Straw for Grass Seed: Mistakes, Tips & Alternatives [THAT ACTUALLY WORK]

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Whether you are seeding a brand new lawn space with grass seed or repairing spots that have been damaged, adding a layer of straw to newly planted grass seed can help promote grass seed germination. This article will cover the benefits and disadvantages to straw, provide some tips on how to use straw (plus some mistakes to avoid!) and introduce you to a few alternatives.

Benefits of Using Straw to Cover Grass Seed

#1. Moisture control

It is important to keep freshly laid grass seed moist, but not too wet.  Adding straw will help you maintain a consistent moisture level that promotes seed cover germination. 

Grass seed planted in direct sunlight is nearly impossible to keep moist. The straw will help slow evaporation and provide some relief from the sun, encouraging germination and growth.

#2. Bird control

As soon as you lay down a fresh layer of grass seed, those birds that hang out in your yard now have a new snack!  Straw will provide a layer of cover for a newly seeded lawn, allowing new seeds to grow without them all being eaten by birds.

#3. Natural movement control

In the wild, seeds are moved from one location to the next by wind, water, or after it is attached to carried off by an animal. 

The same can happen in your yard: a heavy wind can blow your new grass seeds into your flower garden, or a strong rain can wash new seeds away.

While using straw won’t always keep your seed in place, it will help lock the seeds down until the new lawn grass seed germinates.

#4. It is environmentally friendly and easy to cleanup

Straw doesn’t contain any chemicals so it’s environmentally friendly. Oftentimes, I don’t even clean straw up when I use it for ground cover; I just let it decompose into the soil. The decomposed material provides a healthy layer of beneficial nutrients to the soil. 

If you want to bypass the free organic matter, you can rake up the straw once the seed has started a healthy root system. Be sure that the grass seedlings are established in your new lawn before raking or mowing the straw up. Raking up the straw before its young roots have developed can pull the grass out of your lawn and you are back to square one.

#5. It is cheap!

You can find bales or bags of straw at most home garden stores and in most cases it’s cheap. Knowing this, you might be able to upgrade the grass seed you were planning to buy and still stay within your lawn care budget.

If you are looking for a good quality cover and convenient delivery, I recommend the EZ Straw Seeding Mulch, biodegradable and organic.

EZ Straw Seeding Mulch with Tack - Biodegradable Organic...
1,860 Reviews
EZ Straw Seeding Mulch with Tack - Biodegradable Organic...
  • ORGANIC PROCESSED STRAW with TACKIFIER – Premium Processed Straw with a bonding agent (Tackifier) that gives straw a tackiness which holds it together. This natural bonding agent is biodegradable and helps to protect grass seed from heavy washout and wind.
  • Straw protects the seed - the straw protects the grass seed from heavy washout, windy areas, Birds and other animals
  • Easy to apply – twice cut and processed for easy application

Affiliate links and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on: 2022-11-25

layering straw for grass seed

Disadvantages to Using Straw to Cover Grass Seeds

#1. It isn’t pretty

Let’s face it – a layer of straw in the middle of your green lawn that is free of weeds just isn’t pretty to look at. The good news is that the tragic eye sore is only temporary.

#2. It can be messy

To start, if you drive a car, a bale of straw in your truck can create a mess you have to clean up. To avoid this, you can lay down a tarp in the back to collect all the mess. 

Similarly, if your straw dries out, then the same high winds that can blow away seeds can also blow away dried straw and create a big mess.

#3. Distribution amounts

Adding straw to your newly seeded lawn isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation: too much straw will suffocate the seed, trap a lot of moisture, and prevent your grass seeds from germinating. Add a thin layer, and your straw and seed will dry out and either grow slowly or not at all. 

How much straw should I put on top of the grass?

The layer of straw should usually be around 1/4 inch thick, and no more than 3 inches thick. One bale of straw is enough to reasonably cover 1,000 square feet of your lawn.

The type of soil you have, weather conditions, and the season you are planting all play a factor in how much straw you will need to add.

#4. Weed seeds

Straw is almost always going to contain some weed seeds that will likely start growing right alongside your newly laid sod. As the grass starts growing, pull any unwanted weeds as soon as you see them; trust me, it’s much easier to remove them now, rather than waiting for their roots to establish!

straw cover for new grass seed

Tips for Using Straw to Cover Grass Seedlings

  • Break up the ground where you will be adding grass seed and straw. 
  • If you have sandy soil consider adding some topsoil – this will give your roots a place to grow.
  • When seeding, make sure you evenly apply grass seed. You absolutely can add too many seeds and these seeds will start to compete with each other as they grow.
  • When applying the straw for grass seed, apply just enough straw to cover the newly seeded lawn.

