It’s every gardener’s dream – establishing a lush, beautiful, healthy lawn, and it all starts with choosing the best grass seed!
When trying to find the best grass seed for your lawn, you will be spoilt for choice, given the myriad options available.
But I’ve created this ultimate guide to give you a comprehensive insight into the different varieties of grass seed available, how to choose the best grass seed, and how to care for your newly planted grass seed for a successful lawn!
Annual vs. Perennial Grasses
When shopping for the best grass seed, you’ve probably heard the words annual and perennial crop up often.
Before explaining the differences between annual and perennial grass seeds, it’s worth mentioning that neither is superior to the other, but both have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages.
What is Annual Grass?
Annuals are grasses that germinate, flower, set seeds, and die all in one season. It is important to note that all these processes happen in the same planting year.
Annual grasses grow throughout a specific period such as the summer, and die when the colder months come around, or when their growing period ends.
One of the common and astounding characteristics of annual grasses is that they bloom for extended periods from the spring all the way to the fall.
Another key benefit of annual grasses is that they are a great choice if you need to fill bare patches in your lawn quickly, given they are quick to germinate and grow.
Annual grass seeds are classified under two categories—cold season species (winter annuals), and warm-season species (summer annuals).
What is Perennial Grass?
Perennials are grass seeds whose lifecycle is more than two years. These types of grass seeds grow back year after year and stay this way until their maturity.
The maturity span depends on the type of perennial grass, where some can last up to five years. Certain perennial grasses grow back bigger and healthier each year, of course depending on lawn maintenance.
Even though you may notice wilting on the top portion of perennial grass, there’s really nothing to worry about, as regrowth occurs when spring arrives.
Adding to this, perennial grasses thrive when the soil pH level is between 6.5 and 7.0, so slightly acidic, and when they receive approximately six to eight hours of sunlight per day.
Annual vs. Perennial Grass – Which One Should You Choose?
You’re probably thinking that perennial grass is right for you, because it offers longer turf life.
Perennial grasses require more attention than annual grasses, meaning proper irrigation and frequent mowing.
Perennial grass seeds are also more expensive than annual grass seeds, but on a brighter note live longer, so your investment will last a few years.
Annual grasses grow in a few weeks, but perennial grasses can take up to an entire year to begin growing.
So, the big question is whether to choose annual or perennial grass seed, and the answer is it completely depends on you!
If you’re looking for quick growth—let’s say to cover up some bare patches in your lawn, planting annual grass seeds is a great option.
But, if you’re looking for steady, long-term growth, and don’t mind paying a higher price, perennial grass seeds won’t disappoint.
Cool Season Grasses and Warm Season Grasses
Cool-season and warm-season grasses are two common types of turfgrass, and choosing between the two depends on your geographical location.
When choosing a type of grass species, it’s easy to want to make decisions based on aesthetics or maintenance preference. However, the first thing to do is select a grass type that’s a good fit for your climate.
What are Warm Season Grasses?
If you live in an area that receives between 80º and 95º F temperatures, warm-season grasses such as Zoysia, St. Augustine, bahiagrass and centipedegrass will not disappoint.
Warm-season grasses don’t die during the winter but go dormant when temperatures drop to 65°F.
Zoysia grass is native to Spain and is hailed for its ability to stand up to drought, heat, and heavy foot traffic.
When cared for properly, this hardy grass can deliver a lush, dense lawn with very little effort from you. Zoysia grass has been in the United States since 1895 and is a perennial grass that comes back every year when grown in the right climates.
This thick, dense grass establishes slowly than some turfgrasses and turns brown in the winter when dormancy kicks in.
Just like Zoysia grass, Bahiagrass is also known for its remarkable drought and heat tolerance, and its ability to thrive where many lawn types of grass fail.
This durable, low maintenance grass was first used a pasture grass in the Southeast, but today is grown extensively in Florida through the southern Coastal Planes to the Texas Gulf Coast.
