How to Prepare Soil for Grass Seed

Chapter 1 – Test Your Soil’s pH

Set the Right Foundation for Your Grass Lawn by Testing Your Soil’s pH

Soil is the foundation for any grass seed. It’s how they receive nutrients. Knowing the pH of your soil helps determine how to improve your soil for your lawn grass seed.

A pH test will determine how acidic or alkaline the soil is. It’s measured on a scale of 1 to 14 with 7 being neutral. Below 7 is considered acidic and above 7 is considered alkaline. The majority of plants prefer a neutral soil. Not only does a soil test determine its pH attributes, it also reveals what is missing from the soil.

Testing Soil pH with a Testing Meter

There are several ways to test the pH level of your soil. Testing meters are inserted into the soil and offer a result. Another option is a testing kit wherein you would prepare samples and send them off for analysis. Then you’ll need to interpret the soil report.

DIY Soil pH Testing

One more option is using vinegar and baking soda to test soil pH levels. Simply collect 1 cup of soil from different areas of your lawn, split into separate cups. Then, add ½ cup of vinegar to one cup and ½ cup of baking soda into the other. The soil’s reaction to these elements can help you determine if the soil is acidic or alkaline. If the soil reacts to the vinegar, it’s more alkaline. If it reacts to the baking soda, it’s more acidic.

No matter which method you use,it’s a good idea to test your soil only when it’s dry as wet soil won’t yield accurate results. After you have your results, it’s time to improve it with planting aids.

Important: Grass prefers a pH range of 6.5-7.0. If more acidic (below 6.5) or more alkaline (above 7), you’ll want to adjust.

How to Raise the pH Levels in Acidic Soil

Lime: Limestone is the most common soil additive for raising soil pH levels. You’ll typically see calcitic limestone (mostly calcium carbonate) and dolomitic limestone (adds magnesium to the mix). Both are equally effective at raising pH levels of soil, although there are a few things to consider:

  • Dry vs Damp Lime:

    Damp lime reacts quicker than dry lime. This is due to the fact that water reacts with lime to neutralize the pH. It is also much more efficient when it comes to spreading evenly. The drawback is that it’s much more labor intensive.

    Dry lime is both more efficient and more affordable. It goes great with agricultural equipment and is easily transported. For large projects, dry lime is a better financial move. On top of that, dry lime can balance your soil’s pH levels in just one application.

  • Pulverized vs Pelletized Lime:

    Pulverized lime is best applied during moist weather. That’s because windy and dry conditions can cause it to scatter, making it less evenly-spread. Pulverized lime is best for large fields.

    Pelletized lime on the other hand is easier to spread if you don’t own large-scale agricultural equipment. It also typically reacts faster because it is processed thoroughly before being pelletized. Finally, pelletized lime isn’t vulnerable to windy or dry conditions.

Wood Ash: This is a more organic approach to raising soil pH levels. Simply sprinkle approximately 1/2 inch of wood ash over your soil and mix it into the soil about a foot deep. While this method does take longer (smaller applications over multiple years), it is very effective. It’s also convenient if you have extra fireplace ashes that need recycling!

How to Lower the pH Levels in Alkaline Soil

Organic Matter: There are many types of organic matter that will gradually lower your soil pH over time. These include compost, composted manure and acidic mulches (i.e. pine needles). Soil pH levels are lowered over time as these materials decompose and bacteria grow. While not the fastest-acting solution whatsoever, this method is great for long-term goals (many gardeners will add organic matter annually to lower pH levels subtly throughout the year). Organic matter can also improve soil drainage and aeration.

Sulfur: Compared to some other methods (Aluminum Sulfate in particular), Sulfur is generally cheaper, more powerful (when it comes to amount needed) and slower-acting. That’s because it must be metabolized by bacteria in the soil to turn to sulfuric acid, which can take up to several months.

Aluminum Sulfate: Aluminum Sulfate rapidly lowers soil pH levels. In fact, this is one of the quickest-acting options available. That’s because it produces soil acidity as soon as it dissolves. In essence, that means it works instantly. Do not use aluminum sulfate, however, for large applications. It can result in aluminum accumulation and aluminum toxicity.

Planting a New Lawn from Seed

By Lance Walheim, The National Gardening Association

Starting a lawn from seed is the least expensive way to transform your home or garden with a new lawn. Find information and step-by-step instructions on how to turn grass seed into a lush, beautiful lawn.

The best time to start lawns from seed, or by any means, is just prior to the grass’s season of most vigorous growth.

What season are you?

First, you need to determine the type of grass that grows best in your climate — whether you need cool-season or warm-season grass. Think of cool-season and warm-season grasses as the yin and yang of the turf world. Or better yet, when you think of cool season grasses, envision blue spruce. When you think of warm-season grasses, envision palm trees. Get the picture?

For cool-season grasses (which grow best in fall, spring, and, in some areas, winter), the best time to plant is late summer to early fall. At that time of year, the ground is still warm enough for quick germination, and the young grass plants have the entire upcoming cool season to become established.

Early spring is the second-best time to start a cool-season lawn from seed. The young grass has less time to become established before the onset of hot weather, but results are usually satisfactory as long as you start seeding early enough.

Warm-season grasses are best planted in late spring. At that time, the weather is still mild enough to let you get the grass established, but the hot weather of summer and the most vigorous growth are just around the corner.

Ready, set, grow

The soil is ready, the site is level, and the watering system is in place — now you can plant the seed.

  1. Spread the seed.

    Make sure that you properly set your spreader rate for sowing seed. (You can check the manufacturer’s instructions, but many times, the spreader has the necessary information printed on it.) Put half the grass seed in the spreader. Spread the first half of the seed by walking in one direction and then spread the second half crisscross to the first direction. This pattern ensures even coverage.

    Don’t forget to use a starter fertilizer. Starter fertilizers are high in the nutrient phosphorous, which is essential to seedlings.

  2. Top-dress the seed to hold moisture.

    Open the door of a peat spreader (or cage roller) and fill it with peat moss or other fine-textured organic matter. You may end up spilling some, so don’t do this on the lawn surface; otherwise, you have to clean up the mess, disturbing the seedbed as you do.

