Learning how to plant grass seed in bare spots of your lawn, is very essential to how your lawn will look overall. Bare lawn patches are almost inevitable, but they also look bad and detract from the appearance of your home’s outdoor spaces.
If you’re wondering how to plant grass seed in bare spots of your yard, you’ve come to the right place. This simple guide will walk you through the best way to get grass seed planted and how to do it for optimal growth.
How to Fix Bare Spots on Your Lawn
The good news is that bare spots in your lawn are relatively easy to fix, provided you take the right steps and make the correct preparations. Once you know how to repair a lawn, the process itself is straightforward. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide for grass patch repair and the help you need to reseed your bare patches and get your lawn looking its best again.
Step 1: Determine Why You Have Bare Patches and Correct the Problem
The first step in how to plant grass seed in bare spots of your lawn is to determine why you’re having problems in the first place. Examine the ground carefully and dig a spade or two of it up to find out if you have an infestation of insects or grubs. If your lawn is free of pests, the next step is to look at water and sunlight. If water pools near the bare spots during rainstorms or if a nearby tree is preventing them from getting enough sunlight, you’ll need to address these problems before reseeding. Shade from a tree is often the most challenging problem to fix directly, a few people want to cut down a mature tree just to repair a bare spot. If this proves to be your problem, you may instead want to select a full-shade grass seed for bare spots.
Dog Urine Spots on Lawn: If you suspect or know that your favorite four-legged friend is causing the bare patches in your lawn; then check out this handy article for ways to prevent dog urine spots on your lawn.
Step 1: Plant the Grass at an Optimal Time
It is imperative that you patch the bare spots of your lawn at the right time. If you have cool-season grass, plant it in cooler temperatures. And if you have warm-season grass (like Bermuda) it will require warmer temperatures.
The best temperature for growing grass seed is 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit, with soil temperature ranging between 50-65 degrees. While this is the ideal temperature range, grass will grow in slightly colder or warmer temperatures, but the germination process will take longer and the success of grass seed growth may be less.
Most of you will probably want to plant in the fall, however, spring can be just as timely. This is because the cooler weather makes it easier for seeds to retain moisture. It’s just common sense, that as we dehydrate more easily in the summer months – so will your grass seed.
Another plus for off-season grass seed planting is that the vast majority of weeds that grass competes with die during these cooler months.
If you care to follow the “technical route” to grow grass from seed – check out this article from my son’s alma mater – Michigan State University’s Agricultural Department – on “Establishing a New Lawn from Seed”.
Step 2: Prepare the Area
Once you’ve corrected the underlying problem, you can start the process of repairing the damage. The first step in this process is to use a rake to remove the old dead grass and any leaf debris, leaving only bare soil where the new grass seed will be sown. Next, you’ll want to break up the soil a bit. A small hand cultivator is usually the right tool for this job, as it will loosen the surface soil reasonably well without dislodging so much of it that you’ll have erosion problems during your next thunderstorm.
Step 3: Add a Bit of Extra Organic Material
Although grass is well-known for growing in all conditions, it tends to germinate best in fertile soil. For this reason, it’s a good idea to add in a little bit of extra organic material before you spread the grass seed. Some compost or a bag of garden soil from a home improvement store will usually do the trick, and you don’t need to spread more than an inch or two on the bare spot to achieve the desired results.
Dog Patch repairs: Note, If you are fixing bare patches because of dog urination, you should buy a small bag of Lime for your lawn, again sold at Home improvement stores which should be lightly spread into the spot to neutralize the soil acidity, before you spread and bury the grass seed. The video below addresses this issue and demonstrates the use of grass seed to repair bare spots in your lawn.
Once you’ve spread your organic material, use either a cultivator or a garden rake to incorporate it into the underlying soil. While you don’t want to bury the new material, it should be thoroughly mixed into the top few inches of your lawn’s existing dirt. This step may not be necessary if you’re using a grass seed that comes embedded in a growing medium, as the medium will usually supply all of the nutrients your new grass will need while it’s getting started.
Step 4: Spread the New Seed
Now that the bare spot is fully ready, it’s time to lay down your new seed. Part of knowing how to plant grass seed in bare spots is getting the right density of seed. A good rule of thumb when it comes to seeding density is to try to get about 15 seeds in every square inch of bare ground. To approximate this, mark out a square inch and spread 15 seeds within it, then use that as a visual guide for how thickly to spread the seed on the rest of the patch. Don’t worry too much about being precise on this, but simply try to achieve an even and reasonably dense spread throughout.