Bahiagrass is a perennial grass that persists year after year and features a deep, extensive root system that increases its resistance to heat and cold.
Bermudagrass is also a warm-season grass that thrives in warm, arid temperatures between 95° and 100°F.
One of the reasons why many homeowners decide to overseed dormant warm-season grass with cool-season varieties during the winter is to achieve a beautiful lawn all year round.
This perennial grass is more sensitive to cold temperatures than other warm-season grasses such as Zoysia grass but thrives in areas with full, direct sun and good drainage.
Carpetgrass is a warm-season grass that doesn’t produce a high-quality lawn but does well in areas where other grasses fail.
It features a pale green or yellowish-green color and bears unattractive seed heads that give your lawn a weedy look.
The biggest downside to Carpetgrass is its appearance, but there are some instances where this warm-season grass proves useful such as when grown in areas where more desirable grass species won’t grow.
St. Augustine is a popular warm-season grass in Florida and the Gulf states, owing to its high tolerance to heat and humidity.
This low-mat-forming perennial grass features bluish-green blades and establishes quickly, and best of all can tolerate salt, making it a great choice for coastal yards.
St. Augustine grass thrives in temperatures between 75- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit and one of its notable features is that it maintains its color longer during drought compared to Zoysia grass or Bermudagrass.
What are Cool Season Grasses?
Cool-season grasses grow well in areas of the country that experience cold winters, and dry, hot summers.
These grasses grow well in temperatures between 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit, and are most commonly grown from seed or sod.
Kentucky Bluegrass is a cool-season grass that many lawn owners feel is synonymous with an ideal lawn.
It produces a dense, lush, durable lawn when cared for properly, but on the downside does require a high level of maintenance to look its best.
Kentucky Bluegrass is a perennial, meaning it will come back year after year and is used extensively in northern climates.
Owing to its shallow roots, Kentucky Bluegrass has a lower tolerance to heat and drought.
There are over 300 species of fescue, each of which offering many different uses and benefits apart from shade tolerance.
Of all the species, Tall Fescue has become increasingly popular as a lawn grass and has a wider leaf blade compared to fine fescues.
Tall Fescue tolerates shade better than, and establishes easily from seed, and germinates quickly.
Tall Fescue is a great choice for northern lawns and is a beautiful year-round choice for lawn owners seeking an economical, heat, drought-tolerant, and low-maintenance turfgrass.
There are three types of ryegrass—annual ryegrass, perennial ryegrass, and winter ryegrass. Annual ryegrass is best used for overseeding lawns, specifically lawns with warm-season grasses in the South.
Perennial ryegrass is usually a part of a grass seed mix, and is used extensively in lawns across the United States.
Perennial ryegrass holds up well to foot traffic, and boasts a fast germination rate. This fine-bladed grass isn’t related to the rye plant that produces cereal grain but is a short-lived grass that comes back every year.
Winter rye is enjoyed as an edible by people and livestock and is used as flour that gives us rye bread.
|Types of grass||Drought resistance||Need for water||Texture||Traffic level||Sun||Other features|
|Bahia (W)||High||Low||Coarse||High||Full sun to partial shade||Moderately aggressive|
|Bermuda (W)||High||Medium||Fine to medium||High||Full sun||Fills in quickly|
|Buffalo (W)||High||Low||Fine||High||Full sun||Requires minimal maintenance|
|Centipede (W)||Medium||Medium||Coarse||Low||Full sun to partial shade||Creeps low to the ground, slow-growing|
|Creeping Bent Grass (C)||Low||High||Fine||High||Full sun to partial shade||Commonly found on golf courses; provides a soft, dense, carpet-like lawn|
|Fescue (C)||High||Low||Coarse||Medium||Full sun to partial shade||Many varieties and textures; thrive in mild winters, warm summers|
|Kentucky Blue Grass (C)||Medium||Medium to high||Fine to medium||Medium to high||Full sun to partial shade||Withstands cold and is resistant to disease|
|Perennial Ryegrass (C)||Low||High||Medium to coarse||Medium to high||Full sun to partial shade||Intolerant of extreme heat or cold|
|St. Augustine (W)||Low to medium||Medium to high||Coarse||Medium||Full sun to partial shade||Grows quickly|
|Zoysia (W)||Medium to high||Medium||Fine to medium||High||Full sun to partial shade||Dense and wiry|
What is Grass Seed Mix?
