The Q&A Archives: planting grass seed in new yard

Question: We've recently purchased a new home and are debating whether to lay sod or plant grass seed. The area we are looking to grass is about 1800 square feet (there is currently nothing but dirt). We live near Denver, CO and would like to know what the difference is between sod and grass seed as far as texture, appearance, and the time it will take before the kids can play on the grass (if we seed).
We have used sod before, therefore we need to know what the steps would be for us if we chose to seed the area.
Thanks a lot!

Answer: Sod rooting may take 6-10 weeks so grass shouldn't really be used extensively during that time. A seeded lawn takes 6-12 weeks to come in and look okay, but it shouldn't be used for extensive wear and tear for up to one year to allow the roots to establish strongly. Seeds require a more careful watering program to get established than sod. Eventually, the sod or seed-started grass will look and feel the same, assuming that it is the same grass variety.

The underlying soil preparation steps for sod or seed are the same to insure a healthy turf:

Remove all debris and large rocks.

Establish rough grade at one inch below the sprinkler heads by filling in low spots and leveling high spots.

Add soil amendments.

Till in the amendments at least 4 to 6 inches deep, but 6-8 is better. Don?t leave them in layers on top of the soil.

Decide what type of irrigation system you're going to use and install that.

Water to settle the sprinkler trenches and soil and to build water reserves in the soil. Allow the soil to dry for one to three days so that it is workable. Don?t work wet soil, which can damage its structure permanently. It should crumble easily in your hands if it?s workable. Rake and level the surface.

When sowing seed, divide the seed in 2 equal lots. Spread the first lot in one direction; spread the 2nd lot in the opposite direction. This criss-cross pattern insures more even coverage. After spreading, lightly rake the area. Go over it with a roller half filled with water. Spread no more than a 1/4 inch of mulch to help retain moisture. Water to soak the soil 6 inches deep. Then water up to 3 or 4 times per day, 5-10 minutes each time to keep everything moist while germinating. After several weeks, cut back to once a day. Good luck with your lawn!

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