How to plant grass seed – expert advice for a luscious lawn

Step-by-step advice on how to plant grass seed for a wonderfully lush, green lawn or to repair bare spots

Hand holding grass seed, with some seeds scattered onto fresh soil
(Image credit: Getty Images/photka)

Many gardeners crave a healthy green lawn, and knowing how to plant grass seed correctly is the most important first step in achieving luscious, soft grass. A pristine lawn can make all the difference to the appearance of your backyard and is a year-round feature of your garden to enjoy, so understanding lawn care is also key.

An important element of how to plant grass seed is getting the timing right, so make sure you first know when to plant grass seed in your hardiness zone to get off to a good start, and give the grass seed the best chance of germinating and producing healthy green blades. If you choose the best fast-growing grass seed you will quickly see the results. 

Whether you are sowing a new area of lawn, or repairing patches in grass, here is all the expert advice you need on how to plant grass seed to ensure success.

hand holding a mound of grass seed

(Image credit: georgeclerk/Getty Images)

The tools you need for planting grass seed

Learning how to plant grass seed is a simple job for any gardener - and it requires only essential gardening tools. This is what you'll need:

To reseed small patches, you will simply need:

To reseed large areas, it will save you time to invest in: 

Aerating a lawn loosens compacted soil and helps to distribute water and nutrients. Aerating a lawn before fertilizing or overseeding is good practice to get the best results. 

Now you have the tools sorted, follow our step-by-step guide to planting grass seed. 

1. Decide on the best time to start sowing grass seed

Patio seating area at the rear of a garden with a lawn in front

(Image credit: Future)

The best month to plant grass seed will depend on the US hardiness zone where you live.

Overall, spring is the best time to plant grass seed, whether that's sowing a whole lawn or fixing those bare patches. Fall is also a good time to plant grass seed for a new lawn.

However, once the grass and lawn is more established, you can plant grass seed throughout the summer.

2. Choose the best grass seed for your area

Shaped lawn with flower beds containing white flowers

(Image credit: BIOSPHOTO / Alamy Stock Photo)

Choosing the best grass seed will depend on your location, how much sunlight the lawn receives, and whether it needs to be durable enough to withstand backyard soccer games.

Start by identifying your current grass, as this will give you a great indicator of what likes to grow there. Choosing the same variety makes success far easier in the long run.

Grasses are broadly made up of cool-season and warm-season varieties – which type you choose will depend on your local climate. Cool-season grasses include fescue, ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass and bentgrass, and these grow better in cooler climates. Bentgrass and fescue are widely used in seed mixes, while ryegrass is particularly tough so a good choice for families.

Also known as southern grasses, warm-season grasses include Bermuda grass, zoysia grass, St. Augustine grass and centipede grass. They thrive in areas with hotter summers and milder winters. 

Bermuda and zoysia grasses are widely used throughout the south, while centipede grass is a good low-maintenance choice. St. Augustine is more shade tolerant than other warm-season grasses.

Many lawns are made up of a seed mix, rather than a single variety. Seed mixtures are generally a blend of species to suit most lawns and guarantee a better strike rate. Options include luxury lawn mixes, shade-tolerant mixes, hardwearing family mixes, and fast-growing varieties. Choose a mix compatible with your climate and garden conditions.

3. Prep the lawn for seeding

Zoysia grass

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Good preparation is the most important aspect of learning how to plant grass seed. Luckily, getting it right is easy. 

‘To prepare your soil before planting grass seed, simply till and loosen the soil to create the best growing conditions – you don’t need to put down topsoil,’ says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love.

You can use a garden fork to lightly dig it over to a depth of about 2-3 inches. This will allow new seedlings to take root. Remove any rocks and weeds as you go, but don’t apply weed killer as this will hinder growth. If possible, leave the seed bed for a few weeks and then get rid of any weeds and rake in some lawn feed before sowing.

If you are applying seed to cover patches in a large lawn, it's a good idea to use an aerator, such as this model from Amazon, to punch holes into the ground and pull up small plugs of turf and soil. 