Just as you might’ve guessed, a grass seed mix is when you combine two or more species of grass such as ryegrass and bluegrass.
Grass seed mix offers myriad benefits such as great resistance to disease, but one of the disadvantages is that you will get different heights of grass.
If your existing lawn is mostly one species of grass, a grass seed blend isn’t a good choice. But if your lawn is comprised of different grass species, buy a grass seed mix that matches the grass species in your lawn.
How to Prepare Your Soil to Plant New Grass Seed?
It’s highly important to prepare your soil before planting new grass seed. Preparing your soil will help you avoid mistakes, and achieve the best results. The first thing to remember is that no soil is perfect, so a little prep can go a long way!
1. Test your soil’s pH
Determining the pH level of your soil will help you improve its condition for your new lawn grass seed.
A pH test will let you know how acidic or alkaline the soil is, and the results are measured on a scale from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral.
Any number below 7 in the pH test results is considered acidic, and above is considered alkaline.
Most grasses thrive in a soil pH between 6.5 and 7, but some types do well in lower levels. A pH test will reveal two things—the pH attributes, and also the nutrients that are missing from the soil.
There are several ways to test the pH level of your soil, but a soil meter is perhaps the most accurate way.
Another option to test your soil’s pH level without any tools is by using vinegar and baking soda.
Start by collecting one cup of soil from different areas of your lawn, split into separate cups.
Next, add ½ cup of vinegar to one cup, and ½ cup of baking soda into the other. If the soil reacts to the vinegar, it’s more alkaline, and if baking soda, it’s more acidic.
It’s important to note that you should test your soil when it’s wet, as dry soil won’t yield accurate results.
After you have the results, there are a few things you can do to improve the condition of the soil.
How to Raise the pH Levels in Acidic Soil?
You can use either calcitic limestone or dolomitic limestone to raise the pH levels in your soil. Wood ash is a more organic approach to raising pH levels in your soil. Simply, sprinkle 1/2 inch of wood ash over your soil, and mix it in about a foot deep.
How to Lower the pH Levels in Alkaline Soil?
Just like raising pH levels, there are several ways to lower pH levels in the soil, starting with an organic approach such as with compost, acidic mulches (pine needles), and composted manure.
Other ways to lower pH levels in soil include sulfur (powerful, yet slower acting), and aluminum sulfate (quickest-acting options available).
2. Clear the area
After you’ve got your soil pH in check, you will need to clear the area you’re preparing for the new grass seed.
Although there are several tools to get this done, an electric rotary tiller quickly digs into your garden soil, churning it into a fine, essentially clod-free seedbed.
Next, remove the sticks, debris, and old grass using a rake. Generously spray the area with water, and add in some nutrients such as yard waste, compost, or the highly recommended Scotts Turf Builder Starter Food.
After you apply this starter fertilizer, don’t reapply it, because fertilizing too often can be harmful rather than beneficial for grass growth.
When Should I Put My New Grass Seed Down?
When it comes to putting down grass seeds, timing matters. The right time to plant grass seeds depends on the type of turfgrass, and where you live. Getting the timing right will increase your chances of growing a successful lawn.
The growth cycles and regional climate preferences vary across lawn grasses. For example, warm-season grasses such as Bahiagrass, Bermudagrass, and Zoysia grass grow vigorously during the warmer temperatures of late spring and early summer.
Contrarily, cool-season grasses such as perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass peak in growth during the cool temperatures of late summer and early fall.
Whether you grow warm-season or cool-season grasses, planting seeds at a time that optimizes on your grass type’s natural periods of peak growth helps seeds germinate and establish quickly.
