Having a beautiful, well-kept lawn either front or back is every household’s dream. A soft area for the kids to play in, a racetrack for an over-excited dog or just somewhere to put up a deck chair and admire the greenery, whatever your reason, a lawn is a must-have.
There are other options other than having to plant your own grass seed. You can have artificial grass on your lawn, it’ll look similar and there’s no maintenance but it will not feel the same as having all-natural grass.
You can also buy pre-rolled and ready-to-plant grass sod from any gardening store. However, there is a sense of accomplishment in planting your own seed and growing your lawn yourself, many gardeners would also prefer it.
There are however many steps involved in growing and maintaining your healthy lawn from seed to grass, it isn’t just watering and mowing. These different steps can affect the time it takes for your grass to grow. Before you start on your grass growing journey you need to understand these factors and know how it is going to affect your grass growth rate.
It all starts with the seed, the seed you have is the main factor in how fast your lawn will grow. You first need to find out what seed you have, different grass seeds will grow at different rates, some take weeks and others take months to grow.
If you’ve got your seeds prior to planting the grass and you’re waiting for the right time, whether that be rainfall or temperature-related, you must store your seeds in a cool, dark, and dry place.
The best place for this would be like a basement or a shed where the temperature stays above freezing but below around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you live in a hotter state and the basement or shed isn’t too cool, put your grass seed in a sealed plastic bag and maybe store it in a cupboard in a cool area of the house. Remember to keep a keen eye on the temperature, if you are buying seed from a gardening store then you can get seeds already in sealed packaging to make this easier.
Grass seeds are often mixed together and there are varieties of mixed grass seed packages available at gardening stores. These packages are curated carefully by grass experts to provide a certain color, length, or any other type of look and there are many popular ones on offer.
However, you must keep in mind that different grass seeds will grow at different speeds, so when using a mixed grass seed then you’ll have to be patient and maybe mow your lawn regularly even if not all the grass is too long.
How old your seed is will directly impact the rate at which it will grow, or even if it will grow at all. Seeds will expire after roughly two years but can expire before that, the younger the seed the better, if a seed is expired it won’t affect your lawn in any way that may harm it, the seed will simply just not grow.
Therefore, it is important to choose a seed that has been picked and bagged recently.
But how do you tell how old your seed is, and if it is still viable to grow? Well if you’re buying your seed from a gardening store and it is already boxed or packaged, then it is simple to tell when your seed was bagged as it will have a date on the packet.
This date will either be an expiry date or the date it is bagged. If the expiry date is two years away then it was bagged recently and is likely viable.
If you have seeds that were maybe bought without packaging or you want to check if the seeds that you have bought are viable because their expiry date is close, then there is a way you can do this with any household items. Take a handful of seeds from the sample that you want to test, and place them into a damp tissue.
Place the damp tissue inside a plastic bag. If the seeds start to sprout then the likelihood is that the batch of seeds you have are still viable and has not expired. This means they will be ready to plant and you can go ahead with those seeds.
What Grass Are You Growing?
This is another big factor in the growth time of your grass, as mentioned previously, different grass seeds grow at different rates. They also grow at different times of the year, some grow in the hotter seasons and others grow in the cooler seasons.
You can mix warm-season grass and cool-season grass together and plant them at the same time so whatever time of year it is you have a solid green lawn.
Throughout the middling months such as the end of summer and the end of winter, you won’t notice any difference, the only minor difference you’ll be able to see is a slightly different color in the out-of-season grass at the peak of both of their seasons.
If you are doing this then it is best to mix grass seeds that have the same germination time so there is no overlap in growth.
If you are only going for warm-season grass then there are some quick germinating options for you. Warm-season grass is best for regions with mild winters and hot summers, such as the Deep South and Southeast, and starts growing in late spring after staying dormant in the winter.
The growing temperature for warm-season grasses is around 80 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the fastest-growing warm-season grasses include Bermuda grass, which can germinate in as little time as 7 – 10 days, Centipede grass that can germinate between two weeks and 21 days, and Buffalo grass that takes two weeks to up to 30 days to germinate.
There are also quick germinating options for cool-season grasses that start to grow in the early spring and early fall. These varieties of grasses are best in regions such as the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, and Upper Midwest.
