How to Plant Grass Seed in 8 Easy Steps

planting grass seeds in the yard

Whether you’re just moving in and establishing new grass or just filling in bare spots in your lawn, we’ll show you how to plant grass seed in eight easy steps.

Here are the tools you’ll need:

  • Shovel and wheelbarrow to remove old grass
  • Soil kit
  • Grass seed
  • Seed spreader
  • Hose or sprinkler to water your grass seed
  • Starter fertilizer
  • Your lawn mower (once your grass is tall enough to mow)

Now let’s walk through those 8 steps to plant grass seed…

How to Plant Grass Seed Step-by-Step

The first step in how to grow grass from seed is to determine whether your lawn can be overseeded or if it needs a complete renovation. 

If your grass is good but could be better, you could overseed to plump up the existing lawn or fill in bare spots. 

If you have more weeds or dirt instead of grass, you should consider ripping out your old lawn and starting fresh with grass seed or sod. 

If you’re starting from scratch with a new home build and establishing a new lawn, you can skip to Step 2 to learn the best way to grow your grass. 

Step 1: Remove the Existing Grass

A person removing grass from his/her lawn
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Start by clearing your lawn of dead leaves, twigs, branches, and other debris, then remove the turf. There are mainly two ways to remove grass from your lawn:

  • Apply a nonselective broad-spectrum post-emergent herbicide (weed killer — or in this case grass killer). Follow label instructions carefully, and don’t spray on a windy day. Wait about a week, then rake the dead grass.


  • Use a sod cutter, available at most rental companies, to remove the old grass with all its roots. Mark your sprinkler heads before operating the cutter to avoid accidents.

Pro Tip: If applying herbicide, wait a month until seeding the grass or as much as the product label recommends. Herbicides left in the soil can prevent germination and damage new grass.

Step 2: Prepare the Soil

Soil quality is a major factor in growing a healthy new lawn. Take your time to prepare the seed bed properly.

Loosen and Level the Ground

Hand-pull any remaining weeds and remove all debris from your lawn. Once the weeds and old sod are removed, loosen the soil bed so the new grass seeds’ roots can easily grow through. You can use hand tools (and your toughest friends), a tiller, or a core aerator. You can find tillers and aerators at rental companies.

Fill low spots in your yard using a half-and-half mixture of sand and topsoil for grass seed and level the lawn. Low spots are hard to mow and gather rainwater, exposing the new grass to diseases. 

If necessary, grade your yard to keep rain or water flowing away from your home. A 1- to 2-degree slope is ideal. Deeper slopes lead to runoff, nutrient leaching, and the soil to dry out faster. 

Pro Tip: Planting grass seed on a sloped yard is a bit different – if that’s your case, read our guide on How to Plant Grass Seed on a Slope.

Once you have exposed and leveled the planting surface — you’ll need to test your soil for the best grass germination and growing conditions. 

Test the Soil

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At a minimum, you should test your soil pH. This is a measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. A simple moisture and pH tester can be found for $10. For about $20, you could buy a soil test kit for the major nutrients in your soil. Your results will show the N, P, and K: 

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potash

The best soil tests include major and minor nutrients. Your state extension service and private labs offer these services. Keep in mind your local Extension Office also can provide great information and insight that private labs can’t, usually at a lower cost.

Test the soil as soon as you can. There can be a wait of up to two weeks for lab test results, and you could miss your ideal window for planting grass seeds. 

Amend the Soil

Adjust soil pH: Most grasses thrive in slightly acidic soil, with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5 This pH interval optimizes nutrient absorption, but it’s not naturally available nationwide: 

  • Lawns in the Western half of the U.S. often have alkaline soil with a higher pH. If that is the case, you’ll need to treat it with elemental sulfur to improve nutrient availability. 
  • In the Eastern and Southeastern parts of the U.S. and the Pacific Northwest, soils are moderately acidic, with a low pH. Soil that’s too acidic for turf can be amended with lime applications.

Improve soil texture: Heavy clay soils tighten over grass seeds, making seed germination and new root development more difficult. Sandy soils don’t hold nutrients and water well and expose your grass seedlings to dryness. What you want is a loose, loamy texture with good drainage and nutrient-storing abilities. 

