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Old 10-24-2011, 04:14 PM   #1
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New lawn from seed - Proper steps?

Hello all,
Glad to be in this great community. I've recently purchased my first home in San Leandro, CA (Bay Area), which never had any sort of lawn in the backyard (~1800 sq. ft, not sloped). I have yet to do any tests on the soil but will do that this week.

I have tilled and removed vegetation from the backyard over the weekend and have put a bit of Scotts Starter Fertilizer during tilling.

Please let me know if I'm missing any steps.

  1. Level off soil
  2. Add top soil (do i need this since I added Starter Fertilizer?)
  3. Add grass seeds (any recommendations here? I've read to look for something w/ Perennial ryegrass)
  4. Add some sort of mulch or straw in top of seeds to keep moisture
  5. Use roller half filled with water and level off again
  6. Water twice daily until last seedling comes up, and then once a day, but for longer duration.

Am I missing something?? I've been getting bits and pieces of information from various places, and would like to consult you fine people first before continuing with my future lawn.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 10-24-2011, 07:46 PM   #2
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Search for other thorough posts on this topic. Fertilizer and soil are two different things. You would normally add topsoil only to adjust grade or to compensate for decent growing soil having been scraped off in the site preparation. In the Bay Area you have that heavy clay soil so putting a layer of topsoil on it could be like putting a thin layer over concrete. You need to amend the soil with some organic material and whatever might be needed to adjust Ph and then rototill (or get someone in with a tractor) the planting soil as finely as you can to break up any lumps and to provide aeration for the new seedlings. Then level it off.

As far as watering, you want to try and keep the seeds and top dressing moist so depending on wind, temperature, humidity and so forth you may have to water the seeds and seedlings more than twice per day. You do want to back off watering frequency and start watering longer to encourage deep root growth as soon as you can. Watch out with that clay soil though because it will plug up quickly if you water too fast and there will be no aeration for the young roots.

I was a member of the Northern California Turfgrass Council for many years. At one time I seem to remember the organization publishing a guide for homeowners as sort of a public service. You might see if it is still around or if the library has something similar. UC ag extension had some nice turf publications too but I imagine their budget for such things has been eliminated. Ask a turfgrass manager at a golf course or park district. They will be happy to answer your questions.

As for the seed mix? You should ask your nursery or a turf expert for recommendations that match your growing and climate conditions. What you choose will also depend on sun/shade considerations. Try to stay away from cheap mixes with ANNUAL grasses in them. They will germinate quickly but will only last a season. Perennial rye grasses, especially nice hybrids, are part of most mixes. You may find bluegrasses and fescues to be better adapted to your shade/sun combination.

Remember that the perennial rygrasses will germinate quickest in about 7-10 days. Other types may take 14-30 days depending on temp so you have to keep them moist and don't rush your first mowing.

If you have lots of area to seed, or can bribe a contractor doing a larger job, look into hydroseeding/hydromulching. The process combines fertilizer, seed and mulch in one and is sprayed on to form a crust. It will germinate faster than other methods and watering will not be so critical. It is inexpensive.

Last edited by user1007; 10-24-2011 at 07:57 PM.
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Old 10-24-2011, 08:04 PM   #3
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I agree with the idea of hydro-seeding. After you test your soil and make the proper amendments, have the lawn hydro-seeded. It really helps with keeping the seed in place and holds the moisture for better germination of the seed.
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Old 10-24-2011, 08:22 PM   #4
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Yup! And it is especially great if your lawn has any grade or elevation changes---designed or otherwise. Hydroseeding shouldn't cost much more than dry seeding and straw or other mulching. It will establish faster than sod and you won't have to worry about it taking.

I think I heard DIYer can rent the equipment but it strikes me this is one of those situations where it may cost more to second guess the equipment learning curve and cleanup (although it is not rocket science) and do it on your own than to hire somebody set up to do it. As mentioned, you can probably tag on to a larger project if you can be schedule flexible and your yard is small.

Last edited by user1007; 10-24-2011 at 08:24 PM. Reason: added photo
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