Learn how to avoid common mistakes when planting grass seed for a more full, lush, vibrant lawn. Make your lawn the envy of your neighbors with the best grass seed for your yard’s conditions. Find the right match and top recommendations.
How to Avoid Common Grass Seed Mistakes
Creating a lush, vibrant lawn takes commitment, but the rewards of a successful grass seed project are worth the time and resources you invest. A beautiful lawn can improve your home’s value, benefit the environment and enhance your family’s quality of life. Even if you’re a first-time lawn grower, you can seed right and avoid these common mistakes:
1. Planting the wrong type of seed
Choosing appropriate grass varieties is the first step in ensuring your lawn performs up to your aspirations. Grasses vary widely in their preferences and tolerances, just like other types of plants. Kentucky bluegrass and Bermudagrass, for example, differ significantly in climate and maintenance requirements. Planting grass varieties appropriate to your growing region gives your seed a natural advantage.
Even with similar seed types, all grass seed isn’t equal. Learn what’s actually inside the seed bags you or your lawn professional buy. By understanding the seed tags on grass seed products, you can be sure you invest in quality seed. Cheaper price tags can mean less seed versus fillers, old seeds past their prime, more weed seeds and lower germination rates. Getting seed right from the start benefits your lawn and budget.
2. Skipping the soil test and recommendations
Seeding success depends on an environment conducive to good grass growth. Knowing how your soil measures up on certain essentials, such as soil pH and plant nutrients, allows you to provide the foundation an outstanding lawn needs. Soil testing processed through a reputable soil laboratory eliminates guesswork and reveals changes you need to make.
Without knowing where your soil stands, well-intended soil amendments and fertilizers can harm grass instead of help — or simply go to waste. Incorporating your specific soil lab recommendations helps circumvent potential problems and unnecessary setbacks. That’s one reason turf professionals emphasize regular soil testing to start seed right and keep lawns healthy and vibrant. Your local county extension office can help with testing kits and lab referrals.
3. Using lime incorrectly or unnecessarily
Many homeowners think lime is a lawn care necessity, but that doesn’t hold true across the board. Normal lawn care can naturally cause soil pH to drop lower over time, and lime applications benefit lawns that need pH raised. But in some cases, soil pH may already be high. Using too much lime or applying it unnecessarily can be as damaging as failing to add lime when it’s needed.
When soil test results show your lawn’s soil pH is below levels needed for optimal grass health, liming in accordance with recommendations restores proper pH balance, increases nutrient availability and helps keep lawns green. While many lime products are slow to work, products such as Pennington Fast Acting Lime speed up the process and start working immediately.
4. Ignoring recommended seeding rates
Using the proper amount of seed for your project influences success, whether you’re starting from scratch or overseeding an existing lawn. New lawns or spot repairs take about twice the amount of seed needed for overseeding thin areas. Quality grass seed labels include guidance on optimal seeding rates to maximize your results.
Don’t overdo or cut corners. Too much grass seed causes undue competition for resources such as light, water and nutrients, and grass seedlings struggle as a result. Too little seed leaves lawns thin or bare. Always follow “best practice” guidelines for planting grass seed, including site preparation and good seed-to-soil contact, and stick with recommended seeding rates for lush results.
5. Miscalculating your lawn dimensions
Getting your seeding rates right requires knowing the correct size of the area you need to cover. One of the most common problems grass professionals see is when homeowners misjudge their actual lawn areas and over-apply grass seed or other products, such as fertilizers and herbicides.
Knowing your total property size is just the start. All non-lawn areas must then be deducted. This includes the footprints of your house, garage and outbuildings, as well as walkways and the driveway. Only then can you calculate your actual lawn area and the amount of seed you need. Time spent on proper measurements prevents wasted product, wasted money and poor results. Get it right and every bit of seed and labor work in your favor.
6. Planting without regard for proper timing
It can be tempting to plant seed as soon as the need arises. But proper timing has an important impact on results. Grass growth occurs in seasonal cycles, which vary according to the grass types common to different regions. Timing your seed projects to coincide with growing cycles greatly improves your rate of success.
For most of the country, fall is the best time to plant grass seed. This is when cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescues peak in growth, and conditions enhance fast germination and establishment. When paired with innovations such as water-conserving Pennington Smart Seed, proper timing leads to other advantages, including less input of resources, less maintenance and better results.
7. Using weed treatments or weed & feed fertilizers with seed
One of the ways weed treatments work is by preventing germinating seeds from establishing roots. But these products, known as pre-emergents, can’t distinguish between harmful weed seeds and desirable grass seed you put down. Using these products too close to newly planted seed — in timing or proximity — stops grass seed in its tracks, along with the weeds. Post-emergent weed treatments aimed at existing broadleaf weeds can also injure immature grass seedlings.
