Don’t assume that your topsoil has the nutrients for your grass seed. The assumption is that you can tell your soil nutrient level has the proper nutrient by sight or color is insufficient for seed growth. Don’t assume that the topsoil you’re adding to the seed is rich in nutrients regardless of color.
Test the soil and add potassium and/or phosphorus by rototilling into the top 4 to 6 inches. Test it and make any necessary nutrient additions.
The best soil for grass seed needs to have the topsoil of a sandy loam texture with a good black color. Avoid heavy muck soils high in clay or silt contents, sometimes offered as topsoil.
How to prepare my soil for grass seed?
Regardless of your soil type, success in lawn seed development will depend on good soil preparation. If the lawn preparation is done correctly, the lawn will provide years of lash and healthy grass.
If neglected and trying to economize too much, it will be costly to correct the problem after the initial installation. Substandard work removing existing weeds and grasses only invites weed problems in newly established lawns.
Remove existing perennials’ broadleaf weeds and grasses. Examples of broad-leaf weeds include dandelions, thistles, plantain, and clover. Examples of perennials’ weedy grasses include quack grass and orchard grass.
If you’re adding topsoil or peat, rototill it into the upper 4 to 6 inches. For sandy or clay soil, spread 12 to 18 cubic feet of baled peat per 1,000 square feet. However, it should be noted that sandy soils are excellent for growing grass without the need for peat addition if constant irrigation is provided.
Leveling with a grader blade is not a substitute for rototilling. However, rototilling under trees will disrupt their feeder roots and may cause considerable damage. The better option is to use a vertical mower for scratching the soil surface when preparing the area beneath trees. Wait to pack the soil firmly before you seed; use a garden rake to level uneven areas.
Should you mix grass seed with topsoil?
The first step in mixing the grass seed and topsoil is soil preparation. Once the soil has been prepped for planting, be careful not to bury the seed too deeply. The seed that is buried too deeply may not germinate. Always gauge the depth of planting by the smallest seed in the mix.
Planting your seeds by hand is the most practical way to plant in a small space. Lightly rake the soil surface at least the top ½ of the soil. This will allow for a more straightforward incorporation of the seed into the soil, helping ensure good seed-to-soil contact.
Next, spread the seed by hand or by using a fertilizer spreader. If you are using a seed spreader or by hand, apply half the desired rate in one direction, then spread the second half at an angle to the first to ensure a good distribution pattern.
Follow up with a light raking allowing about 10 to 15 percent of the seed to show. Lightly roll the area to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.
Be mindful not to bury the seeds too deep, as this may not encourage germination. Always gauge the depth of planting by the smallest seed in the mix. For example, when mixtures of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, the planting depth should be determined by the smallest of the seeds, Kentucky bluegrass.
Large spaces are better seeded with mechanical devices that can either be rented or provided by a turfgrass professional. A silt seeder loosens the soil just ahead of a series of discs that cut a groove to a specified depth in the soil. A series of tubes from down from the seed hopper beside each of the discs.
Seeds are dropped through the tubes at a preset rate into the groove and are lightly covered by the rotating disc. This allows for precise placement of the seed at the proper depth and spacing.
Once the seed is planted, ensure the soil is kept evenly moist, although slightly drying between watering is not detrimental and may even be beneficial. South-facing slopes and other parts of the yard exposed to hot afternoon sun may dry out more rapidly and require additional watering on a more frequent basis.
Moisture is critical once seeds begin to germinate. They should not be allowed to dry. After most seeds have germinated, you can water more heavily but less frequently , to encourage deeper rooting.
Ensure all of the different grasses contained in a mix have germinated before cutting back on moisture.
Can I just throw grass seed on the dirt?
Yes, your seeds will germinate when thrown instead of precisely planting your seeds. However, the coverage of your new grass can be in question once your seeds begin to germinate.
A drop spreader is generally preferred for seeding as they are more accurate due to less influence by windy conditions and different seed sizes. That is, larger seeds are thrown further than smaller seeds when using a rotary spreader, resulting in uneven distribution of grass species within the area.
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