    Briskly push the cage roller back and forth over the lawn until you cover the entire area. Apply a very thin layer, 1/8- to 1/4-inch of mulch, no more. Adjust your speed until the roller applies about the right amount.

    If you live in a windy area where the peat moss blows around or if you’re trying to save a dime, you can lightly rake the seedbed instead of mulching. Use a stiff metal rake and just lightly push and pull the tines back and forth to make shallow grooves and cover the seed. Don’t push too hard, or you’ll move the seed around or cover it too deeply.

  3. Roll the surface.

    To ensure good contact between seed and soil, roll the entire area with a roller that you’ve filled only halfway with water. Roll the perimeter first and then finish the entire area.

  4. Water.

    This may be the most important step. With the first watering, make sure that you apply enough water to wet the soil down to at least 6 to 8 inches. Apply the water gently so that you don’t wash the seed away or create puddles.

    You may have to water several times in short intervals until the bed is thoroughly wet. After that, water often enough to keep the top inch or so of the seedbed moist until the seed germinates. Remember, seeds get only one shot at germination. Let them dry out, and they’re dead.

    Sprinkle the seedbed lightly with a handheld hose several times a day — especially if it’s hot or windy — to get even germination across the entire lawn. However, you don’t want to overdo it. Too much water causes the seed to rot.

    Watch the color of the soil surface. As the soil dries, the surface becomes lighter in color. When you notice about half to two-thirds of the surface lightening up, it’s about time to water.

  5. Protect the seedbed.

    Here comes the neighbor’s dog! Oh, no, what a muddy mess. To keep kids, pets, or whatever off your newly seeded, very wet lawn, encircle it with brightly colored string attached to small stakes.

    However, that may not be enough for the dog. If the lawn is small, you can surround the whole area with some roll-out metal fencing available at hardware stores — or at least tell the neighbor to keep her dog in her own yard.

Caring for your new lawn after germination

As your new lawn becomes established, you can start easing up on the water, depending on the weather. If you continue your everyday watering routine, you’re likely to overdo it and rot the young seedlings. Also, if the ground is too wet, you can inhibit root growth.

When you have a pretty even ground cover of new seedlings, try skipping a day of watering and see what happens. Watch the grass carefully. If the color starts to go from bright green to dull gray green, the grass needs water. You may have to water some quick-to-dry areas with a handheld hose.

If the grass doesn’t dry out, keep stretching the intervals between watering until you’re on a schedule of once or twice a week, or as needed. When you do water, don’t forget to water deeply, getting the moisture down 6 to 8 inches. Don’t be a light-sprinkling fool — you end up with one lousy lawn.

But there’s more to a new lawn than just watering. You need to mow the new lawn when it reaches 3 to 4 inches high, depending on the type of grass. Mow when the soil is on the dry side; otherwise, you might tear up the new turf.

You also need to make your first application of fertilizer about 4 to 6 weeks after germination. Young seedlings have a hefty appetite, so don’t skip this important feeding. (After you have your grass growing, Keeping an Eco-Friendly Lawn can help you keep both the lawn and the environment healthy.)

When you should sow grass seed

You can sow Lawn UK lawn seed mixtures at any time from late March to mid-October providing that in periods of unusually dry weather the seedbed is kept constantly moist until the grass is about 6cm (2.5 inches) high. Always water with a fine spray; to great a force of water will displace the seeds. It is also worth noting, that there needs to be adequate warmth in the soil, 6-8 degrees Celsius is required for germination, and this is usually when the air temperature is above 10 degrees Celsius.

If during periods of drought, and there is no hosepipe ban, you may decide to water the area. You must ensure the ground is thoroughly soaked and watering must be done on a regular basis until the grass has become established. Occasional light watering won’t be beneficial, this will do more harm than good.

When is the best time to sow the seed?

This depends on you. If you want to sow in the Spring, you can sow any time from late March onwards. However, if you are patient, there is much to recommend waiting until September before you sow. Firstly, any weed seeds lying on or near the surface of the seedbed will be given a chance to germinate and can be removed. Secondly, English summers may produce hot, dry spells and if your new lawn is sown in the spring, constant watering may well be necessary to get growth started and to avoid the tender young seedlings from being scorched and killed off.

There are many points in favour of a September sowing. The ground is warm after the summer, there tends to be more moisture about, the seed will get off to a good start before the winter and weeds will be minimal. Then, during the late autumn, a good root system will develop, as opposed to top growth, and your lawn will be in first class order the next spring and summer, ready to withstand hot, dry spells.

A few notes on weeds

Weeds can be a problem with newly sown lawns. The seed used in our lawn seed mixtures is produced to very high purity standards but, no matter how good the seed or the preparation of the seedbed, some weeds will always appear because the seeds are already in the ‘seedbank’ in the soil. Lawn UK grass seed mixtures use only seeds that are certified. This means that you can be assured of the highest quality seeds that are free of problem weeds and have germination in excess of 85%. The likelihood of weeds in our grass seed mixtures is very remote. The best way to control any weeds that germinate from the ‘seedbank’ is to mow them out. Annuals are especially well controlled by frequent mowing once cutting starts.

See also: Choosing the best lawn seed mixture

See also: How long to grass seed take to grow?

The Best Time to Plant Grass Seed

Moderate spring weather helps spring-planted grass seed flourish.

Why Spring is Best for Warm-Season Grasses

Warm-season grasses germinate best when soil temperatures are consistently in the 65°F to 70°F range. This generally corresponds to daytime air temperatures near 80 F or more. Planting in late spring and early summer gives warm-season grasses the advantage of warm soil and early seasonal rains, which help keep soil moisture available during germination and establishment.

As with cool-season grasses, best warm-season planting times vary by location. In California, mid-April to mid-May is prime time for seeding warm-season lawns.3 In central and southern Arkansas, lawn owners plan their warm-season grass seeding for late May through June.2 It’s tempting to get out and seed at the first hint of spring, but patience pays off. Wait until all danger of frost has passed and soil warms. Cold, wet soil is a recipe for poor germination, rotting seed and disease. Your county extension agent can help with expected frost dates and timely advice when unexpected weather conditions factor in.

