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How to Plant Grass Seed

Do you want to learn how to plant grass seed? In this guide we’ll walk you through the process step by step and answer some of your FAQs – like when to plant grass seed, how much does it does and should I use grass seed vs sod.

When we were planning out our big backyard makeover, I was most looking forward to having a big area of grass in the backyard. With our kids being 4 and 2 now, they are definitely getting to the age where it’s all about running around outside and grass is definitely the best place to do that, right?!

This how to plant grass seed tutorial contains affiliate links, but nothing that I wouldn’t recommend wholeheartedly. Read my full disclosure here.

You may think you need to hire a landscaping crew to plant grass in your backyard or front yard, but you can totally DIY this. We believe in you! You may need to invest in a few new tools and maybe even rent an electric tiller (which will make the job pretty easy), but the materials themselves, grass seed and fertilizer, are pretty cheap!

shows a man spreading seeds in lawn

Difference between grass seed vs sod

If you’re planning to add grass to your exterior in either your front or back yard, you’re likely going to come to the question of whether to use grass seed or put down sod. There are definite pros and cons of each, here’s a quick summary.

Pros of grass seed

  • Cost effective
  • Easier to match existing grass for overseeding or to fill in bare areas

Cons of grass seed

  • Hard to get started
  • Product can be unreliable
  • Requires patience and time intensive
  • Have to stay off of it for about a month

Pros of sod

  • Nearly instant, established lawn
  • Not very fragile compared to seed

Cons of sod

  • Can be very expensive
  • Can fail if soil isn’t prepped well
  • Bare spots harder to match
shows grass seed on dirt with overlay text that says when to plant grass seed, beginners guide

FAQs about planting new grass seed

When should I plant grass seed?

For best results, you should always plant new grass in the spring and fall. This provides enough sun to get the seed to germinate, but not dry out. Planting in summer is possible, but the seed will dry out and results start to vary.

What month is best to put grass seed down?

This will definitely vary depending on your area but generally March/April. You want to wait until your temperature isn’t falling below freezing. This also gives you an opportunity to apply more seed to bare or thin areas in the fall before winter (this process is called overseeding).

How do you water new grass seed?

As often as possible without flooding the new seed. The goal is to always make sure the seeds are wet without drowning them. We usually will set our timer to water as many times as it can throughout the day to keep the seeds wet.

Can I use too much grass seed?

Yes. You may be tempted to put down more seed with hopes of a lush and full lawn, but that’s not how it works. You should always follow the factory recommendations for your grass seed. If you put too much grass seed down you’ll not only waste money, but the seeds will have a reduced germination rate because they won’t get the nutrients that each seed needs from the soil.

Can grass seed grow in the shade?

Certain grass seed blends do better in shade vs full sun, so pay attention to what kind you are buying. Generally, grass seed needs sun to grow but don’t give up hope if you have a shady lawn. We used this dense shade grass seed for our backyard, which is mostly shaded.

How soon can you mow new grass seed?

The answer is when it is tall enough for your lawnmower to mow, so this will depend on how fast your grass is growing – usually, this ends up being about a month. This also encourages the grass to establish a better root system and spread out.

How long does it take grass seed to grow?

From planting to germination, it can take anywhere from 7 to 14 days in my experience. There is a huge variance in the seed, grass types in the blend, and how much sun/shade/water they are all getting.

How much does it cost to plant grass?

The seed and fertilizer usually cost around $50-75 depending on the size of the lawn. Our most recent lawn needed 2 large bags of seed and a regular seed starter fertilizer.

How To Plant Grass Tutorial

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Supplies for planting new grass:

Step 1. Select grass seed.

When you select an area that you want to plant grass seed in, you need to consider how much sunlight the area gets per day.

There are mixes of grass seeds that are tailored to grow in specific amounts of sunlight/moisture. Since our grass is mostly shaded, we used this dense shade mix and it worked great.

Step 2. Prepare the soil for grass seed.

Once you select the type of seed, it’s time to prepare the soil.

Most of the reason grass doesn’t grow from seed is because the soil wasn’t prepped properly.

Get a tiller and till the top layer (about 4-6 inches) and remove any rocks and other debris. With all the loose dirt be sure to level and give your lawn a slight slope in one direction to avoid water pooling in one area.

shows grass seed in backyard on soil before germinating

Step 3. Spread seed.

Now that your area is free of rocks, debris, and sloped to avoid pooling, it is now finally time to start spreading your grass seed.

We use a rotary spreader to spread all our grass seed. Be sure to follow your grass seed manufacturers’ directions for spreader settings.

shows a man spreading grass seed in back yard with rotary spreader

Step 4. Fertilize.

With the seed down, repeat the previous step but with a grass seed starter fertilizer (we used this one). This just gives the new grass the extra boost it needs to really take off.

Step 5. Rake.

Grab a lightweight leaf rake and lightly and consistently drag it behind you as you walk across the area you just seeded to work the fertilizer and seed into the topsoil layer.

This sets the seed/fertilizer combo and gives it a nice cushion so the seed remains wet. If you skip this step your seed will likely dry out and your grass will not grow.

shows a sprinklers watering the lawn in backyard

Step 6. Water.

When you are done setting the seed and fertilizer, run the sprinklers to set the combo into the topsoil layer. You will need to watch and set up a schedule to keep the seed wet throughout the growing process. If you have a timer, set it up to water when the top layer starts looking dry, or set a reminder in your phone.

Tip: even if you don’t have an in-ground sprinkler system, you can get a timer like this to automatically turn on and off your hose.

Step 7. Keep wet and stay off of it.

Continue to keep the seed wet over the next few weeks while the seeds germinate.

Also, be sure to stay off of it while it germinates – this includes your dogs and kids too! The new seeds are very fragile and can’t stand up to the pressure of getting stepped on. We usually put up yard stakes and twine around the border and that serves as a reminder to stay clear.

shows the grass sprouting in backyard

After two to four weeks you should have a nice newly seeded lawn. The lawn will look very thin but don’t worry – the gross will grow in.

In about a month you can start cutting your new lawn with a lawnmower. At this point, you can also start to step on it, but try to keep the wear and tear light at this point as it continues to fill in.

If you have some bare spots you can overseed (which is filling in bare or thin spots with more seed) but we recommend waiting a little while longer to see if any of the first grass seed ends up germinating in those spots.

If you are going to do any overseeding, you can do it in early fall before the weather turns too cold.

With a rather small investment of tools and the low cost of the materials, there's no reason why you couldn't make your dreams of a grassy backyard come true.
You totally don't need to hire out planting grass in your backyard. You can DIY it!

There ya have it! You totally don’t need to hire out planting grass in your backyard. You can DIY it!

With a rather small investment of tools and the low cost of the materials, there’s no reason why you couldn’t make your dreams of a grassy backyard come true.

Have you ever planted grass before?

Let us know in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “How to Plant Grass Seed

  1. Wow, this post came at a great time fir me, because I am trying to get things together for our yard this spring. (I pray that we will be around still). Thank you so much.

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