Always read and follow herbicide and fertilizer labels, especially the instructions for use on newly seeded lawns and your grass type. As a general rule, avoid pre-emergent weed treatments at least 10 to 12 weeks before seeding — or longer for some products. After planting, reserve broad-spectrum weed treatments until new lawns have been mowed at least two to three times; for fall-planted seed, that usually means spring.
When it comes to your lawn aspirations, you can bypass common grass seed mistakes and head straight for success. Make the most of your investment of time, money and grass seed, and enjoy the exceptional results. Pennington is committed to helping you grow the finest lawn possible and enjoy all the benefits that a beautiful, healthy lawn holds.
Pennington and Smart Seed are trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc.
The Best Grass Seed of 2022
Make your lawn the envy of your neighbors with the best grass seeds for your yard’s conditions.
By Tony Carrick | Updated Jun 29, 2022 6:15 PM
BobVila.com and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Many homeowners dream of a lush, green carpet of grass upon which their children and pets can frolic. Growing a lawn that makes neighbors green with envy begins with choosing the right grass seed.
There is a seemingly endless variety of different seed types and products on the market, which can make choosing the right one an involved process. Climate, shade, and foot traffic all play roles in which grass seed is right for your lawn. This guide features factors to consider when choosing the best grass seed that will turn your yard into a striking carpet of green.
- BEST OVERALL:Scotts Turf Builder Thick’R Lawn Sun & Shade-3 in 1
- BEST BUDGET:Scotts Turf Builder Sunny Mix, 3lb.
- BEST WARM-SEASON:Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Southern Gold Mix
- BEST COOL-SEASON:Jonathan Green Black Beauty All Grasses Sun or Shade
- BEST FOR DENSE SHADE:Pennington Seed Smart Seed Grass Seed 3 Lb
- BEST FOR HIGH-TRAFFIC:Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed High Traffic Mix
- BEST KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS:Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Kentucky Bluegrass
- BEST BERMUDA GRASS:Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Bermudagrass, 5 lb
- BEST FAST-GROWING:Pennington Smart Seed Perennial Rye Blend Grass Seed
- BEST LOW-MAINTENANCE:Scotts Turf Builder Zoysia Grass Seed and Mulch
Types of Grass Seed
Grass seed falls into two main categories: warm-season and cool-season grasses. Warm-season grasses endure hot southern climates much better than cool-season grasses. During the winter, warm-season grasses turn brown as they go dormant. Cool-season grasses grow quickly in the cool weather of fall and spring before going dormant in the summer heat. Warm-season grasses can be reseeded during the spring and summer, while spring and fall are the optimal time to reseed cool-season grasses.
- Bahia: This warm-season grass is popular in hot climates because of its heat tolerance and drought-resistant qualities. While other grasses burn to a crisp in the hot sun, with its broad leaves and coarse texture, Bahia grass thrives. This makes it an attractive grass species in the Deep South.
- Bermuda: As with many other warm-season grasses, Bermuda grass thrives in hot climates thanks to its exceptional ability to tolerate heat and withstand high traffic. Bermuda grass requires good drainage, full-sun exposure, and plenty of nutrients. The grass does not tolerate cold weather well, making it a good option in the southern part of the country.
- Buffalo: Even though it is considered a warm-season grass, buffalo grass thrives in a broad range of climates and is quite common in states such as Montana that experience harsh winters. Like other warm-season grasses, it goes dormant and turns brown in colder weather. Planting season for buffalo grass is from April to May.
- Centipede: Centipede grass is known for being heat tolerant and very low maintenance. This makes it a popular grass with those who don’t enjoy spending a lot of time managing their lawns. Centipede grass thrives in full sun but will tolerate some shade. Due to those requirements, it does best in the Southeast. Plant centipede grass seed in the spring when all danger of frost has passed.
- St. Augustine: One of Florida’s most popular grasses, St. Augustine can tolerate high heat and humidity. It features blue-green grass blades that spread quickly through a lawn. St. Augustine also can tolerate salt water, which makes it a popular option for coastal yards. Since it spreads rapidly, one of the most effective ways to establish St. Augustine grass is by planting plugs. Plant St. Augustine seed in the spring or the summer.
- Zoysia: Zoysia is a durable, dense variety of grass that’s known for its ability to stand up to heat, drought, and high foot traffic. Possibly the softest grass for bare feet, zoysia forms a dense lawn that chokes out weeds with very little maintenance required. Although some types of zoysia can only be grown from sod or plugs, some grass seed companies offer a variety that can grow from seed. Zoysia grass should be planted in the spring once the threat of frost has passed.