As a general rule, warm-season grasses planted at least 90 days before the first fall frost have time to establish well before winter. These summer-loving grasses go dormant once temperatures drop near 55°F, so late-planted seedlings can’t prepare for what’s ahead. With proper timing, warm-season grass seed gets a natural boost from summer’s warmth and a full season of active growth and development before cooling temperatures bring on winter dormancy.

One exception to the spring seeding rule for warm-season lawns is when overseeding with a cool-season grass, such as perennial ryegrass, for temporary winter color. Do this in fall, once temperatures drop and warm-season lawns begin to go dormant and lose color.

What to Expect From Newly Planted Seed

Proper timing allows all types of grass seedlings to root well and get established before natural stresses hit. What that looks like in your lawn can vary depending on your grass type, your growing region and the conditions in any given year.

Grass types and varieties vary in their natural germination speeds. For example, cool-season Kentucky bluegrass germination can take two to three times as long as tall fescue varieties. Similarly, warm-season Zoysia grass may take two to three times longer than Bermudagrass. In addition, many seed products include a mix of seed types that germinate at different speeds.

Whether you’re repairing bare spots, overseeding an existing lawn or starting from scratch, you can generally expect grass seedlings to emerge within seven to 21 days when grown under proper conditions. It may take another three to four weeks of growth before grass is long enough to mow. For fall-planted seed, this can mean waiting until spring for your first mowing. Some grasses, such as Zoysia grass, may need several months of growth to fully establish.

Much of the initial growth of new grass seedlings happens underground, where you can’t see it. New roots get grass firmly established, prepared for the seasons ahead, and positioned for strong, rapid growth when their peak season arrives. With proper timing, new grass seedlings compete well for light, water and nutrients and fight off lawn diseases and pests, including lawn weeds.

Spring into Seeding: How to sow grass seed

Growing season is almost upon us, (actually we know a few who have already begun in warmer parts of the UK) so now’s the time to prepare for sowing grass seed in spring 2018.

It is recommended for fast germination and establishment grass seed needs warm soil, around 6-8 degrees Celsius, which means air temperature is around 10 degrees Celsius and plenty of moisture. We often find these growing conditions here in the UK in spring during February, March, April and May when the weather brings mild temperatures and plenty of rainy days.

On a side note you can sow seed right through the summer and autumn, however, users should note that during summer you are more prone to very dry, hot conditions and seed may dry out if not watered regularly.

Sowing Seed in Spring

If you are seeding a new lawn from scratch follow these simple steps:

Preparing the ground

  • Remove any debris or weeds
  • Rest the soil for 2 or 3 weeks – dig out returning weeds as they appear
  • (Optional) Feed the soil with QUICK RELEASE: Pre – Seed fertiliser
  • Ensure you don’t run out of seed by dividing the ground into sections

Sowing the grass seed

  • Sow the grass seed by hand, spreader or seed drill
  • Follow the instructions on the grass seed label
  • Sow at a rate of 50grams per square metre
  • Rake soil lightly over the seed, then tread lightly to firm in. Aim to bed the seed 5-10mm deep under the soil.

If you have a few bare patches poking through, these pointers will help you overseed your lawn:


  • Weed the lawn and remove any boulders, stones etc.
  • Scarify the soil to remove moss and loosen the soil
  • Fertilise the soil with QUICK RELEASE: Spring/Summer
  • Mow your grass to approximately 25mm in length
  • Moisten the soil
  • Sprinkle the seed onto the grass evenly – apply more in patchy or thinner areas.
  • The seeds should be applied at a rate of 35g per square metre as standard, however if patchy areas present apply at a rate of 50g per square metre
  • Water your lawn after reseeding.
  • Roll the lawn (optional)
  • Continue to mow the grass regularly with care and attention.

TIP: Grass seed needs to be snugly surrounded by soil to germinate. The seed also needs air too, so remember not to compact it in too tightly.

Good luck with your project!


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If you have a lawn, then chances are you are particular about its health. When I became a first-time homeowner, it came with a beautiful back lawn, and I quickly became a lawn fanatic – setting the sprinkler system right, fertilizing, mowing religiously, freaking out when a brown spot appeared…

If you own lawn you will most likely end up having to lay down some seed to cover barren ground, or overseed at some point, especially if you have children or pets. But when exactly will that seed grow into a lawn? And more importantly, how long to wait after planting can you mow?

Table of Contents

How Long Does it Take Seeded Grass to Grow?

Depending on the type of seed you have spread, it may take anywhere from 5 to 30 days until you begin to see anything happening, and many factors need to be considered during this process as well, including the age of the grass seed. So don’t feel you are a failure if your space is still a barren brown after a few weeks. According to The Garden Counselor, moisture, warmth, oxygen, and light are important details to consider as well when thinking about seed germination success.

How do I Water my Lawn For the Best Grass?

*You might also like: How To Store A Lawn Mower For Winter.

Moisture is the number one factor to consider when wondering how soon your seeds will burst to life, and how long you will need to wait until you can add a lush carpet of new grass into your lawn care schedule. Watering new grass seed correctly is crucial to the germination, growth of the seedlings, and root creation during the entire life of your lawn. Proper moisture maintenance from the beginning will develop your new growth into the lawn you always wanted.

Seeds and seedlings need to be kept moist (not drowned) at all times to keep from drying out. According to Scott’s Lawn Library, the top 1 inch of soil should be kept moist at all times (a twice-daily watering should do it), and the area watered daily after sprouting until you have mowed at least once. Seed hulls need water to soften in order to germinate, and new growth doesn’t have the roots to survive any type of dry spell. A general rule to remember is: if it dries out, it dies out.

Once your seedlings have the proper roots to survive, watering properly will help to ensure a long, healthy lawn life. Healthy, deep, water seeking roots means strong plants for optimal growth- and root depth is directly related to grass height

What is Optimum Grass Height for a Healthy Lawn?

Don’t get too excited and begin to prep your lawn mower once you begin to see new growth! Water isn’t the only thing to consider when growing your lawn from seed. As mentioned, a lawn’s height is directly related to its root system, so you need to keep your grass at the right height to keep those roots deep and healthy.

