Growing a Lawn from Seed
Often the most dominant feature in a garden, it is important for a lawn to look as good as it possibly can. If you need a new lawn and it is a large area, sowing a lawn with grass seed is much cheaper than using turf and it's also great for patching smaller areas that need a little help.
Growing a lawn from seed rather than from turf also gives you a much wider choice of seed mixes. There are mixes for dry or shady gardens, for family lawns or fine grass mixes for that perfect, bowling green finish. Just choose the grass seed you need by thinking about what you want your lawn for. Another advantage of grass seed over turf is that seed can also be stored easily if the weather suddenly changes, while turf is more tricky and really needs to be used straight away once you've bought it.
The best time to sow a lawn is in the spring or autumn when the soil is warm and moist, and there are no extremes of temperature to dry out or freeze grass seed. At these times of year grass seed will germinate readily, within a couple of weeks, and grass seedlings have time to get well established before the summer, when the hot, dry weather arrives.
Good preparation before you sow a lawn is vital, so if you can, prepare the site for sowing a few weeks before to give the soil time to settle down. On a fine day, clear away the existing grass, all weeds (any perennial weeds need to be eradicated well in advance), and fork the area down to about 20cm, leaving it to settle for a few weeks.
In the spring, finally prepare the area ready to sow the grass seed:
1. Tread over the soil with your heels to get a firm surface and then break up any clods with a garden rake.
2. Keep raking over the area in different directions, removing large stones and any remaining weeds until you have an even surface with a fine, crumbly texture perfect for sowing.
(It is important when you sow a lawn to get an even seed distribution, and therefore even grass growth, so always check the seed packet for the correct seed quantity per area - it is generally between 15 -30g per m2 depending on the type of grass seed.)
3. The easiest way to sow a lawn is to divide large areas into m2 by pegging strings out across the site.
4. Scatter the recommended amount of grass seed evenly across the squares, scattering half the seed first one way and then the other so you get as even a coverage as possible.
(You can also get specific grass sowing hoppers to help you sow grass seed, which calibrates an even distribution for you.)
5. Water the grass seed in dry weather, taking care not to wash the seed away. Hang bird scarers across the site to stop them eating your precious seed.
6. Once the grass seedlings reach about 7cm, go over the new lawn either on foot or with the roller on a cylinder mower to firm the new grass down.
7. A couple of days later, give the lawn its first cut, taking it down by around a third of its length. For spring grown lawns continue to cut it every week or so, gradually reducing the height.
Remember to keep off your new lawn as much as possible in its first year to give it the chance to get established.