Grass Seeds: Step by Step Guide to Selecting the Best Grass Seed for Your Lawn
Growing a new lawn from grass seed is surely going to be a learning process especially if you are going to do it for the first time. That being said, with enough preparation, tools and patience, anyone can grow professional looking lawn from seeds. If you ask from anyone who’ve succeeded in this endeavor, they will say growing a lawn from grass seeds will ultimately boil down to one thing: getting high quality seeds!
So in this article we are going put forward a step by step guide to select grass seeds for your lawn growing project. Especially if you are going to do this for the first time you will find this article very helpful. This is because there are several grass seed related aspects that beginners can easily miss. Finally we will list down some of the best products in the market which may help you to narrow down your search for quality grass seeds.
STEP 1: Have you considered other options?
Growing a lawn from grass seeds is the most affordable option for making a lawn especially if you own a small garden. This is also the number one reason why most of the gardeners prefer this lawn planting method.
However, seed growing will require some experience and knowledge. But don’t worry, you will gain experience by doing this and knowledge you can gain in many ways. After all, how do you think most of the professional lawn growers came to that level?
Your success hinges on number of factors including quality of the seeds, soil preparations, constant care and persistence. If you are going to do this for the first time expect to make mistakes! Which by the way is great because you will learn.
Alternative methods like sprigging, plugging and sod blocks may bring fast results but are usually much expensive than the grass seed route. The great thing about sod is the lawn looks good immediately after and can be used much sooner.
Some cost figures
At present (2017) the cost for installing economy grade sod for average 2000 square foot yard is around 1500-2000$. However, the seeding (or reseeding) cost for the same size yard would be around 300-500$: which is around five folds low. You can even hire a professional to do the seeding. This will cost you typically around 300$ and if you want him to do the prep work as well, expect to pay something around 700$.
Generally speaking, if you have some gardening experience with general lawn management skills and time and effort to put in to the project, you will be okay! ALso, growing your lawn by yourself is great not only because it’s surely going save you lot of money but also give you the satisfaction by doing something that yourself and others will appreciate.
So if you decide to take on the DIY path go to the STEP 2 to find out more.
STEP 2: Know the steps involved
Some gardeners think getting grass seeds and spreading them across the lawn is going to give them a lawn. This is not going to work! Whether you are going to grow a new lawn or trying to reseed the existing one, you must consider the steps involved.
Knowing these steps will help you in deciding when, what and how much to buy! Here are the steps you should follow if you are going to grow a lawn by yourself.
Testing the soil: Most importantly test for soil pH and if possible other nutrients. This will tell you what you need in your soil and in what quantity.
Clearing up: Remove the traces of old lawn. Particularly weeds! Take some tools to take out rocks, roots and other big garden debris. This is because, any left over weed roots can grow back after you reseed.
Soil preparation: Adding compost and/or sand in sufficient quantities helps to improve the soil quality and make it more porous. Sand make it easier for grass roots to penetrate and develop.
Soil amendments: Lime and sulfur are the mostly used amendment for pH adjustments. Check this link for more details. Make sure you mix it well with an iron rake or any other suitable equipment.
Grass Seeding: Use a hand caster or walk behind caster to spread the grass seeds evenly on the ground.
Raking: You can gently rake and work the soil so that you try to cover most of the seeds with the dirt. This makes them easier to grow.
Watering: Watering is critical for a seeded lawn. You can use a gentle fan spray to spread water evenly around the lawn. Make sure you don’t overwater or let seeds wash away.
Being patient: Yes this is a step too! You need to give your grass seeds enough time to grow.
STEP 3: Selecting the right grass seed type
There are two general categories of grass seeds: cool-season and warm-season. You need to make your seed choice considering the climate and environmental factors that your garden will face.
Warm season grasses
Worm season grasses are well suited for warmer areas of the country. In general warm season grasses have high heat and drought resistance, so they survive in the even the hottest summers. Most of the warm season grasses will become brown as the temperate drops especially during the colder months. However, they spring up with the warmer climate sets in.
Here are some of the most popular worm season grass seeds you can try for your lawn.
Bermuda grass is probably the most popular warm season grass seed type. As mentionedbefore, they withstand the heat and drought conditions and require little maintenance. They are also very durable for heavy use and wear during the warmer months like spring, summer and early autumn. These months are also the months they will be actively growing and in the best conditions. Lot of hybrid and new varieties of this type exist in the market.
