Grass Seed Buying Guide
Grass Seed for New Lawns
All Lawnsmith® grass seed mixtures make for great lawns in the right circumstances. In other words, you may WANT an ornamental lawn but if you've got kids and a dog it won't last five minutes. Therefore you NEED a hard wearing family lawn grass seed. It may not be ornamental but it'll survive and look good.
So, ALWAYS pick a lawn seed that will survive whether that's use 'n abuse, shade, poor soil or a combination. If you're lucky to have no testing factors then feel free to pick the one you like the most.
Grass Seed for Patching and Renovations
For renovations or after scarifying where you spread new seed all over the existing lawn choose the grass seed you'd like to have more of or which will be the best for your use. You don't have to worry about a perfect match. Use the 'IDEAL USE' refinement in the left hand menu on the 'Grass Seed' page to find the one(s) you need.
If getting a close match is more important to you or if you're doing patching or minor repairs choose a grass seed mixture that is as close to your existing lawn grass as possible. Get down on your hands and knees and look at the blades of grass in your lawn and decide whether they’re all fine round bristle like blades, all flat blades or a mixture. Then use the ‘LEAF TYPE’ refinement in the left hand menu on the 'Grass Seed' page to find the one(s) you need.
- When will I see green shoots?
- Testing seed and seed preparation
- Why is soil type important?
- What is the best feed for grass seedlings?
- How much grass seed do I need?
- I want a low maintenance lawn!
- Should I have rye grass in my lawn seed mixture?
- What is the order of jobs when sowing grass seed?
- Can I use my spreader to sow lawn grass seed
- How do I know it's quality grass seed?
- How fresh is the grass seed and how long will it keep?
- Can I cover the seed?
- Dogs and cats
When will I see green shoots?
In ideal growing conditions which means warmth (ground temperature at least above 80c) and constant moisture rye grasses will germinate in 5-10 days and fescues in 7-14 days.
Your best way to judge ground temperature is to take an average of the day and night time temperature. Wind chill has a considerable effect and so does rain or watering as this cools the soil.
So, with unreliable british weather sowing too early such as March or even early April can mean a delay in germination if the weather remains cool.
On the upside, once the temperature is right and if you don't have too large an area you can always add water.
For 100% success everytime: sow in warmth and don't let the seedlings dry out
Testing seed and seed preparation
Take an old clean cloth and fold it into a flat pad about an inch thick. Place this in a tub or bowl with half an inch of water. The cloth will soak up water and become saturated. The top of the cloth pad is now an ideal place to sprinkle perhaps 20 to 25 seeds.
- Place the tub in a warm place away from drafts – airing cupboards and utility rooms are usually ideal
- Loosely put a lid on the tub if you wish
- Maintain a water level of about half an inch until germination - do NOT let it dry out
- Germination will take between 5 and 14 days depending on seed type and temperature
- If the tub and pad dry out you need to start again - re-filling after drying doesn't work because the seed is now dead
As the seeds germinate at different times it can be a good idea to pick out those that have germinated and put them aside for counting otherwise they will be quite long before the slower germinating seeds get going. After 2 - 3 weeks you can assess the results
- If 80% plus germinated then all is well
- If only half germinated double your seeding rate
- If less than half germinated throw it away and buy fresh!
The result from above should be a similar germination rate to that in your lawn. If your seed sown on your lawn doesn't germinate in warm conditions then it would suggest either too little water or poor seed to soil contact.
Loosen and then level the soil in a very small sunny area of your border or any clear soil area. Water well then plant a pinch of seed and tread down. Keep it well watered by watering lightly several times a day to prevent the soil and seed from drying. Because you are putting the seed on to bare soil there is nothing to act as a barrier and if watered correctly will always grow.
If your seed in the lawn hasn't germinated this will direct you to surface preparation: meaning there is more than likely still some thatch, moss or debris preventing the seed from contacting the soil and germinating. You may need to start from scratch and re-scarify.
Why is soil type important?
Some grasses like and tolerate wet conditions while others will die off. We have therefore given you the option of selecting your grass seed mixture based on Soil Type and Extreme Conditions with clay soil generally holding water well whilst sandy or stoney soils will drain freely and be dry.
What is the best feed for grass seedlings?