A lawn kept right around 3 inches following the ⅓ rule is the perfect height to ensure healthy new growth before cutting again, as well as the added benefit of crowding out unwanted weeds. Since roots anchor your seedlings into place, if you mow too early you can rip your new growth right out of the ground, negating all the weeks of watering and anxious waiting for the green to appear.

For new grass you want to be sure the grass has reached at least 3 ½ inches in height, if not more, before cutting for the first time. This should take about 8 weeks, so be patient! When you are able to cut for the first time, you will want to make sure you follow good cutting techniques and mow high.

What are Proper Mowing Techniques?

Once you have managed to grow a great looking lawn, you want to keep it looking that way. Following the hints below to keep it looking healthy for years to come:

  • The number one rule to remember when mowing is to keep a sharp blade! Keep in mind that you should get your blade sharpened after every 20 hours of work. Most hardware stores can do this for you for a minimal fee, and it’s definitely worth the effort since a dull blade can rip even healthy lawns up by the roots, and decimate new growth completely.
  • Move slowly and turn gently to avoid ripping up new seedlings when mowing in new areas of growth. Their roots are still growing and will not have anchored the grass stems to the soil as strongly as matured plants.
  • Try to mow only when the lawn is dry, and not following a rainstorm, or watering session. Wet grass can become torn and tangled, leading to being pulled up by the roots- something you obviously don’t want to happen.
  • As mentioned -mowing high so you don’t disrupt the root system, and following the ⅓ rule to encourage a thick, lush lawn, generally will ensure a healthy life and look to your grassy areas. The perk of these rules often becomes that you don’t have to mow as often as well.
  • Try to leave behind your grass clippings as long as they aren’t clumping. They will return nutrients to the soil, and help retain moisture without adding too much to the thatch. However, if seeding weeds were present, your best option is to bag your clippings and dispose of them within a compost, or far enough away from your lawn to avoid re-seeding the weeds.

Ready to Mow?!

Chances are if you’ve seeded a bare patch, or overseeded existing lawn, you have had some questions concerning what step comes next. Keep in mind that patience both with the growth of the new seedlings, and its maturation, is crucial to overall lawn care and health before you prep that lawn mower.

  • Be sure to become familiar with the particular type of seed you have spread.
  • Familiarize yourself with watering techniques to help keep the top 1 inch of soil moist during germination and early growth.
  • Don’t prep that lawn mower until the new grass is at least 3 ½ inches tall! This will most likely take at least 8 weeks or more after germination!
  • Apply the ⅓ rule, and cut high to encourage deep roots, a technique that is not only great for new growth but existing lawns as well.

I hope this was a helpful article, and if you have any further tips to share or questions, please comment below!


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The first cut: when should I mow?

You’ll never forget your first mow. That’s what they say – if you don’t do it properly!

Letting your grass grow to the right height before mowing it is essential to its future growth. Why? Because if you mow it too short, you might damage it and it might never grow back properly. SO it’s vitally important to know when to cut grass.

But it’s not all serious, as long as you know the first mowing height and the recommended mowing height for your mixture going forward, everything will be just dandy.

We recommend that the ideal height of your grass should be around 5 – 7cm before you cut it, and this goes for all of our grass seed mixtures. This is simply because if the grass has been able to reach this height, it is viable and growing well, and can therefore be cut. If it isn’t reaching this height, then it either isn’t established, or something is stunting its growth.

If your new lawn or overseeded lawn has reached the golden heights of 5-7cm then it’s time to give it its first mow. Set your lawn mower on the highest setting. The aim is to give the grass a trim, not a front back and sides shave!

Ensure to remove all the clippings after you have mown your lawn – if you leave them on a newly seeded lawn, you could be contributing to thatch which would undo all your hard work. In addition, dead grass sitting dormant on top of your lawn will stop much needed sunlight getting to your new grass.

Now, going forward, your recommended mowing height will change. Different types of grass seeds have varying tolerances for how close they can be mowed. For example, the fescues in our STATEMENT: Front Lawn mix will tolerate close mowing, this is because they are of a finer leafed variety, and close mowing helps to achieve the ornamental look that fescues are known for. The recommended mowing height for STATEMENT: Front Lawn is 10-20mm. For our ever popular SUPERSTAR: Back Lawn the recommended mowing height is 20-40mm, which is double the recommended mowing height for STATEMENT: Front Lawn. Whilst this doesn’t entirely mean that the mix won’t withstand closer mowing, it shows that this mix isn’t meant to be an ornamental lawn, but likewise, will perform well at a slightly higher height.

We have recommended mowing heights for all our mixes that can be easily found in the ‘Usage guide’ tab of each of our products. And if you haven’t got a ruler handy, each of our grass seed mixtures comes with a instructional card that already has a ruler on it!

So contrary to popular belief, the first isn’t the deepest, it might just be the easiest!

4 First Grass Cut / Mow Tips

  • Wait until your grass lawn is it is 5-7cm before mowing
  • Take away the cuttings (why not add them to a compose heap)
  • Let the grass settle for a week or two after your first cut
  • Going forward mow at the recommended height (per product)

Need some more help?

  • Watering your lawn
  • Fertilising your lawn
  • How long does it take grass to grow

When and How to Mow New Grass

After you have aerated or verticut your lawn, planted your seed, and watered your new seed, it is now time to mow. How often do I mow? Is it the same as when I normally mow my lawn? Here are your answers to these questions:

When to Mow New Grass

As a general rule, we don’t want the lawn to get real tall before we mow it. We still live by the guideline that you don’t want to remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade anytime you mow. Therefore mowing at 3″ means you should mow the lawn when it is 4″ tall.

But what if the older grass is getting tall enough but the new grass isn’t? You still mow when the old grass is 4″ tall to a height of 3″. The same thing can occur when some new grass grows faster than the rest. You should still mow when that portion of the lawn gets 4″ tall. You may not have to mow the entire lawn that weekend but you should mow the tall parts until the entire lawn is tall enough to mow.

How to Mow New Grass

Once your new grass is 4 inches tall, it is time to mow. We recommend mowing with a push mower at its highest mowing height. A push mower is lighter weight which will help avoid creating divots in the soft turf while the highest blade height will help avoid damaging the new grass blades.