The best way to improve texture is to add organic matter like:

  • Compost
  • Aged manure
  • Leaf mold
  • Peat moss

Add nutrients: Organic matter also adds some nutrients to your soil. If the soil test demands it, you can provide more nutrients with a starter fertilizer before or after planting the seeds. 

Basically, the test results should give you a plan and shopping list for your local garden shop. Follow application instructions carefully. 

If you’re dealing with hard dirt, you will have to aerate first and then add amendments to restore what it lacks. Again, use a tiller or hand tools to work the soil amendments into the top 1-4 inches of soil. That’s how you can grow grass fast on dirt.

Map of the United States showing cool-season grass, warm-season grass, and transition zones.
Photo Credit: Juan Rodriguez

Step 3: Choose the Best Seed for Your Region

Growing grass from seed can be simple once you determine the best seed for your region. Your local seed expert will always give you the best advice when choosing your seed. Local Extension offices, seed stores, and agricultural suppliers are experienced and understand the microclimates of your area. 

Generally, these are the best seed options according to your region:

  • In northern states, select a cool-season grass, which grows best when air temperatures are 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool-season grasses enjoy moderate summers and thrive in the northern two-thirds of the United States.
  • In southern states, you should select a warm-season grass seed. Warm-season grasses thrive during the warm months of the year and go dormant during winter. 
  • In the transition zone (between the North and South), summers are hot, and winters are cold. You’ll either need to find the most cold-tolerant warm-season grass available or the most heat-tolerant cool-season grass.

Pro Tip: When choosing the grass seed, look for the weed seed percentage and choose the ones with less than 0.5 percent. You can find this info on the package label, along with the grass variety, purity, and germination percentage.

Best Grasses to Plant in Northern States

A picture showing growth of cool season grass round the year
Photo Credit: Juan Rodriguez
  • Bentgrass is a standard grass for golf course putting greens. Colonial bentgrass is for home lawns and likes a low mow.
  • Kentucky bluegrass is a classic choice for northern lawns. It likes full sun and isn’t shade-tolerant.
  • Fine fescue is a perennial bunchgrass and stands up in poorly drained areas.
  • Tall fescue puts down deep roots and is drought-tolerant.
  • Ryegrass (annual) can be used for a quick shot of green. The perennial ryegrass variety is best for high-traffic lawns and playgrounds.

Best Grasses to Plant in Southern States

Photo Credit: Juan Rodriguez
  • Bahiagrass has a coarse texture, is heat/drought tolerant, and is best for low-traffic lawns. 
  • Bermudagrass is hardy and stands up to heavy traffic, but it’s high maintenance.
  • Buffalograss is the only variety native to North America, highly drought tolerant, and needs little care.
  • Centipedegrass grows slowly but is very low maintenance once established. In warm climates, it’s non-dormant, so it stays green year-round unless there’s a cold snap.
  • Zoysiagrass is a slow grower but one of the most cold-tolerant varieties of warm-season grasses.
  • St. Augustinegrass is sold as sod, as its seed heads are sterile.

Best Grasses for the Transition Zone States

The transition zone is a blend of temperature highs and lows, humidity, summer deluges, and drought. The right grass seed for this type of climate is a highly adaptable one. You’ll get the best results by planting:

  • Bermudagrass
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Perennial ryegrass
  • Tall fescue
  • Zoysiagrass

Opt Between Single Variety, Blend, or Grass Seed Mixes

In addition to high-quality grass seed to match your climate, the best way to get grass to grow into a beautiful green lawn is to match the seed to your backyard’s properties. Be mindful of how much shade, moisture, or foot traffic your lawn gets. Opt between:

  • Pure seed (of one variety): Pure seed will give you a unified look.
  • Blends (multiple varieties of the same species): Blends will be less uniform, but one variety may cover up for the weaknesses of another.
  • Mixtures (seeds of different species): Grass seed mixtures provide the most biologically diverse lawn: The grass plants won’t look identical, but your lawn has a better chance of surviving diseases and droughts.

There’s yet another decision to make: Are you going to purchase a seed that incorporates fertilizer and mulch, or purchase them separately? All-in-one products are more expensive, but they are more convenient.

