Plant grass seed and enjoy a new lawn
Grass is a welcome addition to any garden. It adds year-long colour to your outdoor space, is ideal for children to play on and feels amazing to walk on barefoot.
If you're looking to create a new lawn area, grass seed is a low-cost way to get some greenery into your garden. There are a range of grass types available and if the weather's too wet to sow on the day you’d planned, simply hold onto them until the weather improves.
Read on for step-by-step help on laying a new lawn from grass seed. Alternatively, if you're looking for speedy results, head over to our helpful guide on laying turf.
Before you begin
When's the best time to lay grass seed?
Grass seed should be sown in either spring or early autumn.
How to choose grass seed
There’s a wide range of grasses to choose from depending on the needs of your garden. Important considerations include:
- what type of lawn do you want?
- what are the conditions of your garden?
- how much time can you commit to the project?
What type of lawn do you want?
- a durable lawn that can withstand children's play, sports and evening entertaining. Get this with family grass seed. This is made up of tough and coarse grass seeds producing a lawn that's hard-wearing enough to withstand regular use.
- an attractive lawn to be admired from distance. Achieve this with ornamental lawn seed. This mixture doesn't contain any of the coarser grasses like ryegrass, producing a fine lawn that will tolerate close mowing.
What are the conditions of your garden?
Grass grown in shady spots often looks less healthy then the rest of the lawn. Combat this by choosing shady lawn seed that helps prevent it from going brown without sun.
How much time can you spend on the project?
If you're short on time for gardening and would like a lawn established rapidly, opt for fast-acting grass seed.
Top tip: Assess the area for potential problems
Before laying a new lawn, think about the part it will play in your overall garden layout. Consider where people will walk, or if there are any obstacles that will get in the way of mowing.
Areas likely to endure heavy wear and tear, such as access routes, shortcuts or children’s play areas, are better anticipated at the planning stage. If need be, place stepping stones within the lawn and position children’s play equipment elsewhere.
You might need
- Grass seed
- Systemic weed killer (also known as non-residual weed killer) - if required
- Seed compost
- Pre-turf and lawn seed fertiliser
- Garden twine - if required
- Garden fork
- Cultivator - ideal if working on a large area
- Garden rake
- Bamboo canes - if required
- Lawn spreader - best-suited to larger lawns
- Lawn roller
- Water sprinkler or garden hose gun
How to sow grass seeds
Clear the ground of all stones, debris and weeds. If necessary, treat any stubborn weeds with a systemic (non-residual) weed killer – this will reduce the likelihood they'll reappear later.
Dig over the entire site with a garden fork, mixing in compost (if you need to) which will improve the condition of the soil. Break down any hard lumps by bashing them with the back of the fork. If you’re working across a large area, use a powered cultivator (also known as a rotavator).
Add some pre-turf and seed fertiliser at about half the recommended rate and continue to take out big stones and bits of old roots.
Use a garden rake to go over the ground to produce an even surface.
Firm the soil down by compressing it with the heels of your boots.
Be methodical – start at one end of the patch and trample the soil in a straight line across the end of the plot, then turn around and go back. Carry on shuffling over the earth until you've covered the whole area with footprints.
Then gently rake over your footprints so that the surface is similar to fine cake crumbs. Fill in any hollows and remove any last lumps of root and debris until the ground is completely flat. Repeat until you get the perfect finish.
Keep off the lawn until you are ready to start sowing seed.
If spreading seed by hand, tie four 1metre (m) bamboo canes together with garden twine to form a square. Then hold in front of you and spread a measured quantity of seed within it. This will establish how densely to sow the seed.
Repeat until the entire area has been covered.
If using a spreader, add the seed to the spreader and push across the area until all covered.
Rake over the area to mix the seed roughly into the surface of the soil - don’t worry about burying it all.
Finish the sown area by going over it methodically with a garden roller.
Then water the new seeds. If you don’t have rain within 48 hours of sowing, give the seeds a good soaking with a lawn sprinkler.
Continue regular watering of the new grass seedlings - especially if the weather is dry. While the seedlings are very tiny and delicate, water using a fine mist spray from a hose gun attachment (pictured) or sprinkler with a mist setting.
As they grow stronger, water with an ordinary sprinkler.
Top tip: Keep off the grass
A new lawn needs plenty of time to establish itself – so the last thing you want is for people and animals to trample it or for birds to eat the seed. To prevent this, either crisscross the area with cotton, tied to regularly spaced canes pushed into the ground, or use fine-mesh netting fixed a few centimetres (cm) off the ground.
Once the grass has grown to 5 to 8cm, it can have its first cut. Check that the lawnmower's blade is really sharp, otherwise the shoots will tear and lift out of the ground. Set your lawnmower to its highest setting, so that you only take off the tips for the first few months and collect, and dispose of, the clippings.
As the lawn thickens up, the cutting height can gradually be lowered. Even if weeds appear, don't apply weed killer for at least the first six months after sowing.