Alternatives

Pine Straw

As I previously mentioned, traditional straws can contain weed seeds –  sometimes a lot of seeds – that can grow right along with your new grass. Aged pine straw typically has few weeds seeds mixed in with it.

Pro Tip

Be sure to use pine straw that is dry and has turned brown.

Wood Shavings/Sawdust

Wood shavings and sawdust are inexpensive options for newly seeded lawns or bare spots that can provide protection and hold moisture similarly to straw.  

To distribute correctly, spread just a little sawdust. If you add too much sawdust, it will bind together and create a stiff mat that will prevent anything from growing, let alone grass seed.

Compost (Traditional or Mushroom)

Aged traditional or mushroom compost will not only keep your soil moist, but also fertilize your space naturally. This will help encourage germination and improve your soil quality. Spread compost between a quarter and a half inch across the new grass seed and water.

Pro Tip

If you’re using compost, make sure it is completely broken down – compost that contains things that are still decaying can attract birds and other unwanted animals. 

Peat Moss

Peat moss is another straw alternative that, when spread correctly, will add far more nutrients to your soil and feed young roots than straw will. 

When using peat moss, coverage matters. If you spread too much peat moss over the grass seed it will prevent grass seed germination. If you spread too little peat moss your grass seed will likely dry out. 

Make sure the peat moss is well aged and broken up and apply just enough to cover the top of your grass seeds. You may want to apply a little more peat moss to grass seedlings that have started to grow.

peat moss for grass seed

I added this video which demonstrates how to use straw for grass seed and protect your new seedlings:

How To Protect Grass Seed| How To Get Maximum Germination

FAQs about using straw on newly seeded areas

Q. How much straw should I put on top of the grass?

A. As a general rule, I suggest adding just enough straw to cover the grass seeds, usually 1/4 inch thick or below. Too much straw can create an overly moist area that will inhibit the growth of the grass plants and give a place for mushrooms and other fungal plants to grow.

Q. When should I remove the straw?

A. You are better off leaving the straw on longer than you want, as opposed to taking it off too early. Keep the straw on the grass until it starts to grow through the straw. This is typically three to four inches tall and takes around a month.

Q. Do you have to use straw or a straw alternative?

A. Technically, no. If you have loosened your soil and kept the seed and soil moist you do not have to add straw. This will be more difficult in areas that have full, direct sunlight. New grass seedlings also have a tendency to dry out without some protection above their roots.

Q. Can I use grass clippings grass seed cover?

A. Grass seed clippings can be a really cheap alternative to using straw. The mistake most people make using grass clippings is they pour a layer that is too thick, right from their mower bagger. This creates a deep layer of clippings that suffocates your seed. Over time, it also forms a thick mat that even your most persistent weeds will struggle to grow in. 

If you choose to use grass clippings, gather the clippings well before you seed and give them time to dry out. After drying, spread the clippings lightly over the newly seeded area.

Q. What is the best straw to cover grass seed?

A. My preference is pine straw, simply because it contains fewer weed seeds. Pine straw that is aged, brown, and dry has worked well for me. The trick can be finding pine straw. If you can’t find pine straw, any good quality straw that is dry, and not moldy should work just fine.

Q. Where can I buy straw?

A. If you have access to a local farm, buy your straw there. It is likely going to be better quality, and cutting out the middleman (the store) lowers the price. If you don’t have a local farm you can buy directly from, feed stores, garden, and farm supply stores usually carry straw. They will usually load it for you as well.

Final Thoughts

Covering grass seed, whether it be in a newly seeded lawn or in a bare spot will help keep the seed moist, promote healthy root growth, and depending on what type of covering you use, can also help add nutrients to your soil.

If you are looking for a good quality cover and convenient delivery, I recommend the EZ Straw Seeding Mulch, biodegradable and Organic.

EZ Straw Seeding Mulch with Tack - Biodegradable Organic...
1,860 Reviews
EZ Straw Seeding Mulch with Tack - Biodegradable Organic...
  • ORGANIC PROCESSED STRAW with TACKIFIER – Premium Processed Straw with a bonding agent (Tackifier) that gives straw a tackiness which holds it together. This natural bonding agent is biodegradable and helps to protect grass seed from heavy washout and wind.
  • Straw protects the seed - the straw protects the grass seed from heavy washout, windy areas, Birds and other animals
  • Easy to apply – twice cut and processed for easy application

Affiliate links and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on: 2022-11-25