Lawn Coach, Jason Clarkson, elaborated on why you should use a push mower at first, “I suggest using a push mower to avoid compacting the new grass under the heavy riding mower tires.”

Piles of debris on your lawn can suffocate your new grass. To keep this from happening, mow frequently or rake to remove all clumps from your growing grass. Jason also added, “Make sure you rake up any debris left on the ground so you don’t leave anything over the new grass to desiccate in areas where clumps may be. I also recommend the mowing to be in the evening when there is no dew so the grass does not clump.”

Jason went on to explain the importance of your mowing patterns, “After your first mow, you will want to mow every 5-7 days as needed, as well as making sure you’re changing your mowing patterns in the lawn so you don’t cause tire ruts in the lawn by mowing the same direction.”

3 Mowing Patterns to Rotate Through

Example of mowing in a vertical pattern. Diagram by Lawn, Coach, Jason Clarkson.

Example of mowing in a diagonal pattern. Diagram by Lawn Coach, Jason Clarkson.

An example of mowing in a horizontal pattern. Diagram by Lawn Coach, Jason Clarkson.

When Is Weed Control Safe

TIP: Putting weed control down too early can hurt the new grass.
Lawn Coach, Brian Hiatt, explains the basics of knowing when to safely add weed control to new grass. “After 2 to 3 mows, weed control can be applied to the lawn again without affecting the new grass.”

We hope that our advice has given you helpful information to make the right decisions for your lawn! If you have any further questions, please call the office today at (913) 451-4664.

More Articles Written by Wes Ory

When to Mow the Lawn

When Grass Stops Growing, It’s the Last Mow of the Season!

It’s about that time of year when we prepare our plants for the chilly winter ahead. Not only will the garden look tidy throughout winter, but your plants will spring into a healthy growing season next year.

As you start running down your fall checklist, don’t forget to give your lawn some love. Mowing at the end of the fall season is one of the best ways to bring your hardy, green grass back for another great year.

Don’t have a pre-winter plan for your lawn yet? No problem! Here’s everything you need to know about when and how to mow near the end of the grass-cutting season.

3 Must-Know Facts about the Last Grass Cut of the Fall Before Winter

Trimming your turf right before winter helps keep it healthy throughout the colder months. Without a pre-winter cut, lawns can develop a moldy fungus. Keep your grass looking good by mowing it to the right height at the right time with sharp blades. And fertilizing! Fall is the most important time to fertilize the lawn.

When does grass stop growing?

If the weather is warm enough, grass keeps sprouting. Generally, the cutoff point comes when temperatures drop below 50°F during the day. Usually, that’s late October or early November, but some warm areas may push that date back to the beginning of December.

What’s the last time I should cut grass before winter?

See when you’ll get the first frost of the season. Then, plan to mow your lawn two or three times before then, slowly reducing the blade’s height each time.

How short should I cut grass this fall? What’s the best grass height for winter?

Ultimately, your lawn should be about 2 to 2 ½ inches high by wintertime. That’s the “sweet spot” because it’s not too tall to invite snow mold, but not too short to be stressed out by cold weather.

As you get your lawn down to its ideal height, avoid cutting too much at one time. A good rule of thumb is to never clip more than one-third of the grass height in one mow. Spread the trims out, so you condition the lawn to withstand a shorter height.

Getting New Grass To Grow: 
What You Need To Know

How To Grow Grass When It Doesn’t Want To

Getting new grass to grow can’t be that difficult, can it? Why do so many people encounter a struggle? Is there a secret you should know?
Let’s discuss the possibilities.

Do you find yourself in one of these categories:

  • You planted grass seed recently, yet your “brand new” lawn area looks like it needs renovation.
  • You’re planning and preparing to put in a lawn, and want to know what will produce the best results.
  • The next thing on your “to do” list is throwing down some grass seed, and you have no clue what you need to do or what you’re up against.

There is no mystery why the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. The neighbor knew the right things to do when he was getting new grass to grow. He knew the right time to do them, and he knew what not to do.

In just a few minutes, you can have that same information!

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The Basic Problems With Getting
New Grass To Grow

The fundamental areas in which anyone might have trouble getting new grass to grow cover a broad spectrum. Typical difficulties that arise deal with soil, fertilizer, water, location, seed, weather and maintenance.

Each of these topics alone can cause poor results when you try to grow grass. A situation may be fairly simple to identify, but somewhat difficult, even impossible to correct.

Other times it is a combination of negative influences that can produce an inferior lawn, but the solution is relatively easy, once you understand the problem.

Let’s look at each of these factors in order, and consider what approach can prevent or correct a problem, or at least minimize the impact.


Getting new grass to grow successfully is directly proportional to both the quality of the soil, and soil preparation prior to planting grass seed.

The best soil is loose, with abundant organic matter in it, and has a texture that holds moisture well, yet drains easily. If the lawn is not yet planted, add amendments and/or new soil to provide the best growing medium.
This is probably the most important step you can invest in for getting new grass to grow well at the beginning as well as long term.

A major reason for soil preparation is to give the grass seedlings an easier start. All ground areas get compacted over time. It is difficult for the roots of grass seedlings to penetrate hard soil. Not only is there the physical barrier, but sufficient moisture and oxygen are in short supply when the soil is compacted. The best solution for compacted soil in an existing lawn is aeration. More will come on that in a later article.

At the pre-planting stage, rent a rototiller to loosen up the soil in large areas. If you’re just reseeding patches here and there, use any tool you have to work the soil, as deep as you can. Digging with a shovel is great, although you may have to remove a small amount of soil if the loosened area sits higher than the surrounding area after raking it level. Or use a cultivating tool or rake, after you have moistened the soil to make it soft.

If you already put down seed, without any soil preparation, getting the new grass to grow well is going to be difficult. Work at improving the health of the soil as an ongoing project. Organic lawn fertilizers can be used to build soil fertility in addition to providing excellent nutrients to help the grass. Be aware that these natural fertilizers can take longer to show results when the soil temperature is cooler. Read another article to learn more about organic fertilizers.