Zoysia grass is another popular warm season grass type. Also, you can buy lot of new and hybrid grass seeds from this type of grass. It’s well known as a relatively easy lawn grass type to maintain. This is because it is very water and fertilizer efficient and has fewer pest problems. However Zoysia grass would take some time to establish in the lawn.
St. Augustinegrass is also warm climate grass type which prefers full sun. It reaches its maximum growth rate during the summer months which slows down during the spring and fall months. However, it enters a dormancy period in the winter months. St. Augustinegrass also water efficient. But this grass type is known to be not very wear tolerant, therefore its usage primarily limits to the lawns and general purpose turf.
Buffalo grass is one of the few warm season grass species that are native to the north America. Most of the Buffalo grass seed types produce fine, curly leaf. They are also the most drought resistant grass species available in the market. However, they are not very popular because of the long winter dormancy and relatively low turf quality.
Another popular grass seed category that falls in to the warm season type is centipede grass. This grass type grow slowly and require far less fertilizer and water. Therefore centipede grass require low maintenance and fewer mowing sessions. It has been given this name because single plant shoots resembles a shape of a centipede.
Cold season grasses
Cool season grasses, as the name suggest, are much suited for cold climates. They achieve their peak growth mostly during even the moderately cool seasons of the year like spring and fall. Also you can expect them to continue growing to some extent in the winter as well, unless it’s extremely cold. If you are living in northern regions of US or mostly experience cold climates these grasses are ideal for you. Another great thing about these grasses are they tend to be more shade tolerant.
The best season to plant cold season grasses is fall. Planting cold season grass seeds on this time of the year give them enough time to root and develop before winter hits them in full force.
Here are a list of most popular cold climate grass seed variants.
Kentucky bluegrass is probably the most popular cold season grass seeds available to purchase. Another great thing about this grass is that it looks fine produce neat appearance to the lawn. They also show good shade resistance and tolerance to changes of the climate conditions over the year.
Perennial rye grass seeds are also quite popular as a lawn grass verity. These grasses can be seen in northern golf courses in particular. They are one of the most rapidly germinating grass seeds out there. Perennial rye grass prefers milder climates but they can tolerate temparates as cold as minus 18°C without a problem.
If you have mostly milder climates with moderate to harsh cold conditions, Tall fescue can be a grass seed type you can consider for your lawn. This grass type is also known to be more drought and heat resistant with average shade resistance. There are now new varieties of Tall fescue with finer and shorter stature.
STEP 4: Identify your specific needs
Not all the lawns are made equal. Your garden will certainly have different requirements that you will need to consider if you want to grow a beautiful looking lawn.
General climate conditions in your area should always be the first and foremost factor to consider. Therefore it deserves separate attention which we’ve given in the previous section.
These are more specific requirements and planning for them beforehand is always beneficial. Here are some of them.
- Your soil conditions: pH and nutrient content because grass seeds can be sensitive to this. Ideal pH value is generally considered to be around 6.0-7.0.
- Reseed or overseed: Overseeding is the application of seeds over an existing lawn. For an example if you have few patchy lawn spots or places where the lawn has turned brown. However, if your whole lawn has turned brown and without any hope of coming back up, reseeding is probably the only thing you can do to save it.
- Suitability for intended use: If you expect lot of foot traffic you might need to consider a grass seed type or a category that is tough, hardy and hold up to lot of punishment. However, if you consider the look of it, a soft, lush grass, not as hardy but amazingly beautiful will serve you well.
- Shade: Think about what kind of sun exposure you can expect. Some grass types do not do well in shade while others do not do well in extreme sunlight.
- Watering: Watering lawns are a big problem, especially during the drought season. Watering also going to take lot of your time and money you would spend on maintaining lawn. There are now good drought resistant grass seed types and verities that are available in the market today.
STEP 4: Knowing what to look for in grass seed products
The best way to grow your own attractive lawn is using high quality grass seeds. You will find very few people advice against this because over and over again gardeners have found the importance of investing on quality grass seeds.
Low quality grass seeds are everywhere. You can buy them for cheap prices and many still do that. However, when you consider the costs you may have to incur for overseeding, reseeding or managing and mending lawn patches, investing for high quality grass seeds always seem to be the better option.
Here are some of the tips for selecting top quality grass seed products.
