How to Plant Grass Seed

Getting the perfect lawn starts learning how to plant grass seed.

Seed germination requires four external elements: water, temperature, sunlight and oxygen. Getting the results you want depends on striking the right balance. Most seeds perform better in warm temperatures, some prefer the cold.

Here are eight factors to consider when planting grass seed:

1. Timing is everything
Determine if your grass seed is for warmer or cooler climates and plant accordingly. This should be specified on the seed packaging. If in doubt, ask your supplier.

2. Germination rate
Look for the germination rate on the seed packaging. This is the percentage of seeds you can expect to take hold and grow. The higher the number, the better. Look for something in the 90 to 95% range.

3. Contact with soil
Make sure that your seeds have direct contact with the soil and aren't just sitting on top. After spreading seed, lightly rake the dirt to stir the grass seed into the top soil. But be careful not to bury the seed too deep in the soil.

4. Mulch for moisture retention
A thin layer of mulch will help the soil retain much-needed moisture. It doesn't take much. 1/8t to ¼ inch is all that's needed. Manure is a popular option, it's inexpensive and rich in nutrients. Straw can also be used, but make sure it doesn't contain any hay seed.

5. Water, water, everywhere
Watering is critical. Short, frequent watering is better than the less frequent soaking. The idea is to keep the soil moist, not drenched.

6. The birds
Birds love fresh grass seed, and they'll descend on your newly planted lawn like a scene in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. If your scarecrow isn't scary enough, do whatever you can to protect the area with nets or groundcover. The same goes for house pets and children.

7. Chemicals can help
Ask your retailer or lawn care professional if and when chemicals may be warranted. Chemicals, if added, need to be timed correctly for best results.

8. Patience is a virtue
They don't equate boredom with "watching grass grow" for nothing. Waiting for your lawn to sprout will feel like an eternity. If you don't see results within ten days, your seeds may have succumbed to under-watering, birds, squirrels, insects or other pests.

One way to test your seeds when you plant your lawn is to sprinkle a few on a wet paper towel and store in a sealed zip-log baggy on your kitchen windowsill. If your lawn isn't sprouting when your paper towel is, you'll need to try again.

Follow these instructions, and you'll be playing croquet on your lush thick lawn in no time.

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