How To Plant Grass

Planting new grass varieties in a new or existing lawn is one practice that everyone should know how to do. Most people don't do enough of it, yet it’s one of the best ways to help your lawn stay weed-free and maintain a thick, green lawn all season long!

So What Does Planting Grass Mean?

When we say planting grass, we mean any practice of adding new grass to your lawn. It could be through seeding, sprigging, plugging, or sodding depending on your grass variety. All cool-season grass varieties (bluegrass, fescue, ryegrass) grow from seed very consistently so seeding is a great way to grow those grasses. Warm-season grasses are usually best planted with sod, sprigs, or plugs. These are pieces of established grass that are transplanted into your lawn.

Sunday ProTip: The only warm-season grass that is regularly seeded is bermudagrass, but not all bermudagrasses can be seeded.

Best Ways to Plant Grass

Seeding Grass

 

Overseeding. Spreading a thin layer of grass seeds across your existing yard is called overseeding. Overseeding helps replace old, dead grass, increases lawn density, reduces weed pressure and improves the root zone to prevent erosion and retain stormwater. 

Patching. Fixing bare, brown, damaged parts of the lawn by prepping the land and seeding is called patch seeding. Patch seeding requires more seed per square foot compared to overseeding because there is more exposed soil to cover when patch seeding.

Starting from Scratch. Starting a lawn from scratch requires preparation, patience and time, but will allow you to manage every aspect of your lawn’s growth. From selecting the right grass for your climate to overseeing watering and maintenance to bring your grass to germination and then establishment, you’re in control.

 

Transplanting or Propagating Grass

 

Sprigging. This the planting of small pieces of grass already growing in your lawn (aka sprigs!). These pieces include the stolons and rhizomes that help grass take root in a new spot and spread to fill in areas. Sprigs are clones (same genetics) of a grass variety, so the result is a very uniform-looking lawn.  

Plugging. The actual transplanting of matured grass seedlings into soil. It is different from sprigging, because you’re planting new seedling plugs into your soil, not just pieces of grass and roots from your existing lawn. The tighter the spacing of plugs, the quicker the lawn is established. 

Sodding. Otherwise known as the installation of rectangular pieces of grass grown on turf farms. It is a very perishable product and needs to be kept moist and cool.

How to Properly Plant Grass

Clear Your Planting Site

Hand-pull or treat existing weeds, remove any debris off the lawn, and even out your soil by lightly raking or rototilling. If there are heavily shaded areas or tree roots that could affect planting, assess and manage these areas appropriately based on your preferences and landscape capabilities.

 

Assess the Area

Get to know your soil, understand what method of planting you’ll need to implement for your region, and determine how much square footage you’ll need to cover. This step will help determine how much seed or plant material you’ll need, timing of planting and what type of method you proceed with.

 

Plant at the Right Time

This is the most important “make-or-break” aspect of planting grass. You should only plant during periods with enough moisture, warmer temperatures (not hot), and little competition from weeds so the grass will actually grow and fill in new areas. We recommend the following planting timelines for your region:

Northern Zone: 

  1. Plant in fall, the second-best time is spring
  2. Don’t plant during mid-summer

Transition Zone: 

  1. Plant in late summer through mid-fall, the second-best time is spring
  2. Don’t plant during mid-summer if you have cool-season grass

Southern Zone: 

  1. Plant in early summer, the second-best time is mid-summer
  2. Don’t plant during fall

Dormant seeding

  1. Northern and Transition Zones only: Autumn (November-December)

Seasonal Bare Patches

  1. Timing is not as important for planting into bare patches in an existing lawn. This works for plugs, sprigs and even seeds, since seeds can still germinate from March through November. While we don’t recommend this approach for planting entire lawns, new lawns, or overseeding, this is fine for smaller patches within an existing lawn.

 

Prep your Soil

Make sure your lawn is ready by giving your soil some love. Add a light layer of organic matter by topdressing your lawn or lightly aerating compacted or high traffic areas of your lawn to help prep your soil and seeds for best results (optimum seed germination!).