When to Plant Cool-Season Grass Seed?
The best time to plant cool-season grasses is during the fall. During this time, the soil is still warm from the months of the summer sun, therefore along with moderate daytime temperatures encourage faster germination and establishment of new grass seed.
Soil temperatures should be 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for cool-season grass seeds to germinate. You can use an inexpensive soil thermometer to get an accurate soil temperature reading.
You can even plant cool-season grass seed in the spring after the soil and air temperatures warm up to their optimal range.
However, the soil can be cold and overly wet during this time due to the late-melting snows and early spring rains, which may stimulate early weed growth.
When to Plant Warm Season Grass Seed?
The best time to plant warm-season grass seed is in late spring and early summer. This is typically the time when soil temperatures are consistently in the range of 65°F to 70°F—the right temperatures for warm-season grass seeds to germinate.
You may be tempted to head out and seed in the first days of spring, but as mentioned earlier, this is a time the soil can still be wet from frost—a leading cause of poor germination.
How to Overseed My Lawn?
The summer months can take a toll on your lawn due to the hot, dry conditions and heavy shade, and making matters worse is the outbreak of lawn disease, and insect activity.
Overseeding your lawn can keep it looking and performing its best after the snow melts next spring.
Overseeding is a great way to repair a damaged lawn, and thicken thin areas before winter kicks in.
Overseeding is not to be confused with reseeding, as the latter means starting over and planting a completely new lawn. The process of overseeding entails adding grass seed to your existing lawn without turning the soil.
There are two reasons to overseed your lawn—to correct thin lawns and/or to prevent thinning.
The best time to overseed a lawn is based on geography, and the type of grass grown. Early fall is hands down the best time to overseed your lawn for most northern regions in the U.S.
This is the time when the nights are cooler, and the daytime temperatures are still warm enough to encourage new growth.
If you live in the South, the best time to overseed your lawn is in late spring through mid-summer.
Step 1 – Prep your lawn
Start by removing dead grass, and thatch before spreading seed in the bare areas of your lawn.
Next, mow the grass short using the lowest setting on your mower, and bag the clippings to allow the grass seed to make good contact with the soil.
Step 2 – Seed
The type of grass seed to overseed depends on your existing grass type. If you currently have cool-season grass in your lawn, use a product specifically designed to thicken and green your existing turf such as Scotts Turf Builder Thick’R Lawn Sun & Shade.
If you have warm-season grass or aren’t sure about the grass type in your lawn, use a product such as Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Sun and Shade Mix to thicken your turf.
Step 3 – Improve the soil
Just like spreading new grass seed, it’s a good idea the check soil pH, and remove any debris with a rake, and spread a 0.25-inch layer of enriched soil over the area to help the seed settle in.
Step 4 – Spread the seed
This is perhaps the easiest part of the overseeding process. A spreader is the best way to lay down seed but is a tiresome process if you have a large area.
I recommend using a spreader to put down seed, Fill up the spreader with grass seed, adjust the settings according to the label’s directions, and spread the seed.
Step 4 – Feed and water
Light water the area after spreading the grass seed, and keep it consistently moist until the seedlings have reached the height of the existing grass in your lawn.
What Are the Best Tools to Spread Grass Seed?
You can either spread grass seed by hand or with a lawn spreader. Even if you have a small area, using your hand to spread grass seed can be a daunting task, which is why most lawn owners use some type of spreader.
When it comes to grass seed spreaders, you’ve got four options to choose from:
Broadcast spreaders – this tool is designed to evenly over the area quickly and can either be pushed by hand or towed behind a lawn tractor.
Scotts Turf Builder EdgeGuard Mini Broadcast Spreader features the company’s exclusive EdgeGuard technology, and comes pre-calibrated, and fully assembled. It can store over 5,000 square feet of product—seeds, fertilizer, or salt, and boasts a compact design for easy storage.
Handheld spreaders – a handheld spreader is a great choice for seeding or reseeding smaller areas.