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- Fescue: Tall, fine fescue grass seed is perhaps the most common grass type in the country. This is because it adapts well to many different climates as it tolerates heat, cold, shade, and drought reasonably well. This is primarily due to its deep roots that can reach as deep as 2 to 3 feet. Tall fescue is perhaps the easiest grass to grow, but it can suffer under heavy traffic. Plant and reseed fine fescue grass seed in the fall and spring. Shoppers will sometimes see fescue sold in all-season grass seed mixes, which claim they’re good year-round.
- Kentucky bluegrass: This is the type of grass most people imagine when they consider the perfect lawn. With its lush, deep-green appearance, Kentucky bluegrass is a prized species. This grass is not easy to grow, requiring a high level of maintenance and care. Its shallow root system does not tolerate heat well, making it more suitable for northern lawns. Kentucky bluegrass should be planted and reseeded in the spring and fall.
- Perennial ryegrass: Perennial ryegrass should not be confused with annual ryegrass, which is a temporary grass used for erosion control. Perennial ryegrass comes back year after year. Ryegrass germinates quickly, making it popular for new lawns. It does best in colder climates with mild summers; however, it can still be found in the southern part of the country. Perennial ryegrass should be planted or reseeded in the fall.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Grass Seed
When deciding which grass seed is best for a front yard or a backyard oasis, it’s crucial to consider several important factors, including climate, maintenance, and sun requirements. A good grass seed should thrive in the specific conditions of your yard. Check below for some of the elements you should consider when purchasing the right grass seed.
With enough determination and money, you can grow most of the above grass seeds just about anywhere in the country. It’s not uncommon to see beautiful Kentucky bluegrass lawns in the baking heat of the Southwest. But going against climate guidelines will make the job a lot harder and more expensive, requiring significant investments in irrigation systems, water, and fertilizers. Paying attention to climate will make establishing a lawn much more manageable. Consider where you live and what grass types will thrive in your region with minimal maintenance and watering.
Reseeding vs. New Planting
How you go about reseeding a lawn versus planting a new lawn is quite different. When seeding a new lawn, you’ll be applying seed to the bare dirt you’ve prepared for new planting. For reseeding, you’ll be attempting to thicken an already existing lawn. With that in mind, you typically need about twice as much seed to start a new lawn as you need to reseed an existing lawn.
Grass types vary in how well they tolerate foot traffic. If you have kids or pets and plan to use your backyard extensively as an area for play, consider selecting grass types that can take some abuse and still keep on growing. Zoysia and Bermuda grasses are the most tolerant of foot traffic, while fescue does poorly with heavy traffic.
While some property owners enjoy fussing over their lawns, many homeowners dread long hours spent maintaining a yard. Consider which grass types require the least amount of care and how much work you’re willing to put into a lawn. Zoysia grass, for example, requires annual dethatching, while perennial ryegrass will not self-repair and requires patching. Bermuda grass, in comparison, requires very little maintenance.
Various grasses tolerate different levels of sun exposure. Some grasses, such as Bermuda grass, demand full sun but other varieties, such as tall fescue, do well with partial shade. Assess the sun exposure of your lawn to determine a good lawn grass seed for the lighting conditions there. Some seed companies produce specific seed mixes for full shade, full sun, or lawns with shaded areas and full-sun areas.
Single Seed vs. Mix
When selecting a type of grass seed, you can choose one specific seed type or a blend that combines several different species. Go for a single seed type if you’re trying to achieve a particular look for your lawn. While single seeds are more difficult to maintain, the effect of a single species lawn can be well worth it.
Mixes are easier to grow and maintain because companies blend the mixes for improved drought or heat tolerance. They also generally grow more uniformly with little need for patching. However, your lawn will lack the attractive uniform look of a single species lawn.
Despite your best efforts to prepare your yard for seeding, some seeds simply weren’t meant to become plants. This is where germination percentage comes into play. Germination percentage is a measure of the viability of a collection of seeds. It is calculated by dividing the number of seeds that germinate by the total number of seeds.
Given how much grass seed can cost, the higher the germination percentage the better, and it mostly relates to seed quality. Although you might be tempted to buy the cheapest grass seed on the shelf, chances are it will have a lower germination percentage, resulting in significant waste. High-quality grass seed has a 90 to 95 percent germination rate, making it worth the additional investment.
Our Top Picks
You can find grass seed for sunny areas, shade, high traffic, hot and cold climates, and more. These top-rated grass seed picks cover lots of lawn and grass types to suit various uses.