Cool-season grasses normally are at their greenest in the winter and turn a shade of brown in the warm weather. If you are growing cool-season grasses, their ideal temperature for growth is around 60 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some of the faster growing cold-season grasses include Perennial and annual ryegrass that germinate in around a week to 10 days, Tall Fescue grass that germinates between 10 days and two weeks, and Kentucky bluegrass that takes around two to four weeks to germinate.
If you do live outside of these regions or in a more transitional part of these regions then it is best to use a mix of warm-season grasses and cold-season grasses, however, make sure they are partnered up by growing time so you won’t have patches.
Planting the Seed
It has now come to actually plant the seed, there are many factors that you must keep in mind when planting your seed such as watering, soil, location, and temperature. All of this varies by the seed that you are planting so make sure to check the type of grass you are planting to make sure the conditions are just right.
Some factors that you need to consider during the planting of your seed are the same across all grass seeds. For instance, grass seeds will have to grow at a soil temperature of around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Soil is a very important player in the growing process of any grass seed. As well as the soil temperature you must make sure that the moisture in the soil is just right, if the soil is too dry the seed will not get enough water to sprout and will dehydrate. If the soil is too wet the seed will be flooded and won’t be able to get to the nutrients in the soil.
The soil does need to be loosened to plant a seed, you should use a rake to loosen the soil and then handpick out any dead grass or other items that could get in the way of seed growth, use the back of the rake to work the seed into the loose soil and then sprinkle on a top layer of loose soil.
It is crucial that the soil isn’t too loose or too compact around your seed, if the soil is too compact the seedling will not be able to break through and get the sunlight it needs, however, if the soil is too loose it may not be stable enough for the seed to settle and start to germinate.
The depth of the seed in the soil is something that varies between different types of grass but it is still important to make sure that your seed isn’t buried too deep or too shallow. If you bury your seed too deep into the soil the seedling will struggle to reach the top and the plant will eventually die, however, if you plant your seed too shallow then the roots will not go deep enough making your lawn very fickle and easy to disturb.
Some species of grass need to be planted shallower than others due to the length that their seedlings will grow, as an average marker, a quarter inch should be around perfect for how deep you should be planting your grass seed.
Watering and Moisture
Your seed is planted, at the right depth and the right temperature, it is ready to start the maintenance work. The first thing you have to worry about with any plant, and grass is no exception, is water.
You need to get the water level for the grass just right, too much water can drown your seeds and displace them in the soil, stopping them from getting the right amount of nutrients they need to grow. If you water your grass too little the seeds will dry out and your grass won’t sprout at all.
Different types of grass will need different amounts of water during their seed and seedling stages as well as when they are fully grown. Usually, the warm-season grass found in hotter temperatures needs less water and is more drought resistant. Always check the exact species of grass you have and how much water is right for them. On average, seeds of grass should only be watered every other day.
As well as making sure the watering schedule of your grass is working for your grass, it is important to monitor the moisture in the soil around your grass to confirm that you aren’t overwatering.
To check that your soil has the right level of moisture you can make a small hole with a stick or a screwdriver and feel around in the hole. If the soil feels overly wet and spongy then the soil is too moist for seeds to germinate.
Watering through the seed phase is crucial to the health of your grass and can affect how long it will take to grow. If the grass is watered well during the seed phase it will grow longer, deeper roots which will help reach more nutrients and speed the growing process.
It will also make the grass more drought resistant as it can reach moisture in the soil further down. To make sure that the seed is sufficiently watered, water directly on the soil where the seed is placed and let the water flow through before watering again. The water should reach around half an inch into the soil.
Now We Wait
After all that hard work that you have put into planting and helping your grass to germinate, you have now come to the important part, waiting. This isn’t a time to relax, however, as you need to keep checking on your grass to make sure the water level, temperature, and soil are just right.
Your waiting time will fully depend on the grass that you have chosen, different grasses grow at different paces in different seasons. You could be waiting for as little as 5 days for your grass to grow but some different species could take up to a month.
The next step in your lawn’s journey will be mowing it, depending on your mower and the type of grass you’ve planted the time in which you should first mow your grass varies. If you have a reel mower then you should be fine to start cutting when your grass hits three inches in length, but make sure not to take much off in the first mow as this could impede the grass’ growth.
If you have a mower that’s a little stronger like a motorized or ride-on one I suggest that you wait until the grass is a little longer as there is a danger of pulling out the grass fully and not allowing it to grow back. Again, as with any step on this article, make sure you check your type of grass first.