Planting Grass Seed

There are volumes of books outlining the correct ways to plant grass seed and countless opinions and personal views of what works best. Below you will find Woodstock Hardware’s guidelines for planting grass seed and what we feel are the important things to consider before planting grass seed.


These guidelines should address the majority of your concerns, but your yard and needs certainly have unique characteristics. So when you see it necessary to do so, feel free to further investigate the topics, and others, presented below in more detail.


All we know is what we are sure of if you follow the majority of the information below, you will have nice green grass that requires more mowing than you have time!

How Much Grass Seed Do You Need

When you get started, know how much grass seed you need. Not knowing is not an uncommon phenomenon. It is probably quite a bit less than you think.


Most folks come into the store and have no idea how much grass seed they need. They tend to buy way too much grass seed and “over seed” without obtaining any increased results. Since grass seed is not inexpensive, “Buying a big bag” is not the solution.


Measure how much area you need to seed. Make rough shapes and measure them accordingly. Use a tape measure or “pace it out”. Remember, one adult pace, is about three feet. If you know about the approximately area you need to seed, we will be more than happy to figure out how much grass seed you need.


Industry standards figure when you are reseeding an area, figure one pound of grass seed for 1500 square feet. Figure one pound of grass seed for 750 square feet, when starting a new lawn.


However, if you are unsure, we will go outside, look at the neighbors lawn and help you estimate if your needs are more or less. We have done this for our customers for more than twenty years!

Know Your Soil

It is helpful to know the ph of your soil. Grass will grow in a range of ph’s, but grows best in a slightly acidic range of 6.0-6.5. At these ph’s, your grass seed will get the most out of the nutrients in your soil or any fertilizers you add.


You can buy a small soil ph test kit at Woodstock Hardware to test your soil. There are also test kits available for testing other nutrient variables in both your yard and garden soils including nitrogen and phosphorous.


Most native soils in our area are slightly acidic. Have you ever noticed those huge white pines we have around? Well, they like acidic soil. In addition, due to their falling needles, their long term presence in a lawn will help turn the soil acidic. Big white pines trees equal acidic soil!


Luckily, it is easy and fairly inexpensive, to raise the ph of your soil using lime. Lime is all natural and organic, very inexpensive, compared to lawn fertilizers; it cannot be over-applied, helps your lawn look green and does not make your lawn “grow” faster.


Therefore, if you want to organically improve the health of your lawn without spending a lot of money and want to make the lawn look better without having to mow it more, “lime it”.


Adding fertilizers and weed preventers is an entirely different world. Based on the time of year and your objectives, Woodstock Hardware can also advise you of “the best bang for your buck” when considering lawn fertilizers.

Select the Right Grass Seed

There are many kinds of grass seed mixtures out there. Annual grass seed grows quickly, but dies after the first year. Perennial seed takes a few days longer to germinate, but comes back year after year. Rye grass withstands traffic and Kentucky blue grass is heat tolerant.


Blend different seeds together and you can meet a wide range of needs. Most commercial grass seeds are a mix of these seeds to both meet your geographical region and your intended use. Know what kind of use the area you are seeding is going to get and how much sun the area will receive. A shady grass seed mix will not perform well in a sunny spot.


Now a day’s grass seed companies have made it easy to select the right grass seed by giving those labels such as: sun & shade, shady, sunny, high traffic, quick grow, etc. It is easy to match a grass seed blend to your specific needs.


Just remember, as with just like everything else in life, with grass seed, you get what you pay for. If the grass seed is “cheap”, it probably means, it is full of annual grass that is going to grow fast and not come back next year. That may fit your need fine. However, if you are expecting a nice green lawn that survives in different environments, you might want to make sure you get the right seed mix.


At Woodstock Hardware, we can help you be sure you are getting the right grass seed to meet your individual needs.

Know Your Planting Season

Possibly the biggest mistake folks make when planting grass seed, is going through all the effort, only to plant the grass seed too early or too late. Yes, grass seed will germinate throughout a lengthy season from early Spring to late Fall, but at what percent? Given the expense and effort, will you be satisfied with poor results?


Grass seeds will germinate successfully in normal soils when the surface temperature of the soil does not go below 50 degrees AND where the daytime soil temperature exceeds 60 degrees. So, you can see, grass seed planted on frost riddled soil early in the Spring or late in the Fall, does not encourage germination.

So if grass seed is applied too early or too late, will it germinate when it finally does warm up? Sure, but not as good as you want. Besides, the longer the seed lies dormant, the less chance it has to survive. What does that mean? Well, grass seed is eaten by birds, it is washed away in rain storms or just rots lying on the ground.


In our area of New York, per Cornell University, the optimum time to plant grass seed is between August 15th and September 15th. I bet that surprises you. Well, that is the optimum time frame, but given a nice Catskill Mountain Spring, grass seed can be planted between April 15th and May 15th. Yes, you can plant later, but you need to keep in mind you need to keep your new grass seed moist. Without help, the later you go into the Summer, the less help you typically have from Mother Nature.


