How to Grow Your Own Lawn from Scratch


Two hands holding grass seedling in front of blurred background

A bare lawn can be a challenge unless you know what to do with it. It’s also the less expensive route to take if you are planning to transform the appearance of your home or garden. However, there are some tips to keep in mind before you plant that first seed in all that waiting dirt.


What climate are you in?

There’s more to planting grass seed than just raking up the ground and tossing down some seed. One of the first things you need to figure out is what type of grass will grow in your climate. Warm-season grasses won’t grow in areas where it gets cold, and cool season grasses won’t grow where it gets hot.

If you live in a cool season climate, the best time to plant your grass is late summer to early fall. This is because this type of grass grows best in the fall, spring and some areas, even winter. When grass seed is planted in late summer or early fall, the ground has still retained enough warmth for the grass seed to germinate quickly. Then the young seedlings have enough time with the upcoming cool season to become firmly established before the first lawn mowing.

But, you can also plant grass seed in the early spring in a cool-season lawn. It’s the second-best time to plant because of the hot weather, and the young shoots of grass will have less time to become established. But you can still get good results if you begin seeding early enough in the season. With warm season grasses, they are planted in late spring to get the best results. The weather is mild enough, so your grass seed will become established. But, with the heat of summer, the most vigorous growth of your grass will be starting soon before a much-needed lawn mowing.

You will also need to think about what the lawn is being used for. Is it going to be used for pets or heavy foot traffic? Is it just to look at or a place for the kids to play? Once you've decided which it's going to be used for, then choose the grass for your area and your needs.


Preparing the area

Planting a new lawn can be a big job, and it may be better to start with smaller sections to keep the job manageable. Plus, if you don’t have an inground sprinkler system, it makes it easier to water the new seeds. The first thing to do when preparing the area is to remove any old turf which is of poor quality and remove any weeds. You can do this by digging it out with a flat-bladed shovel and making sure to remove all the roots when you do. Or, you could apply an herbicide and use a sod-cutter from a rental place to remove the plant and the roots. Plus, if your soil is compacted, then you will need to use a rototiller to break up the clumps.

Another critical consideration for lawn care is to keep in mind is when preparing the area, be sure to gently slope it away from areas or building which could be damaged by standing water. The general rule is with every 100 feet of distance, allow a one-foot slope. You may find that some areas will be lower or higher than other areas, so you'll need to grade it to have a smooth appearance. You might have to buy some extra soil to accomplish this so try to match the earth which is already in your yard and mix it with what you have.

The next step is to check the pH level of your soil. Most grasses like a pH level of between 6.0 to 7.5. So, if the pH doesn’t match these numbers, then you’ll need to adjust the soil pH. You can amend your soil with fertiliser, lime, sulfur or organic matter depending on what the pH levels are. Using a power tiller to work in what amendments are needed is easier than working it in by hand. At this point in your lawn care program, you can spread a starter fertiliser which is high in phosphorus and soil conditioner or compost. You will need to also till this, so it’s worked into the soil.

After amendments are added, then use a landscaping rake to level the ground out. Remove any rocks, stones or debris which you find, water the earth and make a thorough check for puddles. If you see a puddle, allow it to dry thoroughly and then add soil from a higher spot. You will need to roll the soil to prepare a firmer base and foster adequate structure in the ground. Fill a lawn roller about one-third of the way with water, and for optimal planting, roll until your footprints are not thicker than ½ inch. This is because if the soil is too loose, then the seed will get too deep and will die before it ever reaches the surface. Finish up by watering the area to a 5-6-inch depth two days before you plant your grass seed.


Planting grass seeds with rake

Planting your grass seed

When getting ready to plant your grass seed, you need to pick a windless day. Using a rotary or drop spreader, sow seed evenly. You can cover the seeds by using a lightweight rake and dragging the back of it over the area. Or, you can apply a one-inch layer of mulch if the weather is going to be hot and dry or there’s going to be drying winds.

Water thoroughly but not enough to wash away the seeds. The next step in the lawn care process is to keep the area which is seeded most for about three weeks or when the grass has sprouted. Water briefly, maybe even 3 or more times a day, during periods of warm weather. Lawn mowing can be done when the grass is one-third more than it’s optimum height. Be sure to mow slowly, so you don't disturb the tender roots. Water often after the first lawn mowing, making sure the top inch of soil does not dry out until your lawn has established itself in about six weeks and four lawn mowings.


When you start a lawn from scratch, it isn’t difficult if you know what you’re doing.

For more helpful advice on lawn care, be sure to check out our other lawn articles or contact a helpful Crewcut operator. 

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