You can sow grass seed to start a lawn totally from scratch or to repair a patchy lawn. No matter how large or small the area of ground that you’re seeding is, the method is the same.
For Seeding a Lawn, You Will Need
- Grass seed – around 30g per square meter of your lawn
- A rake
- A turf iron, or petrol powered turf cutter
- A good lawn weedkiller
- Any soil improvements you might want (see list below)
- A rotavator – you can buy or hire these
- A garden hand fork
- A lightweight roller, like a lawnmower’s roller or a water filled roller (half-fill it).
- A fine spray hose attachment
Seeding a Lawn
Step 1: If your ground is totally free of plants, start from Step 3. If your ground already has plants growing in it, it’s a good idea to apply a weedkiller to kill off all the plants. This will reduce the number of weeds that are likely to grow in your new lawn. Glyphosate is recommended by the industry, but there are concerns about its impact both on humans and the environment so try and use a natural alternative if you can.
Before you lay down the weed killer, take a soil sample and either test it yourself, or, if you want to be more precise, send it off for analysis to see exactly what type of soil you have. Once the test results are back, buy the improvements you will need. These might include:
- Adding humus and other organic matter to heavy clay, sandy or nutrient poor soil
- Adding a fertiliser – this may be a good idea even if your soil’s nutrients are adequate as is
- Adding lime to soil that’s acidic (use only dolomitic or ground limestone)
- Adding sandy loam top soil to soil that’s mostly clay
- Adding sand to a heavy clay soil (use only river sand – not builder’s or coastal sand)
- Adding a loam top soil to soil that’s very sandy or to soil that’s less than 4 inches deep
Step 2: Once the weedkiller has had time to work (this is usually around 2 weeks but will vary with the weedkiller you use) cut the turf layer out from the ground using a turf iron or a petrol powered turf cutter (these can be hired). Use the iron to cut squares of turf, and then lift the squares out and set them aside. You can put the old turf on your compost heap if you have one.
Step 3: Start from this step if your ground is bare. You will need to rotavate or double dig your soil – this can be done using a rotavator. Make sure your ground is dry enough to rotavate, as if it’s not it could smear on the rotavator blades and stop it working – the soil should be crumbly.
Rotavate the soil to a depth of 15-20cms. Do this from both angles to thoroughly cover the area (up and down and from side to side). You may need to break up large clods of earth with a fork, and remove large stones and roots that get churned up. How thoroughly you do this really depends on how fussy you are about the lawn’s finished appearance.
Step 4: Now’s the time to add your soil improvements. This includes lime, and the addition of extra soil. Add the improvements to your soil as evenly as possible, and rotavate the area again to evenly distribute the material.
Step 5: At this stage, if you really want to crack down on the weed seeds that will have been unearthed by the tilling and you have time, you can spray the lawn area with another round of weedkiller and wait for that to take hold. Alternatively, you can sow more grass seed than you usually would to try and get it to outcompete the weed seeds.
Step 6: We’re almost there – you’re now ready to sow your seeds! Your ground needs to be moderately dry for this – we’re looking for a moist, crumbly texture, not too dry and not wet. You can add your fertiliser now if you’re planning on adding some.
The first thing you need to do is take your rake and gently go over the ground’s surface to give a crumbly finish. Next you need to do what is called "heeling". This involves you (and probably a friend) doing your best shuffly moonwalk over the ground. Start on one side, and walk backwards in half steps, shuffling as you go. Do this in strips, as you would if mowing your lawn. This compacts the ground just enough to make it firm. Then, rake the ground over as you did before.
You can then "heel" it at the opposite angle if you’re being fussy – now’s the time to check your lawn area is really flat if you want it this way, and adjusting accordingly. You should finish by raking the ground over as you did before.
Step 7: Take your seed, and as evenly as you can, apply around 30g of seed per square meter of your lawn area. You can do this in multiple directions if you like to ensure evenness. Keep some seed aside to do the edges of your lawn, as you want to apply this more carefully to avoid seed landing in your flowerbeds or elsewhere.
Lightly rake over the seeded ground and then use a lightweight roller to roll over the ground. You will need to lightly water the lawn area with a fine spray twice a day for the next two weeks, and around once a day for the fortnight after that. Water twice a week in month two and once a week in the third month, though you should increase watering if the lawn showing signs of drying out, as it will be vulnerable to this.
Mowing your lawn
You should start to see grass shoots within around 2 weeks – you can mow them when they’re above 5cm. When you’re mowing the new grass, mow at the highest setting so you only take off a maximum of 2cm, and mow the grass slowly, taking wide turns to be kind to it. You should also be gentle with manual weed removal, and not all weed killers are suitable for new lawns. You can start mowing as normal when cutting it for the fourth time.
When can I Use the Lawn?
You can start to use lawns with faster growing grasses within 8 weeks, but generally you should wait around 10 weeks. When you start to use it, only use it lightly for the first couple of months. We hope you enjoy your new lawn!
All project content written and produced by Mike Edwards