Not sure what seed to use in Your Region? Check out this video from This Old House
Step 5: Work the Seed In
Now that you’ve seeded the surface of the bare patch, you need to cover the new seeds with a bit of soil to prevent them from washing away before they have a chance to germinate and take root. There are two ways of accomplishing this. The first is to use a garden rake to rake the seeds into the soil very gently. Ideally, you should be aiming to work them into a depth of about half an inch, as this will give them just enough cover to protect them from the rain.
The second option is to use a bit of additional topsoil to cover the seeds, again aiming for a depth of about half an inch. This is usually the easier of the two methods, especially for more significant bare spots.
A) Using Sod or Lawn Repair Mix instead of Grass Seed
If you want to use Sod from your local Landscape Nursery or Big Box Home Improvement store, of course, you can skip the Grass Seed only method, and find a suitable sod usually sold in 18 x 24″ strips, to grow in your new grass patch. Simply cut the sod to match the size of your patch or patches, and continue with watering steps below. You may also elect to buy Lawn Patch Mix – which is sold in bags and contains Recycled newspaper, Grass seed, and fertilizer all in one mix. You simply spread the mixture, water it, and you’re done. The recycled mulch keeps the seed from washing or blowing away, while the fertilizer feeds the grass seed. Lawn patch mix is not as cheap as using just grass seed alone, but it’s very convenient if you’re only fixing a few small patches.
B) Using Grass Seed Mat (Roll-up)
If you’re short on time and want to get an all-in-one package for growing grass, then a Grass Seed Mat, or sometimes referred to as a Seed Mat or Carpet Grass application – could be your solution. You simply prepare the ground as you would for the normal installation of grass seed, by raking out the soil – rolling out the grass seed mat which contains, biodegradable fabric, grass seed, and fertilizer – provide a short watering cycle 2-3 times a day and that’s it. The manufacturer estimates 5-6 weeks to fully germinate and grow grass seed with grass mat material. Precaution includes grass mat installation with a daily temperature between 40-90 degrees and properly securing the mat so it doesn’t blow away.
Step 6: Give Your New Grass the First Watering
Like all other plants, grass needs ample water to grow and thrive. The first time you water your grass seed, you need to be careful to dampen the soil well without entirely soaking it. This initial watering will help start the germination process, as well as keep the bare soil from drying out and blowing away like dust.
Step 7: Tend Your Grass as it Grows
After your grass has been planted, you’ll need to know how to get grass to grow in bare spots. Germination of grass seed can take anywhere from 5 to 30 days, depending on the weather. So the most essential part of taking care of new grass during its first few weeks of growth is watering it every day.
As with your first watering, you want to dampen the soil, not soak it. Too much water can cause the roots of the young plants to rot and reduce the overall thickness of your new grass as it matures.
Another step you may have to take in caring for your new grass is protecting it from intense sunlight on particularly hot days. Excessive heat and sunlight can stress the young plants and cause the ground to dry out, leading to weak early-stage growth. If you do have a particularly hot, bright day, you can use a bit of burlap or a sheet to cover the ground.
These materials will lock moisture in while still allowing for some airflow to the plants. Be sure not to use anything too tightly woven, as the lack of air and buildup of heat could harm the plants. This step will also not be necessary if your new grass is in a shaded area.
Step 8: Let Your Grass Grow a Little Long Before You Mow It
The final step in the lawn repair process is to refrain from mowing it until it is over three inches tall. While this longer grass may seem like an annoyance if you diligently maintain a close-cut lawn, letting it grow before mowing it is essential for the health of the plant.
Don’t add any additional fertilizer to the newly seeded lawn until it is fully grown. Then to prevent weeds or remove weeds that can develop, choose a good starter fertilizer.
Mowing stresses the grass and limits its ability to conduct photosynthesis by reducing the surface area of the individual blades. While mature grass isn’t harmed by regular mowing, younger plants need to be allowed to reach a decent size before they are cut for the first time.
Now that you know how to plant grass seed in the bare spots of your lawn, you can quickly restore the appearance of your yard and fix bare or thin spots that have developed over the years. For all you “Visual learners” here are some great step by step illustrations from WikiHow you can also refer to.
Keep in mind that there may be cases in which more than patch repair will be needed. If the majority of your lawn is bare or thin, it may be time to lay down new grass seed over your entire yard. If the problem is confined to patches, though, these instructions will help you make quick work of restoring your lawn, and grow your lawn fast.
References & Additional Resources
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