Here’s a play-by-play account of our experience installing a grass lawn from seed:
1. Ready the soil: I began by excavating my rocky front yard and installing a 18-in.-deep bed of screened top soil. If you already have good topsoil, look elsewhere for advice on how to prep it.
2. Test the soil: Take a soil sample to identify what additives the soil needs for good grass growth. I was too impatient to go through this effort but I’d recommend it in retrospect.
3. Wait for the weather to accommodate: Once the weather reached an average temperature of about 60 degrees and the 10-day forecast looked ripe, I took a three-hour vacation from work and got to work.
4. Fertilize the soil: Before sprinkling the seed, I spread and raked in some Scotts chemical fertilizer per the manufacturers directions on the bag. I wanted to use organic fertilizer but the saleswoman at Agway convinced me not to. According to her, organic fertilizers take a long time to activate (months? years?) and she said I needed something that would act immediately. I wanted immediate so I took her advice.
5. Let the soil acclimate: Let the fertilizer mix in with the soil before applying the seed for best results. Everyone tells me too much fertilizer can burn the seeds and prevent them from growing. Again, too impatient for this step.
6. Spread the seed: Using a handheld seed spreader, I applied more than a half bag of fescue grass seed to the dirt. The seed mixture was recommended by my Agway sales associate, but there are tons of online sources for choosing the right seed.
7. Water regularly: We’ve been watering every morning making sure that the soil is drenched but not puddled. On super hot days I’ll water again at night. Never water during the heat of the day.
8. Watch the grass grow: Our grass took about two weeks to start showing up but people have told me everything from three days to three weeks. It’s been about two and a half weeks since our grass seed went in and the lawn is showing promise. The grass is coming up thin but the once-dirt-brown plot now shimmers with shades of green. I’ll give it another month before I expect a soft place to lay in the sun.
Sod vs. Seed
About a week after planting the seed I made a day trip down to the tony town of Ridgefield, Conn., to visit great-grandma weekndr who was visiting and staying at a local inn there. I drove by a strip mall on the main drive, which was undergoing a lawn installation that very day.
On my way to the inn at 9:30 a.m. the shopping plaza featured a 3000-square-foot plot of graded top soil and was surrounded by a team of laborers and a few pallets of sod. On my way back home at 1:30 p.m. it was a fully installed green grassy lawn with no work crew in site.
I know what envy is. Thanks to grass seed, I also know about patience, horticulture, frugality, and perseverance.