Grass seed should be covered with 1/8–1/4 of an inch (3–6 mm) of soil for best results. This ensures the grass seed is surrounded by moist soil that Picking the right time of year to sow grass seed is crucial to the development of your lawn. Find out the best time to sow grass seed at Love The Garden.
How Deep to Plant Grass Seed for Lawn Success
Grass seed should be covered with 1/8–1/4 of an inch (3–6 mm) of soil for best results. This ensures the grass seed is surrounded by moist soil that encourages seed germination and protects the seed from birds and the elements. While 1/8–1/4 inch depth encourages the highest germination rate, most grass seeds will still sprout if buried as deep as 1/2 inch (1 cm). At depths greater than 1/2 inch, grass seeds may struggle, fail, or not sprout at all.
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Why Does Grass Seed Need to Be Covered?
Grass seed benefits from being covered by 1/4 inch of soil because the soil provides a moist habitat that triggers grass seed germination. No matter what type of grass seed you are planting, it needs moist conditions to germinate and survive its first few days of life. Uncovered grass seeds will dry out quickly in the sun. They will fail to sprout, or the grass seedlings will die during a warm afternoon.
- Soil retains moisture, which encourages grass seeds to sprout and survive long enough to send out their first roots.
- A layer of fresh, loose soil around the seedling creates a perfect habitat for new grass roots.
- Grass seeds covered in soil are protected from water runoff, temperature changes, and scavenging birds.
By laying fresh topsoil on your lawn and covering your grass seeds with it, you also provide a layer of soil where grass plants can send their initial roots. This can be much easier for seedlings than trying to root in hard, unprepared ground on top of soil. Additionally, grass seeds that are protected from the elements are insulated from deadly cold snaps, prevented from being carried away by water runoff, and hidden from birds that will eat the seeds.
What Happens if You Don’t Cover Grass Seed?
Grass seed that is left uncovered and just sprinkled on the ground will germinate at a very low rate. In fact, some varieties of warm-season grasses won’t sprout at all if the seeds are not covered. Uncovered grass seed will give you very little return for the money spent on seed.
- Uncovered grass seed will sprout at a low percentage—or not sprout at all.
- Grass seed without a soil covering is prone to drying out and struggles to take root.
- Uncovered grass seed can be damaged by changing soil temperatures, eaten by birds, or washed away by heavy rain or watering.
Grass seedlings are extremely vulnerable. A sunny day can dry out uncovered seedlings in a matter of hours, killing them. If they’re not insulated by soil, an out-of-season frost can kill off seedlings as they try to sprout. Birds will also eat grass seed that is exposed on the soil’s surface, greatly reducing the amount of grass that grows to form a green lawn.
How to Cover Your Grass Seed
The best way to complete a lawn seeding project is by spreading topsoil or compost on your lawn, spreading seed, and then raking the soil over the seeds to cover them. To accomplish this, you can add additional soil as necessary, until grass seed is covered to a depth of 1/8–1/4 inch. Special care should be taken depending on whether you are seeding bare soil or overseeding a lawn where grass is already growing.
Covering Grass Seed on Bare Ground
To cover grass seed on bare ground, first prepare the bare soil by loosening the top 6 inches (15 cm) with a rake, tiller, or shovel. Then, spread a lawn starter fertilizer on the soil. Once this is done, you can spread your grass seed evenly over the area at the rate recommended on the bag. Finally, rake the soil to cover the grass seeds to a depth of 1/8–1/4 inch (3–6 mm) and water the soil.
Best time to sow grass seed
A fantastic lawn isn’t as difficult as you think and doesn’t need to be costly either. Armed with the right information, you can figure out when the best time to sow grass seed is, how to choose it, sow it, and look after it. Get to grips with the basics with our tips and tricks.
When to sow grass seed
If you are wanting a new lawn, you’re likely impatient to start, but the key to success is knowing the best time to sow grass seed. The best time to do it is between late summer and mid-autumn. There’s a few reasons for this: firstly, the soil is warm and damp from rain, which provides the ideal environment for your seed to germinate. Another advantage is there’s less competition from weeds around this time of year.
If the ground is drier than usual for this time of year water the lawn after sowing seed and keep moist until the lawn is established.
If you missed the chance to sow your grass seed in autumn, you can also try in mid-spring, but you should be prepared to tend to your lawn and give the grass plenty of water.
The worst time of year to sow grass seed is summer. It’s too hot and dry – the seeds are more likely to shrivel up and die.
One of the advantages of seed over turf is it’s easy to cover difficult areas like slopes and corners, and you can choose from a range of different seed mixes depending on what your needs are.
You can also choose from a range of more specialist mixes, like Miracle-Gro EverGreen Luxury Lawn Seed, which uses a sports-grade seed, or Miracle-Gro EverGreen Shady Lawn Seed, that’s designed to thrive in more shady locations.
You can also choose from low-maintenance seed that comes not just with seed but also controlled time-released fertiliser and soil enricher to help your lawn grow thick and healthy.
Preparing your lawn
To give your seed the best chance to grow evenly, first you need to prep your lawn. We recommend killing off the old lawn before any cultivation. Just skimming off the old grass can leave behind weed roots which will grow again to re-infest the new lawn. Clear all debris off the lawn such as stones or roots and rake the soil flat to give you an even surface to work with. You can do this by forking over the surface with a rake or level.
Next, firm the soil by walking over it, then repeat the process. If you are working with sandy soil, you’ll want to add lawn soil to help hold moisture better as well.
A couple of days before you sow your grass seed it’s also a good idea to rake in a small amount of general lawn fertiliser such as Miracle-Gro Growmore Garden Plant Food at 35gm/sqm a few days before sowing seed. This will help prepare the soil and give your grass the best chance of growing.
Sowing the seeds
Take some time to read the instructions of your seed packets, as different mixtures have different requirements. Be sure to follow them as closely as possible.
Divide the area into small plots so you can easily keep track of where you’re working and evenly distribute the seed. Using a lawn spreader will help with distribution. Sow half the seeds over the surface in rows going lengthways, then repeat with the other half of the seed mix, working in rows going widthways.
Alternatively, if you have a spreader with a half seed rate employ this setting on your spreader.
Once that’s finished, rake the whole area to make sure your seed is distributed evenly across the soil.
After sowing the lawn seed water in and keep moist until established – do not rely on rainfall alone.
Caring for your lawn
Watching your lawn grow is one of the most satisfying parts of the process.
The warmer the ground is, the faster the germination process will happen, but expect it to take 2-3 weeks. Try to make sure the ground is disrupted as little as possible during this time.
When the new grass is about 7.5cm high cut off the top ⅓ with a sharp mower blade. Cutting the grass will encourage it to send out more shoots to thicken up the sward.
In the first six months, tend to any weeds by hand and avoid using grass feed or weed product. Weed seeds from the soil will germinate with the grass seed, most will be annual weeds which will die out with cutting, and in the winter. Perennial weeds can be treated when the lawn is established.