Creating a lawn from scratch with lawn seed is a rewarding experience. With a little planning and effort anyone can do it. Make your lawn a success with this free, no-nonsense guide.
A lush, green lawn is a beautiful addition to any home. It gives space for the kids to play and for the adults to enjoy the outdoors. Often the largest part of a garden, the lawn is an important focal point for a property, providing an attractive frame for the house itself and a point of reference for flowerbeds, shrubs and tree plantings.
Sowing your own lawn is not a complex task, but it does require care and adequate preparation.
The Right Type of Grass
Before you start work on your new lawn you’ll need to decide what type of lawn seed to use.
Much of your decision will be based on aesthetics, on the type of look you want. But you need to consider three other areas as well.
- What will the lawn be used for? Will it have to stand up to a lot of use – kids running around, games of football etc? Will some parts of the lawn be `heavy traffic` areas – regularly used routes around doorways, for instance?
- What is your soil like? Is it rich or poor in nutrients? Is it sandy and unable to hold water, or is it rich in clay and prone to retaining too much water?
- What kind of climate do you enjoy (or suffer)? How much rainfall/sunshine can you expect. Pay attention, too, to whether or not large areas of your lawn will spend long periods in shadow during the day.
Once you’ve answered these questions you can chose your seed. Discuss your needs with your local garden centre – they’ll be able to suggest the type of seed best suited to your garden’s environment.
Bunching or Creeping
There are two styles of lawn grasses – bunching grass and creeping grass.
- Bunching grass spreads by producing new shoots from the base of the plant, thereby spreading slowly outwards from the original seed site.
- Creeping grasses spread by sending out stems that creep along the ground. New plants then sprout at intervals along these stems. The toughness of these grasses makes them useful for high traffic areas.
Each of these styles offers a very different look and feel. Try to check out a lawn of each and decide which you prefer.
When you buy your sack of grass seed it’s likely that it will be a blend of several different types of seed. Blended seed has the advantage of not being so susceptible to pests or extremes of weather. If conditions arise that might kill one variety of seed, the other varieties in the blend may well survive and you’ll still get your lawn.
Blends can also help prevent weed growth. For example, Kentucky bluegrass seeds take 28 days to germinate and weeds will long since have invaded the lawn space before the grass begins to provide cover. Mixing seeds like these with a faster growing variety (rye grass, say) will provide a nurse crop that retards weed growth until the blue grass takes root.
Individual Lawn Seed Varieties
Some of the individual lawn varieties you might consider are:
- Rye grass – coarse textured, hard-wearing, but thirsty, doesn’t like heat.
- Kentucky bluegrass – attractive, doesn’t like heat.
- Fescue – needle-like blades, durable, doesn’t mind shade.
- Bent grass – attractive but high maintenance, not good in hot climates.
- Buffalo grass – coarse blades, heard-wearing, tolerates drought.
- Couch grass – fast-growing, ideal for warm climates.
Once you’ve decided on your seed, it’s time to get down to work.
Creating Your Lawn
Your first step will be to prepare the ground.
- Eradicate weeds and unwanted existing grass either by digging out or through the use of a non-selective herbicide (Roundup works well and leaves no residue in the soil).
- Grade the area to be grassed – fill dips and bowls with topsoil (to avoid water pooling), flatten bulges or mounds.
- Till the soil until it is a fine crumbly texture to a depth of about 15 cm. If your soil is of poor quality (full of landfill, lacking nutrients etc.) you may need to purchase and spread topsoil to provide a sufficient growing-bed for your grass.
- Fertilise the soil with an appropriate lawn fertiliser (e.g. Yates Thrive Lawn Starter).
Sowing Lawn Seed
Sowing lawn seed should be done in spring or autumn. In these seasons the weather is warmer (but not too hot) and the soil will be moist – providing favourable germinating and growing conditions for the seed.
- Rake the area level
- Divide your lawn seed in half. Walk lengthways over the area, sowing your seed by hand or with a hand-held applicator.
- Take the second half of your lawn seed and sow it while walking crossways over the area. This `crossing-over` technique ensures good, even coverage.
- Gently rake the area again to ensure good contact between seed and soil.
- Water well, using a fine spray that will not displace the seed.
- At this point, extra protection for the new seed can be provided by mulching with straw or sphagnum moss. Your mulching material should be applied lightly enough so that about half the seeded soil is left exposed. Mulching in this manner will provide shade for the seedlings and prevent them from drying too rapidly.
Your aim during this period is to keep the seeds moist enough to germinate. The best approach is to water lightly and often – once or twice a day, more if the weather is very hot.
After germination, as the seedlings become strong and take hold, water more thoroughly but less often. This will train the roots to grow deeply and strengthen the resulting lawn.
Protect your seeds from birds by rigging up some sort of scaring device – hanging strings of CDs can be effective. Where bird-strike is a severe problem, netting may need to be strung above the newly seeded ground.
Some lawn seed comes coated with bird repellent. This may have advantages, but it is also slower to germinate and may, therefore, allow weeds to establish themselves before the grass can take hold. This type of seed is also twice the weight of uncoated seed and so, per kilogram, will cover only half the area.
Once your lawn has taken hold strongly and the grass has reached a length of about 5cm you can begin mowing. The first few mows should only lightly trim the grass, taking just the tips off the blades – this will encourage the grass to thicken.
A Beautiful Green Space
With proper ground preparation, adequate bird protection, sufficient fertilisation and careful watering, the effort you put into creating your brand new lawn will reward you year after year with an open green space that is both functional and beautiful.