds and moss from establishing. A granular blend fertiliser should be applied between March and September. There are many different types of fertiliser including slow release lawn feeds, which only need applying once a year, or liquid fertilisers that would need 3 or more feeds per annum.

Spiking

Spiking is important for drainage and compaction, and ideally would be done once a year (Around October would be best). Spiking has many benefits including:

  • Reducing thatch
  • Increases air to the grass
  • Improves soil drainage
  • Stimulates growth of new roots
  • Makes the lawn more resilient to drought in the summer

Spiking can be done with an ordinary garden fork, making holes to a depth of between 1 and 6 inches. It can also be done using a hollow tined machine, aerating shoes or with a solid spoke machine.

Rolling

A light roller, half-filled water roller or a pedestrian lawn mower roller can be used to firm the surface of your lawn. You can do more harm than good with a roller that is too heavy so caution should be taken. Some mowers have a roller on, and if so, this is plenty for firming the surface of your lawn.

Mowing Your Lawn

When the lawn is first sown: Make the first cut when the grass reaches 5-8cm. Cutting the grass regularly:

  • Stimulates shoot growth
  • Increases establishment
  • Improves the look of the lawn

It is important to cut the grass down to the desired height gradually, and to not take off too much at one time. Too heavy a cut will be harmful to the grass.

Once the lawn is established: Start cutting in March, and end in October, ideally once a week depending on your preference of appearance. During the summer months where the grass growth is accelerated, it may need cutting more than once a week. A light cut may be also needed over the winter to keep a neat appearance.

Tips on patching up

The best time to overseed a lawn would be early autumn, especially if your lawn is looking tired after a dry summer. Mid-spring is also a suitable time for over seeding. Ideally sow the seed when the ground has had a good fall of rain.

1 To prepare the seedbed, mow the lawn as low as possible to eliminate long blades that will compete with new seedlings, lightly rake or scarify and spike the soil. This creates space and provides pockets for the new seeds to settle in the soil.

2 Rake in lawn seed fertiliser 3-5 days before sowing.

3 Identify target areas and sow at 25g per square metre.

4 Lightly water the newly seeded grass.

It is best to keep off the newly sown seed until the seedlings are firmly anchored. The grass should sprout 7-10 days after sowing.

Watering your lawn

Watering can be beneficial in periods of hot and dry weather, although too much can result in a shallow root system and poor establishment. Use a fine spray to water the area, making sure to keep the seedbed moist until the grass has reached a height of about 2 inches. Once the grass is established, watering is not usually necessary. Even if the lawn turns brown and dry over summer it will usually recover when it begins to rain. If water is needed to maintain a green sward, use a sprinkler or hosepipe to make sure enough water is applied to reach the roots.

Time for the seed to grow

The grass should begin to show between 7 and 14 days after sowing, however, this depends on the seed used and temperature of the soil. How the grass grows will also depend heavily on the weather conditions, in cold and dry conditions germination can take much longer.

Other factors that affect growth include:

  • Rainfall
  • Soil temperature
  • Preparation of the seedbed
  • Type of seed

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