Doing this has two benefits. The first is that some seed will fall into the holes and improve germination. The second is that aerating the soil reduces soil compaction and improves water infiltration.

To give your grass seed a helping hand, it's important to fertilize a lawn. Depending on the product, you can apply pre-seeding fertilizer at the preparation stage, or you can wait until after you have sown the seed to use starter fertilizer. Lastly, rake the soil level before planting the grass seed.

Jeremy-Yamaguchi headshot
Jeremy Yamaguchi

As the CEO of Lawn Love, Jeremy Yamaguchi helps homeowners find quality, reliable lawn care. Specializing in technology and using industry experience, he intends to revolutionize the lawn care industry.

4. Sow your grass seed

Garden path ideas

(Image credit: Future / Annaick Guitteny)

For small areas, the easiest way to sow grass seed by hand. Carefully spread the seeds on the ground evenly and cover them with about a quarter of an inch of soil

For larger areas, use a spreader to sow the seed. Using your hands for large areas can lead to uneven coverage, whereas push rotary spreaders do a great job of applying the seed at a consistent rate.

Press the seeds down by standing on them or using a tool like a roller, because they need a firm seedbed. Take care not to plant the seeds either too deep or shallow. Bury them too deep and they will take longer to germinate. Too shallow and the seeds will be prone to drying out or being eaten by birds.

You can apply starter fertilizer once you have planted your grass seed, if you didn’t do so prior to planting, and water immediately.

5. Water your grass seed

watering grass seed for a new lawn

(Image credit: Future)

How often you should water grass seed will depend on the weather conditions and climate where you live. Watering is an important part of establishing your new grass, but be careful not to overdo it. Too much water can make it sit too wet and too dry won’t allow the seed to germinate.

As a rough guide, a patch of around 3x3 feet should need about 15-30 seconds of water every 2-8 hours, depending on how warm the weather is. Always check to feel how damp the soil is before applying more water.

Once the grass is established, only water when needed and know when to water grass. Overwatering grass can lead to its demise and therefore grass should be watered during the cooler time periods and only once a week. 

During the height of summer, you could also consider watering your lawn early in the morning when heat is at a minimum to reduce the amount of evaporation.

Water butts and rain chains are also a great way to collect and reuse any rainwater so that it can be saved to keep lawns hydrated and gardens watered as an eco-friendly garden idea


Should I put topsoil over grass seed?

Do not put top soil over grass seed, but you can add a thin layer of organic matter to help the seed to germinate. 

‘Never put topsoil over newly planted grass seed,’ says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love. ‘This won’t provide healthy growing conditions – it will actually prevent the seedlings from sprouting by essentially suffocating them.’

However, if you're wondering if you should use compost on a lawn, there are benefits to doing this. Once the grass is more established then top dressing is something you can do a couple of weeks after fertilizing a lawn if you’re really keen for your grass to grow. Mix together materials like sand, soil loam and peat and apply this to your dry grass.

Will grass seed grow if you just throw it on the ground?

Grass seed will not grow well if you just throw it on the ground. While you might be lucky and some grass seeds will take root, for a healthy patch of grass or lawn, it requires more care and attention to prepare the ground first.

To get the best out of your lawn once it is planted and grown, set it off with stylish lawn edging ideas and care for it with one of the best ride-on lawn mowers. If your grass starts to lose color, then find out when to add lime to lawns to get it back to a luscious, green state.

Melanie Griffiths
Editor of Period Living

As editor of Period Living, Britain's best-selling period homes magazine, Melanie loves the charm of older properties. I live in a rural village just outside the Cotswolds in England, so am lucky to be surrounded by beautiful homes and countryside, where I enjoy exploring. Having worked in the industry for almost two decades, Melanie is interested in all aspects of homes and gardens. Her previous roles include working on Real Homes and Homebuilding & Renovating, and she has also contributed to Gardening Etc. She has an English degree and has also studied interior design. Melanie frequently writes for Homes & Gardens about property restoration and gardening.

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