Buy The Right Amount of Grass Seed 

Measure your lawn area in square feet, and purchase enough seed to cover that area. Usually, seed bags are marked as the number of pounds needed per 1,000 square feet. If possible, buy a little more than needed in case you want to reseed some bare spots.

Step 4: Choose the Best Time to Plant Grass Seed

The best time to plant grass seed depends on the type of grass seed and its growing season.

  • Cool-season grasses: Planting grass seeds in early fall is the preferred option for cool-season turf. The soil is warm enough to support seed germination, and there’s plenty of moisture and sunlight to help new plants establish strong roots until winter.

    The second best time of the year to sow cool-season grasses is in the spring when the soil starts to warm up. Wait until soil temperatures range between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s when cool-season grasses germinate and have their best root growth.
  • Warm-season grasses: In the South, warm-season grasses are better planted in late spring and early summer when their growing season is starting. Wait until the last chance of a late frost has passed and the daytime temperature is in the 80s.

One of the biggest keys to success is picking a high-quality seed that is right for your climate.

Step 5: Plant Your Grass Seed

overseeding over the lawn
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Now that we have gone through the necessary preparations, let’s get our hands dirty and talk about the practical aspects of how to get grass to grow. 

Here are the necessary tools to plant grass seed:

  • For small areas, hand-seeding your lawn is fine. 
  • For larger areas, the best way to plant grass seed would be with seeders and spreaders, which provide more precise coverage. 

You can find hand-cranked seed spreaders, chest-mounted, or push-from-behind seeders. How they spread grass is also important.

Drop spreaders drop seeds directly below the unit, offering better precision on lawns under 5,000 square feet. Broadcast spreaders fan seeds in all directions, providing uniform coverage and better speed on larger lawns. 

Follow the instructions on the seed bag on how to seed your lawn. If the seeder’s lowest setting seems too generous with the seed, thin it out with sand or vermiculite. Then, follow these steps:

  • Fill the push spreader with seed.
  • Spread half of the recommended seed on the soil surface, moving north to south.
  • On the second pass, spread east and west for even coverage.
  • Rake the top 1/8-inch of the seeded surface lightly. Using the back of a garden rake side-to-side makes this an easy job.
  • If you have access to one, roll an empty lawn roller to improve germination.

“We call it ‘the seed-soil contact,’” said University of Illinois Extension educator Richard Hentschel. “You want good seed-soil contact. If the seed and soil are not in intimate contact, the little root radicle may die out before it hits the soil.” The radicle is the first root to emerge from a seed.

If you have hilly areas, seeds tend to wash away to a low point. One potential solution is hydroseeding – broadcasting seeds that are suspended in a fertilizer-mulch slurry. Professional landscapers often offer hydroseeding services, and there are some hose-end sprayers for the do-it-yourselfers.

Step 6: Apply a Starter Fertilizer

After following the steps to plant grass seed, you need to find out if your state restricts the use of starter fertilizers containing phosphorus. Most laws allow limited application of phosphorus on new lawns to help new grass grow, but turf experts say to let your soil test be your guide.

If the test says your soil lacks phosphorus, then it’s acceptable. If not, look for a fertilizer with zero phosphorus to spread over the seeded area.

Step 7: Water Your Grass Appropriately

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Keep a careful eye on your new grass seeds. They only get one shot to germinate, so what you do now is critical. That means water. Keep in mind that different grass plants germinate at different times, so if you have a mixture of grass seeds, you’ll need to keep watering them until the slowest-germinating species emerges.

  • Keep the top layer of soil moist (but not soggy) down to 1/2 inch. (Too much water is as bad as too little, and overly vigorous watering could wash the seeds away.) 
  • Water at least once a day in the morning and perhaps again in the afternoon if the sun and wind have dried out the soil. How often to water grass seeds changes as the seeds sprout, so adjust your schedule accordingly.

A misting attachment on your hose can cut down on the amount of force you use. Part of your lawn may be shadier, part may have more porous soil, or part may be sloped. Adjust your watering according to your lawn’s needs.

Remember that even if you planted just one turfgrass variety, the grass seeds won’t all pop up at once. Some will be buried a bit deeper or have a different rate of water absorption. Stay with your watering regimen until you’re sure the seeds have germinated.