Pull behind spreaders – if you’re spreading seed over a large area, using a pull-behind spreader is a great option. This type of spreader attaches to the back of your lawn tractor or ATV and requires a minimum amount of effort to operate.
Drop spreaders – just as the name would suggest, drop spreaders drop seed directly below the spreader, which is helpful if you don’t want the grass speeds to broadcast all over your lawn.
After you’ve loaded your spreader with seed, start pushing or pulling it (depending on what type of spreader you’re using) starting from the corner of your lawn for rectangular shaped lawns, and anywhere on the perimeter for circular shaped lawns.
If you have a larger area to seed, you can create markers to help you spread the seed in a uniform manner. Refrain from overlapping the area, as doing so will waste both seeds and effort.
How Do I Protect My New Grass Seed?
Now that you’ve got the hard part out of the way, it’s important that you protect your grass seed so that it makes good contact with the soil, and doesn’t blow away.
Do not use straw to cover the grass seed, because poor quality straw can contain weed seeds—something you really don’t want in your newly planted lawn. Instead, put down a thin layer of top-quality soil over the seed.
When Will My Grass Start to Grow?
Regardless of the type of grass or your geographical location, if you’ve selected the right seed, planted it at the right time, watered it well, and protected it, your newly planted grass seeds should germinate within a week.
However, specialized grass seeds such as those planted for shade may take a bit longer to germinate. The amount of time a grass seed sprouts also depends on the age of the seeds, so seeds that are more than a couple of years old may not sprout.
When Should I Mow My New Grass?
Now that your new grass is growing, you’re probably eager to pull out the good old mower and give its first cut, but not so fast!
The roots of the grass need to become established before the first mow, which can take up to two months after planting.
If you mow your new grass too early, you’ll put the young grass under considerable strain, causing damage to your new turf.
A sure-shot way of determining when your grass is ready for its first mow is with a tug test. Grab a handful of grass, and tug on it, and if you feel the turf lifting, the roots of the grass need a little longer to settle.
Check out my detailed article on when to mow new grass.
How to Mow Your Lawn for the First Time?
An important thing to remember when mowing your lawn for the first time is to not cut it too short, but just the nips of the grass blades.
- Sharpen your mower blades until they are really sharp
- Put on the grass clipping collector, because you don’t want to leave grass clippings on your lawn
- Make sure the grass plants have a good root system
- Set the mower blades high, and mow when the grass is dry
- Do not mow if rain or frost is in the forecast
How Much Water Does New Grass Need?
The goal with watering new grass seed is to keep the top two inches of the soil moist at all times.
Therefore, water twice a day or more in drier conditions until the grass seeds have germinated, before beginning a regular watering schedule.
You have to first water the area to a depth of six to eight inches several days before planting new grass seed. You can measure the depth of water penetration easily by inserting a long screwdriver into the ground.
If it pushes down easily without any resistance, you’ve got the right water saturation. Right after planting new grass seed, water for five to ten minutes immediately to gently moisten the first several inches of soil. Do not let the seeds dry out or else they will die.
The watering schedule after this initial stage truly depends on the amount of rainfall your area receives after planting.
Water your grass seen in the morning and evening, so that the water is absorbed by the ground, and doesn’t evaporate. You can use a water timer to simplify the process.
When Should I Put Down Fertilizer?
In terms of starter fertilizers, they vary slightly in composition, but most have the right amount of quick-release nitrogen, which promotes healthy and quick germination.
The ideal time to fertilize new grass seed is while the seed is being put down or before planting the seed.
You will only have a successful lawn if you plant the right grass seed. The good news is that there are several different types of grass types to choose from, but the best grass seed depends on your location— Northern region, Deep South/Gulf region or Transition Zone.
Hi, Alex Kuritz here. Growing up I remember that my family had one of the best lawns in the neighborhood. Richly green and lush. I did a lot as I grew up in terms of caring and tending for not only my family’s lawn but also my neighbors. I can say I have years of experience, and I am here to share it with you.