Organic top-dressing amendments also help to build soil fertility. It would be difficult to use them on a newly seeded lawn if the grass has already sprouted. You don’t want to bury the grass, and you don’t want to take a chance on uprooting the seedlings by raking the amendment around. So reserve this treatment for a lawn that was seeded at least 2-3 months prior, when it just sits there and you haven’t been successful getting this new grass to grow past an inch or two.

You can apply gypsum to improve the texture and drainage capability of the soil. Powdered gypsum can be applied at a rate of 10 pounds per 100 sq. ft. Pelletized gypsum should be used at the rate recommended on the bag label.

Soil fertility can also be built up by the use of a mulching mower that recycles clippings to the soil in very small pieces, instead of bagging them.

Actual preparation of the soil for a new lawn, step-by-step, will be covered in a separate article.


Many sources will tell you to automatically add fertilizer when you plant a new lawn. Take caution with this approach. Fertilizer is not always needed at the initial stages of getting new grass to grow. When it is required, the wrong type of fertilizer can do more harm than good.

Good soil, especially if new organic material has been added during preparation, probably has sufficient nutrients to feed new grass. When the lawn is completely filled in, after the second or third mowing, a good slow release fertilizer is recommended to help the lawn mature.

If the soil quality is not so good, or the grass is already up but not thriving, then add only a starter type fertilizer. This type is lower in nitrogen, higher in phosphorous and potassium. An example would be 6-20-20. (Learn about NPK Fertilizer Numbers). A starter fertilizer stimulates root growth and sturdy blades rather than fast, lush growth that will stress a new lawn with an immature root system.

Avoid high nitrogen fertilizer, the typical lawn food. This might sound like the best thing for getting new grass to grow, but it will actually do a better job giving all the weeds a head start to compete with your lawn. After three months, if the grass has matured well, but needs a boost, switch to a regular lawn fertilizer.

There are many options with lawn fertilizer, and many opportunities to use the wrong kind or waste your money. Be sure you understand the fundamentals of fertilizers, what they do, and how to select the most appropriate type. Read this article to learn more about fertilizers.


If healthy soil is the most important ingredient, water is the most common problem. Seriously, so please follow this section carefully. Hundreds of people have asked the question, “Why am I having trouble getting new grass to grow?” (old grass, too!)

Seventy percent of them have a problem with water. Seventy percent of these gardeners refuse to believe they could have a problem with water. The significance of that? It means that half of the people who are struggling with the condition of their lawn are unwilling to look at the most likely source of the problem.

Obviously, a discussion of this topic is made difficult by the wide variety of conditions that occur in one geographic area compared to another. One gardener may rely on rainfall for most of his lawn’s needs. Another may have to use irrigation water exclusively.
Wherever you may be, at least realize the importance of proper watering during the critical stages of a young lawn. Don’t ignore the need to be diligent about this.

Insufficient water during germination can let the seed die before it comes up. Over-watering can also kill the seed. Getting new grass to grow to the point where it comes up out of the ground can almost seem to cause as much worry as a new baby. Get the details on watering new grass seed.

Inadequate watering of young grass seedlings will stunt or kill them. Irrigation systems are notorious for irregular coverage due to poor design or needed maintenance. If you see a problem area in a young lawn, dig up a shovelful of soil and grass from a good patch and a sick patch. Compare the soil moisture levels to see the most typical problem. Return the chunks of sod to their holes and get the hose out.

Another type of water problem is incorrect watering practices. Once the lawn is fully up, the watering frequency should be reduced to once daily. The amount of time should be lengthened to encourage deep soil moisture and deep roots. The watering intervals (time between waterings) should be extended as the grass matures, weather permitting. Getting new grass to grow deep roots can be accoumplished by training the grass to go several days between irrigation cycles.

Use your best judgment in making these adjustments, and do it in stages. Don’t make significant changes during the hottest season when the grass is not deeply rooted. The fall season is an excellent time to start weaning the grass away from daily watering. Weather permitting, go to watering every other day, instead of daily. Lengthen the watering time slightly, to force the water deeper, if you can do this without getting run-off. After about 4-6 weeks, expand the interval to water every third day if weather conditions cooperate. Again, lengthen the watering time, to soak deep.

If you have a problem with water run-off, do this: apply half the amount of water, wait an hour (do a few other zones), then water again the second half amount. This will promote deep soaking and is better than watering smaller amounts every day.

You can also get soil penetrants to apply to the lawn. These help the water soak in. Check out

Grow More E-Z Wet Soil Penetrant from and SoilLogic’s Liquid “Gypsum”

Continuing to water a lawn frequently and for just a few minutes encourages the grass roots to remain at the surface. When heat or wind or other stress shows up, the grass cannot handle it. Getting new grass to grow successfully and permanently means getting deep roots to grow.

(Final Word to any Skeptics on this topic: To test how consistent the precipitation is from your sprinklers, collect a bunch of shallow containers, like tuna cans. Place them in assorted locations, run your irrigation system for a full cycle, and compare the water collected. This can be very enlightening! And try this test again at various times of day, when water pressure might be different, or wind may blow.)


A lawn is sometimes designed for an area after important consideration of the best setting and conditions. (Rarely!) Usually it happens to be the only place it can be. Unfortunately, some areas are not conducive to successfully getting new grass to grow.

Shade and Trees

Adjacent structures and trees may block and prevent a sufficient amount of sunshine necessary for grass to grow well. If you are in the planning stages, select a variety of grass that does better in a shady location. This is a compromise, since grass, by its nature, needs sun, and a shaded spot is never ideal.
If your lawn is not able to get at least 6 hours of sun each day, it will not thrive. This will probably result in the need to reseed thin areas every couple of years.

Trees compete with a lawn for sunlight, water and nutrients. First is the shade factor. Existing trees may be candidates for pruning to let more light through. This could include thinning out some of the interior branches and/or removing lower branches.
Not all tree styles and structures are appropriate to these methods. Do not attempt to do this without being familiar with proper pruning methods in general as well as for your specific variety of tree.
( I am researching worthwhile resources with tree pruning guidelines, and will make a recommendation as soon as possible.)

Side-note: Do not hire a tree trimming service… IF their intention is to “top the tree”. The dense new growth that results will become a worse shade problem once it starts to spread out.
(It is not a good approach at anytime, merely an easy technique for the trimmer.)
Only hire reputable, and recommended, tree trimmers. Be sure you know what they will do, or not do, before you contract with them.