 

Select and Plant the Right Species

Once you have a handle on your grass type, it’s time to choose a species! Different grasses thrive under different conditions. Make sure the grass you choose to plant is right for your lawn. Consider things like the grass species you already have (if any!), temperature, shade, and moisture requirements, and how you’ll be using your yard.

 

Plant the Right Amount of Grass

Seeding

Seeding rate is based on the size of the seed. The goal should be about 15-25 seeds/1 sq. in. 

  1. Bigger seeds (tall fescue and perennial rye): 6-8 lbs./1000 sq. ft.
  2. Medium-sized seeds (fine fescue): 4-6 lbs./1000 sq. ft. 
  3. Smaller seeds (Kentucky bluegrass and bermudagrass): 1-2 lbs./1000 sq. ft. 

 

Transplanting

The amount of plant material you need will depend on the method used and area of the planting zone. 

  1. Sprigs: 5-10 bushels/1000 sq. ft.
  2. Plugs: 2+ in. wide plugs, 2-4 in. apart
  3. Sod: Will depend on vendor, but most often ordered by sq. ft. or sq. yd.
  1. Water to germination. 

Watering incorrectly is the primary reason newly planted or seeded lawns fail. Watering just enough or allowing rainfall to keep the soil moist until germination or establishment is key to your grass growing. Once the seeds germinate and plants establish, reduce frequent watering to a normal watering schedule

 

Best Watering Practices

  • Light and frequent watering for newly planted seed is best. Ensure the surface of the patched area or lawn is always kept moist until 60% of the seed has germinated. At that time, you can move to less frequent watering but will need to maintain sufficient watering if not mulching (mulch keeps areas moist). 
  • Areas that receive sufficient amounts of rainfall may not have to water at all, while drier places may need to water up to every day until seeds germinate.  
  • In addition to seasonality and rainfall, watering needs can also vary whether you are overseeding, patching, or starting a new lawn from scratch. Some practices may require more frequent watering. 

 

Give seed time to germinate and plants time to establish and spread.

Depending on weather conditions, light availability, watering and other potential interruptions like pets or other wildlife – it can take anywhere between a couple weeks to a month or more for your grass to really start to fill in your lawn.

Seed

Generally, here’s how long species will take to start to germinate and grow: 

  1. Perennial Rye: 4-6 days
  2. Tall Fescue: 6-8 days
  3. Fine Fescue: 8-10 days
  4. Kentucky Bluegrass: 17-21 days 
  5. Bermudagrass: 4-10 days

 

Transplants

Timing will vary depending on planting method and density.

  1. Sprigs: 2+ months 
  2. Plugs: 1+ months
  3. Sod: 1-4 weeks

 

Continue to Care.

Once the grass is established, incorporate the Sunday Lawn program approach to a healthy lawn – water deeply and infrequently, mow high, grasscycle, and feed your lawn only what it needs.

Sunday ProTip: Not sure where to start? Our smart lawn care plan will guide you through it!  

Sunday Tips to Ensure Planting Success

Watering is the primary reason newly planted or seeded lawns fail. Watering daily just enough to keep the soil moist until germination or establishment is key to your grass growing. Once the seeds germinate and plants establish, reduce daily watering to a normal watering schedule to avoid common watering issues.

Bring back mowing when your grass type reaches its appropriate mowing height or when you notice some lateral growth on sprigs or plugs. Cutting new grass encourages grass to spread and cover the ground and beat out competing weeds!

 

New Grass Grew in? It’s Ready for Sunday

Once your newly planted grass has grown in, your lawn will be ready for your Sunday Lawn Plan. While it’s best to hold off until more than half of the patched area or newly planted lawn has at least 60% grass cover, our nutrients will help kickstart your revived lawn. With our sustainable, timed and precise approach to your personalized lawn care program, your new lawn and the planet will be thanking you.

Cited Sources

Charbonneau, P. 2003. Soil loss during sod production. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ottawa.

Skogley, C.R., and B.B. Hesseltine. Soil loss and organic matter return in sod production. University of Rhode Island, Kingston.

Turf Resource Center. What is turfgrass sod? Turf Resource Center.