Therefore, grass seed can be planted any time and, in many cases, you will get great results. A cool moist summer can provide better results than both a warm dry spring and a cold dry fall, and so on and so on. Just remember, variables such as soil temperature, air temperature and moisture levels will affect your final results.


Given everything equal, if you can work out your grass planting efforts to coincide with the optimum planting seasons, you have a good chance of being successful.

Starter Fertilizer

Regardless of your views of fertilizing, whether you like to or not, applying starter fertilizer really improves the chances for growing grass. Starter fertilizer has the poorer mix of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, to stimulate root growth. This is a very important aspect when growing grass.


Don’t spend all that time preparing your lawn, go to the expense of buying the grass seed, adjusting the ph, just to skimp on the starter fertilizer. If you want your grass to grow, give it every chance you can; use starter fertilizer when you plant the grass seed.


As we mentioned before, how you wish to fertilize, and treat, your established lawn is, of course, completely your choice. But to improve the chances of your grass seed getting established, use a good quality starter fertilizer.


Woodstock Hardware is proud to sell a full line of Bonide lawn and garden products. Manufactured here in New York State, Bonide has a full line of all natural and organic lawn and garden products that have met our customer’s needs for years.


After the grass seed is planted, it is important to keep the new grass seed in place until it germinates and establishes a root system. Another is to keep the newly planted seed sufficiently moist and warm to encourage germination.


You can accomplish both these needs by placing a thin layer of straw over the grass and leaving it in place until grass seedlings appear. Applying a thin layer of straw allows sunlight through and the grass has no trouble growing through the openings.


Once the grass appears to be growing, just mow the hay with the lawn mower. If you feel you need to rake up the straw, be careful. The root system of the new grass is delicate and you may end up raking up your new grass. You can always wait and rake the straw up after your new grass has become established.


Remember, use straw, not hay. Although a bit more costly, straw is weed free. Hay will contain a high percentage of weed seeds and while encouraging your new grass, you will also be encouraging the growth of new weeds.


After planting your grass seed, you need to keep your soil moist for the next 2-3 weeks. Water your soil when the soil looks dry on top. The best time to water is early in the morning. The second best is at the end of the day. For many reasons, you should avoid watering in the middle of the day.


When you water, do not allow the water to pool or it can make dead spots. It is best to water for short periods of time while establishing new grass seed. It is important to keep the moisture on the upper level of the soil where the seed is planted. Deep watering does the new seed no good.


After the grass seedlings emerge, you can start to reduct your watering and let the soil start to dry a little more so the roots will grow deeper in the soil as the plants get more established. The deeper the grass roots, the healthier the grass.

Preparing the Soil

Know all that you will need to actually plant the new grass seed. Remember what you are trying to do. You are about to take a light little seed and “throw” it onto your lawn. Grass seeds are not magical.


In order to grow the grass, seed needs to: come in contact with the soil and the seed needs to stay in place while it is germinating. It helps if the seed is slightly covered with soil and its roots need to penetrate the soil to establish itself. So, how would you answer the following questions:

  • Do we need to rake before we put down the grass seed?
  • Do we need to rake after we put the grass seed down?
  • Can we just throw the grass seed down?
  • Do we need to roll the lawn after we put down the grass seed?


Well, the truth?


  • Grass seed grows better if the soil is raked, even lightly, to give the seed a chance to take root.
  • Lightly raking will help cover the seed and encourage germination.
  • Spreading grass seed from a lower level improves the chance that the grass seed will land on the soil.
  • Rolling or lightly compacting the ground after planting the grass seed will help keep the seed in place while it germinates.


Envision this: A light grass seed is thrown into the air needing to make its way down through the existing lawn to land on a hard unprepared soil, that is not anchored in any fashion is left unexposed to germinate.


So the answer is yes.


What if you don’t? Grass seed germinates under harsh conditions; a percentage of grass seed. So it happens more often than not. Following the proper procedures outlined below simply helps you increase the chances for the grass seed to germinate. There are plenty of variables involved which you can’t control. Take control of the ones you can.

Planting the Grass Seed

There are several kinds of grass seed and fertilizer spreaders out there. Check out drop spreaders and broadcast spreaders. If you have a large area to plant, one of these types of spreaders will meet your needs. There are also hand spreaders. Larger ones called bag spreaders designed to seed large areas and smaller ones for little jobs.


Regardless of the job, there is a spreader designed to meet your needs and Woodstock Hardware can help match your individual needs to the equipment available.


Here is a smart way to actually seed your lawn. Using a spreader at the designated setting, seed your lawn one direction back and forth using 1/2 the seed you planned on using. Now seed your lawn opposite, or crossways, using the remaining 1/2 of the seed. This method will help ensure you apply the grass seed in a uniform, even, manner.

The Last Word

At Woodstock Hardware, we know it is not a perfect world, and time and money, is limited for all of us. To maximize your chances of having beautiful grass, follow as many of the steps above that you can and know that you did as good a job as you could.


Remember, Woodstock Hardware has all of the supplies, products and expertise to help you with growing grass and all of your other projects.