If you have a tree with exposed roots, this may be the normal growth style of that tree, or it may be the result of watering practices. The cycle and duration of irrigation for a lawn is not adequate or appropriate for trees. It causes extensive surface roots that soak up a lot of water. However, it is usually not possible to remove them without destabilizing or killing the tree.

It is difficult for grass (and many other landscape plants) to compete with tree roots. Getting new grass to grow may not be so difficult, as it will be getting extra watering cycles. Keeping it growing and thriving long term is another matter. A normal supply of water may not be enough for a tree and a lawn. Are you in a position to provide extra water on a regular, long term basis if a shallow rooted tree is present?

Are you planting a tree in or near the lawn area? Develop a means of providing infrequent, but deep, soaking irrigation to trees, separate from the lawn irrigation. Encourage the roots to grow deep to follow the water, rather than spreading out into the lawn. Check the specifics on the tree growth pattern before making a selection.

Trees can dominate a landscape, and be a thing of beauty. When a tree dominates a lawn, it can cause trouble. If having a beautiful lawn is most important to you, but you have a tree that looks like it will make that impossible, consider removing it. Or replace it with one that has a more upright, narrow form or an open canopy, plus deep roots.

If your ideal landscape picture includes a beautiful, wide-spreading tree, or one with a low branch structure, consider alternatives to placing a lawn right underneath it. This would avoid a major source of difficulty with getting new grass to grow.

Lawn Traffic

Does the lawn location get heavy traffic or support constant activity? These conditions require a sturdy variety of grass. During the germination and early growth period all activity must be restricted from this location.

This means the area should be completely off-limits for the first 6 to 8 weeks after seeding. Limited activity after that is best until the grass matures.

Realize that the ground is quite susceptible to compacting with all the extra watering a new lawn receives. So try to avoid traffic on new planting areas.

Be realistic in your expectations for grass in traffic areas. Picture the wear patterns that happen in a lawn on many college campuses, as students hurry from one class to another. Smart landscape architects will now wait and observe student initiated travel routes before designing a lawn area. Then they put sidewalks or other paths where the students have claimed right of passage.

Consider how your normal usage will impact your lawn project, during the growth stage and long term. Can you redirect traffic temporarily? Can you incorporate some type of path that adds value by being attractive itself in addition to taking some of the wear and tear off the grass? Many landscapes are enhanced with a well designed path made of an appropriate material.


A lawn location with a significant slope can create serious problems. It will be difficult to water adequately during the time the seed germinates, without moving the seed out of position. Ongoing irrigation will be difficult without wasting water due to run-off.

Consider using ground-cover plants on slopes, instead of grass, if possible. Alternately, investigate a few varieties of grass that are excellent plants to prevent erosion. Sheeps Fescue, Hard Fescue and Creeping Red Fescue in these situations are allowed to grow to their maximum length and drape over in a natural flowing manner. That’s right, no need to mow or trim!


Your success rate with getting new grass to grow also depends on quality seed, which is the appropriate variety, and is handled and cared for properly. Consider these factors:

  • Select the grass seed variety best suited to your area, to the conditions of your location, and to the functions it will support.
  • Check the test date on the product to see how fresh is the seed.
  • Check the germination percentage rate of your selection and apply a sufficient amount for thick coverage.
  • Plant the seed when the soil temperatures are correct for that particular variety. To understand the specifics of these last three items, see the article Grass Seed Germination.
  • Grass seed needs to be in direct contact with the soil to germinate. It needs loose soil for the roots to penetrate.
  • Cover seed with a thin layer of mulch to protect from birds and to retain moisture.
  • Keep seed and soil constantly moist during the germination time, but not soggy. See Planting Grass Seed for these last three items.


There is nothing we can do about the weather, right? Just try to avoid the extremes when you embark on getting new grass to grow. Exceptional heat, cold or wind can seriously hinder a young lawn. But the same conditions can kill new grass seed in the process of germinating.

Adjust watering cycles according to what the weather is doing. Reduce other stresses if possible whenever the weather presents a challenge. Mowing, fertilizing, spraying chemicals and football games are all stressful to a lawn. Maybe negative comments should be avoided too!

Get tips before you start your lawn project by reading The Best Time To Plant Grass Seed.


Getting new grass to grow is more than just preparing, planting and watering correctly. The first two or three months after germination (the adolescent stage?) require special treatment in several ways.

  1. Wait on the initial mowing until the majority of the grass is 3 ½” high or more (for bladed grasses, not the creeping type).
  2. Raise the height of the lawnmower to take off no more than 1” on the first mowing.
  3. Later mowing should remove no more than one-third the amount of the grass blade. (If it is 3” tall, cut off 1”.)
  4. Never violate the last rule. Grass needs the surface area of the blade for photosynthesis. This produces food for the grass to grow.
  5. Keep the grass mowed at the high range suggested for the variety. Taller grass will grow deeper roots, keep the soil moist and crowd out many weeds. Keeping grass mowed short limits the amount of root growth that occurs. (Some people get a short haircut so they don’t have to cut it so often… not a good idea for grass!)
  6. The first mowing must be done with a sharp lawnmower blade. A dull blade could tear the young grass plant out by the roots instead of cutting it.
  7. All mowing should use a sharp blade. A dull blade tears the grass or smashes it off, instead of cutting. This will show as brown tips in a few days. It causes stress and makes the grass susceptible to problems, possibly disease.
  8. Don’t spray chemicals on young lawns. Weed killers and fungicides will harm young grass and might kill it. Wait until it is at least 4-5 months old, or longer depending on the strength of the chemical.

Time For Getting New Grass To Grow

Some people may just throw a bucket of grass seed out and hope for the best. Take your time if you expect results that will satisfy. The extra time and effort that you invest to do it right will reward you with fewer problems and expenses later.

If the information in this article has you re-thinking whether or not to tackle a lawn project, take advantage of other articles in this series before you decide. Lawns are a big commitment.

Alternatives to grass lawns are becoming quite popular. Investigate fully, prepare completely, do it right, then enjoy the result!