Pro Tip: Keep foot traffic to a minimum. You could consider putting up “Please keep off the new grass” signs to discourage accidental trampling by your kids and neighbors (and their dogs).

Step 8: Start Mowing at the Right Time

person mowing a lawn
Photo Credit: MariuszBlach / Canva Pro / License

Hooray! Your newly seeded lawn is green, and the grass is growing well. Wait until your grass reaches a certain height before giving it the first mow. Here’s how tall your newly planted grass should be before you mow for the first time:

Type of GrassHeight Before First Mowing
Bahiagrass2-2 ½ inches
Bentgrass 1 inch
Bermuda1½-2 inches
Bluegrass2-2½ inches
Buffalograss2-3 inches
Centipede 1½-2 inches
Fescue2-3 inches
Perennial ryegrass2-3 inches
Zoysia1-2 inches

Here are a few tips for growing grass to ensure you do the first mow in the right way:

  • Sharpen the mower’s blade so you cut, not tear, the tender plants. 
  • Start the lawn mower off the grass and minimize the number of turns you make with the mower. 
  • Don’t remove more than a third of the grass blade in one mow.

After the first mow, cut back on frequent shallow watering and switch to watering a couple of times a week, deeply. When growing a lawn from seed, water 6 or 8 inches deep to encourage it to root deeply. Once established, the lawn will start spreading to cover any gaps.

By following these tips on how to make your grass grow, after eight weeks, your lawn should be well-established. Apply a little more fertilizer to encourage deep roots, and take down your “Please keep off the new grass” signs. Your new lawn is ready for fun.

The Cost of Planting Grass Seed

The cost of planting grass seed ranges from $592 and $1,768 if done by professionals. 

If the sowing grass seed is something you DIY, your cost will range from $149 and $449, including seeds and all the tools you need to rent or buy. If you need to level your lawn or amend the soil, you’ll pay more. Grass seeds cost $35 to $64 for an average lawn, depending on brand and type of turf. 

Of course, there’s always the laying sod alternative if you need your lawn retrofitted fast. The cost to install sod is, in this case, about $870 to $1,760 for 1,000 square feet with sod plugs included.

You also have some eco-friendly alternatives to consider, like planting a clover lawn, no-mow grasses, wildflowers, or herbs.  

Weed Control on New Planted Lawns

Weed killers can easily damage young grass. Don’t use chemical herbicides until your grass is fully established. Wait until you mowed the new turf at least four times. In the meantime, hand-pull any weeds you find so they don’t smother your young grass.

FAQ About Planting Grass Seeds

Does Grass Seed Grow if I Throw it on the Ground?

It’s unlikely that the seeds will grow when planting grass on top of flat, bare soil. The seeds may germinate, but the roots won’t be strong enough to penetrate the soil. It’s best to rough up the soil before sowing grass seed for the best seed-to-soil contact.

Does Grass Seed Need to be Covered?

Don’t cover grass seed with topsoil. The seed needs light to germinate. Instead, you should put topsoil down before grass seed (a thin layer is sufficient), or you should mix grass seed with topsoil. To protect the seed from birds and washing away, use straw (weed-free) or an erosion-control blanket.

How Do You Plant Grass Seed on Top of an Existing Lawn?

Planting grass seed on top of an existing lawn, also known as overseeding, requires five steps:

  1. Dethatch and aerate the lawn
  2. Mow the lawn short and rake away debris
  3. Add enriched topsoil
  4. Spread the grass seed
  5. Fertilize and water the new grass

When to Call a Lawn Care Pro

Some homeowners and renters love being weekend warriors, but some of the rest of us prefer anything else. Why DIY when you can LSE (Let Someone Else)?

If you’d rather reap the rewards of great grass someone else sowed and mowed, get on the LawnStarter website or app and find a lawn care pro. Or just give LawnStarter a call. We have local pros all over the country and they can begin testing and planting grass seeds at the proper time for your area.

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Daniel Ray

Daniel Ray

Daniel Ray is's former editor in chief. He is an award-winning writer and editor who previously was editor in chief of the personal finance websites and, but with 30 years of gardening experience, he's well qualified to help consumers grow a different kind of green.