As with many tasks, success is found in the preparation; this holds true when sowing grass seed. A well-prepared seed bed, thorough seed sowing and devoted watering and maintenance through germination and the establishment phases will ensure a lush, green and long-lasting lawn.
Optimal Sowing Time
For most climate zones, sowing grass seed is best completed either before or after summer--avoiding the winter months. Spring planting benefits from cool temperatures and natural rain fall. Avoiding the extreme heat and occasional dryness of summer results in less stress on the seedlings and roots, as it is very difficult to keep the soil moist enough during these conditions. Late summer and fall planting is the preferred time for sowing seed in the northern half of the United States. The ground remains warm, but daily atmospheric temperatures and sun power are milder, making water evaporation less of a challenge. Consider the last week of August and the first week of October the seasonal bookend dates for fall sowing; the new seed roots will be well established and prepared to withstand the winter.
Seed Bed Preparation
Well-tilled, amended soil that is light and rich in nutrients will allow the young grass roots to penetrate easily into the soil. Till up the bed a minimum of 3 to 5 inches in depth. Amend with compost, well-aged manure and a seed-starter fertilizer, if desired. Mix it all in well and level out the soil with a fine rake. Cast your grass seed by hand or with a seed spreader evenly over the expanse, working in one direction. Make a second pass over the entire lawn--rotate your position and walk at a 90-degree angle to the first pass. This will ensure an even coverage of seed. Nestle the seed in very lightly with a fine rake. Water in the seed well but lightly with a mist or soft rain sprayer so as not to disturb the seed placement.
Water, Fertilizer and Protection
Keep the seed bed uniformly moist at all times throughout germination and establishment until the blades are at least 2 inches in length. This goal may necessitate daily or even twice-daily watering for an extended period in warm or dry climates. Hold off on applying lawn fertilizer for at least three to four weeks after sowing to allow the roots to establish without the strain of the fertilizer pushing for blade growth at the expense of the roots.