Fall is the time to reinvigorate your existing lawn, or plant a new one. Turfgrasses are broadly grouped as "warm" or "cool" season, based upon their optimum temperatures for growth. Generally,it's best to use warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and zoysiagrass, in southern areas (their best growth occurs above 80° F). Use cool-season grasses, such as fescues, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass, in northern areas (their best growth happens between 60° F and 75° F). Here's how to seed a new lawn.
Tools and Materials
Amend Soil. Spread 2- to 3-inch-layer of compost, either dolomitic limestone or sulfur, to adjust pH as necessary, and organic or slow-release fertilizer. Use the results of a soil test to determine the correct amount of limestone or sulfur to apply. Mix these amendments into the soil with a rototiller.
Rake. Rake and level the tilled soil, adjusting the soil level to eliminate high and low spots and to slope soil away from buildings. Roll with a heavy, water-filled lawn roller to make a firm bed for planting the seed.
Sow Seed. Adjust spreader to apply seeds at one-half the recommended rate on the package. Sow seed by walking back and forth across the lawn, overlapping rows by an inch or two. Then, walk at right angles to the first sowing to apply the second half of the seed. Roll the seedbed again.
Water and Mulch. Cover lightly with mulch, such as chopped straw, to maintain soil moisture and deter birds from eating sprouted seed. Avoid hay mulch that contains weed seeds. Water with a sprinkler as needed to keep the soil uniformly moist until seeds germinate and become firmly established.
Begin mowing with a sharp-bladed lawnmower when grass is about 1/3 taller than the desired lawn height.
Choose grasses that require less water, such as Bermudagrass, buffalograss, and the improved tall fescues, for dry climate lawns.
Overseed warm-season Bermudagrass or zoysiagrass lawns with fast-germinating perennial ryegrass seed in mid-October for an attractive winter lawn while the permanent grasses are dormant.
Don't use "weed and feed" fertilizer because it may damage the newly sprouting grass.
Photography by Sabin Gratz/National Gardening Association