A lawn is a really important part of any family backyard or garden. Not only is it the place where we toss the football or set up the summer Slip N Slide, it also is the background for the rest of your garden plants and hardscape. For a lawn to be healthy and attractive, it has to be planted with some good prep and some easy guidelines. Planting a new lawn from seed or sod isn’t complicated, it’s just a bit of elbow grease and some simple steps. Here they are!
Seed vs. Sod?
Lawns are usually planted either by laying seed or sod. The pros of seed is that it is less expensive than sod, at least initially. It does however, take much more water to establish, and it tends to need patching later on for all the spots that don’t quite “take” or get overrun by weeds. It also takes several months for the lawn to be thick enough for regular family use. Sod, on the other hand, may have a higher initial cost, but can be walked on in just a few weeks. It does take more water to establish first, but not near the amounts a seed lawn will. And, it is less likely to get weed filled or diseased as it’s getting started.
Making a New Lawn from Seed
Note: These instructions assume you have already worked out your irrigation needs for your new lawn. Some parts of the country does not need to provide additional irrigation, while the Western US almost always does. Try our post on DIY sprinklers and drip systems if you need help there! Also, check out how to choose lawn seed from ‘DIY Network‘.
To grow a lawn from seed, the first step is to prep the lawn site. Remember, spring and fall are both good times to plant a lawn, because the cooler temperatures allow the tender grass to get established before heat or cold hits.
Spray and remove all weeds at least a week or two before the seeding is to be done. Make sure the spray you use is biodegradable and won’t hurt the emerging grass seed. If you opt for a homemade, natural weed killer, make sure the recipe does not involve salt!
Remove all rocks, and grade the soil with a steel rake. This requires making the surface an even plane. It doesn’t have to be level, just keep it even and fill in low spots. You don’t want large dips to collect water and become a swamp, or places where the lawn mower scrapes the ground. Add starter fertilizer and amend the soil as needed and rake in.
Roll the ground with a weighted lawn roller. You can rent these from your local rental supply store. It’s basically a rolling drum that you can fill with water to make it heavier. It creates a good surface to lay seed. Or, you can go low budget and simply stomp down the area with your feet. Hopefully if you choose this method, you have a small lawn, or a lot of feet!
Spread your grass seed with a push or hand held spreader. Using a leaf rake, lightly scratch the seed into the soil. Lay a light layer of sand or other organic matter over the seed. This keeps seed from being blown away by wind, and protects it from the sun.
Water 2-3 time s a day for 5-10 minutes each time until the lawn has sprouted well. Don’t water to the point of pooling, or you may wash away soil. Gradually cut back on watering until you are watering once a day for 15-30 minutes.
When the lawn is 3 inches tall, its ready for its first mow and light foot traffic!
How to Lay a New Lawn from Sod
Laying sod can be the quickest way to get an established lawn for looks and for play. While a bit higher in initial expense, its our experience that sod lawns establish more successfully without the need to patch seed areas that didn’t take. Here is how to lay a lawn from sod.
Prep your lawn area in the same way you would for seed, above.
Measure square footage of your lawn area, then add 5%. Order your sod from a local supplier that will plant their sod with seed that is proper for your area. Make sure they deliver within 24 hours of cutting the sod so it is fresh.
Sod will arrive at your curb cut into strips and rolled into 4-8 foot lengths. Try to have your sod delivered the same day you will install it. If you have to wait one day to install, keep the sod moist, but not soaking.
Lay out your strips of sod on the prepared ground brick lay fashion… Stagger the seams so they don’t lay together. Make sure the end seams butt up against each other snugly so you don’t have gaps in your lawn for weeds to grow.
Walk on the sod to help create good contact between the soil and the roots, especially the seams.
If you need to cut curves, you can do that with a cheap serrated knife, flat garden spade or edger, after you have laid the sod down. You can also use a garden hose to make nice even curves. Compost any scraps you might end up with.
Water your new lawn every day for a week, but don’t allow water to puddle. After a week, cut back to every other day.
When you start to see new growth, you know the roots are knitting with the soil. Mow the lawn for the first time two weeks after planting.
Your new lawn can take light foot traffic at two weeks, and you can resume your touch football games after 4-6 weeks.
Planting a new lawn from seed or sod isn’t a tough DIY project, and it can make your yard more enjoyable for everyone. If you enjoyed this post, check out our post on Classic DIY Lawn Edging Ideas or fall lawn tricks for a killer lawn in spring!