Tip 1: Look for improved verities
Lawn grass seeds are a big business. Therefore to remain competitive big companies invest quite a lot for research and development of new grass verities. These new grass verities are developed for addressing the quality and maintenance issues of the current products.
You can easily find new verities that are having finer texture, greener and more tolerant of environmental conditions like shade, drought and extreme sunlight. However, most of the cheap grass seed verities are traditional grass seed types tend to be coarser, lighter green and require lot of effort in maintenance.
Tip 2: Seed coatings
A great way to enhance the grass seed vigor is to put a seed coating around it. These coatings are usually a combination of nutrients, water absorbing agents and fungicides. They are known to give a quick and strong seedling growth with higher germination percentage.
For glass seed types like bermudaglass putting an additional coating helps to give these small seeds a weight. This greatly increase the uniform seeding of the seed. Some suppliers add fungicides to the seed coating which helps controlling seedling diseases.
Tip 3: Germination percentage
Simply put, germination percentage means in average how many seeds will germinate out of 100 seeds that you’ll put in to the garden. Quality seeds generally considered to have germination percentages over 85% or higher.
Higher germination percentage means you can obtain a substantial grass coverage with little amount of seeds. Low germination percentages will also produce patchy lawns and inferior coverage.
Always consider about germination percentage of a grass seeds. Bargain seeds are usually offered at a lower rate and usually have a low germination percentage, meaning you will often have to apply more seeds to get the same effect.
Tip 4: Weed seed content
All grass seeds are harvested from fields and it’s natural that seed mixtures carry some weed seed. Quality grass seeds always have very low weed seed content, typically less than 0.1%.
Most of bargain seeds, have weed seed content around 1.0%. This number may appear as low but when you consider the number of seeds you are going to spread out across the garden 1.0% weed seed content would literally mean hundreds of weed plants.
Weeds make your lawn management more difficult, more expensive and more time consuming.
STEP 5: Zooming on a grass seed product
Now let’s look at the some of the best grass seed products in the market. It’s important to note that we don’t favor any of the grass seed brand listed in here. We’ve used our experience in dealing number of similar products to prepare this list. All the below products listings were done after doing an in-depth search for each of the product. We’ve selected them based on the parameters such as overall product quality, value for money, customer feedback and seller reputation. However, you are always welcome to read user reviews and look for similar products by clicking on the given links. If you have any questions regarding the product please contact the seller and they will help you.
Fast Grow Mixture provides a hardy turf quickly in sun and shade. This is the perfect seed mixture where the fastest results are required. Germinates in just 7-14 days. This contains 3 pounds and covers 1500 square feet area.
- Ideal for use in sun and shade areas
- Germinates in 14 days
- Available in a 3lb size
- Fast grow grass seed mix
- Provides a hardy turf quickly in sun and shade
- Perfect seed mixture where the fastest results are required
- Germinates in just 7-14 days
- Use in sun and shade lawn area
Pennington Smart Seed is a purebred, drought-resistant, environmentally conscious seed that saves up to 30% more water year after year versus ordinary grass seed – brought to you by the people who care about your grass as much as you do. Each bag of Smart Seed includes our exclusive Penkote technology, which improves seedling success for healthier plants and ensures better plant growth.
- No fillers are included in the mix
- The grass seed mix includes finest pure-bred seed
- Environmentally beneficial because of the low water requirement
- Premium Grass Seed Mix For Healthy, Thick Grass
All Smart Seed is pure-bred, drought tolerant and guaranteed to grow the thick and healthy grass you want while using up to 30% less water year after year versus ordinary grass seed. Produces a thick, fine bladed, dark blue-green lawn. Exhibits good drought tolerance, disease and insect resistance. Contains improved seed varieties that thrive in the sun and the shade. Seed mix changes for different regions of the country, providing a grass seed specifically formulated for the various climatic zone
- Provides the most versatile lawn in sunny to moderately shady areas
- Produces a thick, fine-bladed, dark blue-green lawn
- Very good drought tolerance
- Good disease and insect resistance
- Contains improved seed varieties that thrive in sun and shade
- Seed mix changes for different regions of the country, providing a grass seed specifically formulated for the different climatic zones
Black beauty ultra germinates faster due to frontier perennial ryegrass. Fills in damaged lawn areas because of blue-tastic kentucky bluegrass. Black beauty ultra also has the three grasses in regular black beauty. These grasses grow a naturally dark-green and beautiful lawn. 30 Percent dakota fescue, 30 percent taos tall fescue, 10 percent blue tasic kentucky bluegrass, 10 percent frontier perennial ryegrass. Germinates faster and fills in damaged lawn areas better. Grows well in clay or sandy soils and in full sun or partial shade. Contains naturally inset resistant grass. This contains 3 pounds and covers 1200 square feet area.