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Go to Planting Grass for more info on starting grass from seed

Go to Home Page of Lawn Care

Help in Understanding When Exactly Does Your Lawn’s Grass Stop Growing

You’re wondering when and at what temperature the grass on your lawn goes into a dormant state. Maybe, it’s because you’re yearning to put your lawn mower away after the busy summer gardening season. Or it’s for the opposite reason, you find mowing therapeutic and keep asking yourself if it is still OK to cut your grass in the winter.

Table of Contents:

  • When does grass stop growing
  • Does grass grow in winter
  • Lawn care tips

If you:

  • Want to know when your grass stops growing;
  • Are wondering if grass grows in winter;
  • Need tips on how to care for your lawn before its growth stops,

Then, read on because this post will explain what happens to your green plot during the colder months. You’ll learn if grass continues to grow in the winter period and get an insight on how best to take care of your lawn, in order to boost its revival in the spring.

When does turf stop growing + Understanding the factors

Grass growth rate depends on more than one factor. One needs to consider their grass variety, the air and soil temperature and the type of climate they live in. You can expect that your grass will stop growing when the following condition is met:

When the air and soil temperature is below 5°C (41°F). On average, this happens towards the middle of November in the UK. Cold weather will stall grass growth, even if the other necessary conditions are present. Grass tiller and leaf production are affected by four elements. To grow, grass requires optimal heat, plenty of light, sufficient water and the right quantity of nitrogen, with the temperature being the most influential component out of the four.

When talking about the UK and what month of the year you’ll most likely give your mowing equipment a rest – the last grass cutting day will probably vary. For folks who reside in the West country’s mild winter conditions, the period between December and February will be the quiet time for lawn trimming. And for those who live somewhere up North, October – March will be the time to forget about the cutting chore.

Does grass grow at all in the winter months?

Let’s clear that one, too, as you will hear different opinions.

On one hand, grass never ceases to grow but it merely slows down. During winter, new grass leaves will still appear but at a very slow rate – about every 35-40 days (unless we have freezing cold conditions outside).
On the other hand, what type of grass you have also determined whether it will eventually stop growing. Perennial grasses are likely to become dormant or slow down, whereas annual ryegrass and annual meadow varieties will naturally die.

Whether your grass grows in the winter will depend on:

  1. What type of grass it is – annual or perennial;
  2. How mild the winter is – temperatures below 5°C (41°F) may halt grass leaf growth.

So, if we focus on the first factor, UK-popular perennial grass varieties, such as common bentgrass, red fescue and dwarf perennial ryegrass will go dormant, once the temperatures plummet later in the year. Still, healthy grass will probably continue to be somewhat active in winter. We may see a definite slowdown on the surface, where grass growth is easing up. But grass puts all its energy where it matters – into its root system. Root growth is important for your grass to prepare well for the coming winter.

And when it comes to the growth cycle of fast establishing annual grass types, the change of colour of the grass leaves at the end of autumn and their zero growth will mean only one thing – the grass is dying rather going to sleep. So, you’ll be looking at reseeding your lawn in the early spring.

The second factor is often ruled by what area you live in and by the specific weather conditions in that particular winter season. So, the question here will be not so much whether the grass will keep growing in general in the winter months but whether your lawn mower will be much of use to you during this period. Depending on where you are and what the “cold” weather is going to be like that year, here is a list of what may stop you from trimming your turf once the winter sets in:

  • It’s snowing – mowing the snow doesn’t make sense;
  • There’s a ground frost – trimming frozen grass leaves will damage your lawn;
  • It’s raining heavily – a sure thing for a bodge result;
  • It’s been raining for days – wet grass and ground are far from ideal for cutting;
  • The ground is waterlogged – keep off your lawn and investigate drainage issues;
  • The lawn is overwhelmed with wet worm casts – they need to be dispersed with a stiff brush, first;
  • Reduced daylight – the shorter days and the poor ratio between overcast weather and sunny days in the winter keep grass length in check.

Well, you may not need your mower that often but you shouldn’t ignore your lawn needs in the winter. If you want it to thrive during the spring and summer months, you have to do your homework.

How do you take care of your lawn before it goes dormant?

Your 5 most important winter lawn care tips:

  1. Clear all debris before the cold sets in
    Once the decaying fallen leaves have served their nutritious purpose, remove any remaining plant debris from your lawn surface. The grass will get smothered and damaged if covered during the colder months.
  2. Scarify your lawn in late autumn
    Any untreated thatch and moss on your lawn will have a similar stifling and harming effect on your lawn before it goes into dormancy. So, scarify your green plot well and clear all areas with moss and thatch buildup.
  3. Aerate if necessary on a dry day
    Aeration helps your lawn with drainage and air circulation. Commonly, the best time to aerate your lawn is late October and early November. Do not use a hollow tine fork aerator that late in the year as you may risk frost to set in the holes and damage your lawn. Use an ordinary garden fork, instead.
  4. Give your lawn a winter feed
    Winter lawn feeds that are high in iron are usually ideal for supplying your lawn with the necessary nutrients in the winter. The only rule, here, is to apply the product in cool, wet conditions, as iron may blacken the grass if used in dry weather. Again, October and November are suitable months for this job.
  5. Cut the grass only if necessary
    Cut the grass now and again (no more than once a month) on a high setting if you are enjoying a mild winter that year with temperatures higher than 7°C (45°F). Pick a dry and sunny day and keep heed not to cut your lawn too low (about 25% off the top of the grass leaf is ideal).

Extra tips: Get your lawn mower fully serviced or use a professional mowing team, so it doesn’t fail you when you most need it. Don’t ever walk on a frosty lawn because the brittle grass leaves will easily snap and may fail to fully recover.

Provide your grass with great care! Find out about our lawn maintenance service here.

Learn more


  • Growth depends on the grass variety, air and soil temperature and the type of climate.
  • In the UK, grass will usually slow its growth towards the middle of November.
  • Perennial grass types go dormant in winter, whereas annual varieties die out and will need reseeding.
  • Provide your lawn with proper care to prepare it for the colder months and boost its growth in spring.


Please, do tell us about your experience with winter mowing in the comments below.

Image source: / By Georgii Shipin

  • Last update: January 29, 2020

Posted in All About the Lawn

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