- Up to 1,200 square foot coverage
- Possesses species diversity, contains Black Beauty Tall Fescues, elite Kentucky Bluegrass and elite Perennial Ryegrass, produces a dark-green color
- Grows well in clay or sandy soils and in full sun or partial shade
- Has an invisible waxy coating which wards off disease and preserves moisture in the leaf for superior drought tolerance
- Contains naturally insect resistant grass
Warm season grass seeds
Thick, aggressively self-spreading grass. Extremely wear-resistant with a deep root system. Also our seeds are naturally more drought tolerant. Warm season grass that goes dormant (turns brown) in winter months
- Guaranteed To Grow trust with Pennington premium blend
- Protective Coating helps improve the germination rate
- Finest Pure-Bred Seed with many favorable properties
X-Seed Moisture Boost Plus Bermuda grass, 3 lb. Lawn Seed Mixture is premium polymer coated seed mixture guaranteed to grow and is 99.9-percent weed free. Comparable to national brands with greater value.
- Polymer coated for better water retention
- Grows in full sun
- Enhances germination
- Covers 2,000 square feet for existing lawns
- Covers 1,000 square feet for new lawns
Zenith zoysia grass seed with mulch. – Contains zenith zoysia & bio-170 organic mulch. – Is a spreading sun to moderate shade loving grass. – Stays green later into fall. – Has excellent traffic & drought tolerance & develops a dense. – Weed resistant turf.
- Pennington Zenith Zoysia With Mulch 5lb Combination seed and mulch
- Spreads to fill in bare spots and thin areas
- Improved cold tolerance and stays green longer into the fall season
- Recommended Planting Dates : Spring through summer
- Planting Depth: 1/4”,Germination: 7-21 days
Scotts EZ Seed Patch & Repair Bermuda grass is a revolutionary seeding product that guarantees seeding success! The unique combination of Scotts high performance seed, premium continuous release lawn food, and Scotts super-absorbent growing material, make it possible for grass to grow anywhere, guaranteed! (Subject to proper care) Scotts EZ Seed now has a tackier to reduce seed wash away on sloped areas of your lawn! Use this EZ Seed product to protect against the tough southern conditions like scorching heat and dry areas.
- Grows anywhere! Guaranteed! Subject to proper care
- New and improved formula reduces seed wash-away
- For tough Southern conditions like scorching heat and dry areas
- Absorbs 6X its weight in water
- Only sold in select Southern states
Cold season grass seeds
Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Kentucky Bluegrass Mix is a unique mix that performs well in high-traffic areas, under moderate shade, and in sunny areas. As Scotts most cold-tolerant grass seed mix, it has the ability to self-repair from heat, drought, and high-traffic damage. And, each seed is wrapped in a unique WaterSmart PLUS Coating that absorbs 2x more water than uncoated seed, feeds with essential nutrients, and protects seedlings from disease. Grow Quicker, Thicker, Greener Grass.
- Grow quicker, thicker, greener grass. Guaranteed
- WaterSmart PLUS Coating absorbs more water, feeds with essential nutrients and protects seedlings from disease
- Scotts most cold-tolerant grass seed mix
- Performs well in high-traffic, moderate shade and sunny areas
- Self-repairs from damage caused by heat, drought and foot traffic
Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Perennial Ryegrass Mix is the ideal solution for lawns in need of quick growth, erosion control, and protection in high traffic areas. This mix is Scotts best choice for use on compacted soil. And, each seed is wrapped in a unique WaterSmart PLUS Coating that absorbs 2x more water than uncoated seed, feeds with essential nutrients, and protects seedlings from disease. Grow Quicker, Thicker, Greener Grass.
- Grow quicker, thicker, greener grass. Guaranteed.
- Absorbs 2x more water than uncoated seed
- Ideal for quick growth, erosion control, and high-traffic areas
- Scotts best choice for use on compacted soil
- WaterSmart PLUS Coating absorbs more water, feeds with essential nutrients and protects seedlings from disease
- Not sold in Louisiana