When seeding you have two aims:
- To get the seed to germinate
- To get it to grow and become a lawn as quickly as possible so it can be used
Both require warmth and water but the first is down to how well you've planted your seed and the second is down to nutrition. Getting strong roots is half the battle which requires phosphate and nitrogen and getting healthy leaves requires potassium and nitrogen. Therefore adding the right fertiliser is very beneficial.
For over seeding
For existing lawns when over seeding use one of our seasonal fertilisers - the 'sandy soil' variety in spring and summer will give you a better nutrient balance even if you have clay soil. You can use 'starter' or a 'seasonal fertiliser' for patching small areas.
For new lawns
Use our Starter fertiliser. Then start feeding as a mature lawn after about 3-4 months according to one of the three programmes outlined in the Fertiliser Buying Guide.
How much grass seed do I need?
Each grass seed variety has its own page in the Grass Seed section of the shop. The sowing rates for new lawns or for over sowing is at the bottom of the page.
Always order 10 to 20% more than needed to accommodate errors in spreading and or measuring. More may be required if bird attack is anticipated. It is also a good idea to have a quantity (10% to 20%) left over for patching and repairs later on.
I want a low maintenance lawn!
Be cautious about low maintenance claims for grasses. The term low maintenance is often used to describe grasses that grow slowly and therefore need less mowing. These you’ll typically find on a motorway embankment. Presumably that’s not what you want on your lawn!
Ornamental grass varieties also grow more slowly but they need mowing more frequently (usually twice a week) to keep them in good condition and also require raking or scarifying at least annually. This all adds up and is NOT what we call low maintenance!
In the rating box (in the full description at the bottom of each individual grass seed page) we have a maintenance rating that takes into consideration all aspects of lawn care including mowing frequency, raking, scarifying, aeration, fertilisation and weed control. This, we hope will guide you more accurately.
Should I have rye grass in my lawn seed mixture?
Rye grass can be coarse, however, today’s varieties are specially selected dwarf amenity grasses with a thin flat leaf and an excellent emerald colour. We use it in most of our mixtures as it enhances the look and improves the durability of a lawn.
What is the order of jobs when sowing grass seed?
Detailed sowing instructions are included with all grass seed orders.
Do not use lawn weed killer for 2 months before or after seeding.
New lawns and patching
- Prepare surface
- Add seed
- Add starter fertiliser on the same day or very shortly after
Raking or Scarifying
- Rake or scarify
- Remove all debris
- Add seed – 2 day gap required if ferrous sulphate used after raking/scarifying
- Add seasonal fertiliser on the same day or very shortly after
- Seed and use seasonal fertiliser straight after aerating
Order for full renovation
- Ferrous sulphate as optional treatment for moss 2-4 weeks prior to raking
- Rake or scarify
- Ferrous sulphate as 2nd optional treatment for moss
- Aerate within a day or so
- Add seed as soon as possible or after 2 days of using ferrous sulphate
- Add seasonal fertiliser on the same day or very shortly after
- If top dressing, then seed and fertilise in your preferred order usually on the same day
Can I use my spreader to sow lawn grass seed
Yes you can but because of the elongated shape of grass seed it does not 'flow' consistently through rotary or broadcast spreaders. This means that though a spreader is an excellent method for spreading seed, settings are unreliable which is why we suggest a one third open setting to start and applying in several lots starting from a different side of the lawn each time to ensure consistent even coverage.
How do I know it's quality grass seed?
Our grass seed is selected from one of the oldest and largest grass seed suppliers and blenders in northern England. Here, grass seed is sourced from Europe’s top breeders to provide mixtures suitable for fantastic lawns, great sports turf and golf courses.
In addition, varieties are selected for their excellent characteristics whether that is drought tolerance, colour, recovery etc. All are STRI (Sports Turf Research Institute) rated.
No Weed Seeds: All seed requires compulsory Certification through the EEC for germination and purity. Our seed is the highest rated and has therefore achieved the additional HVS (Higher Voluntary Standard) Certification.
We reckon that makes our seed about as good as you can get!
How fresh is the grass seed and how long will it keep?
Seed in Europe is harvested from May to September so the seed you use this year will normally be from the previous years harvest. This is normal but to assure users that our seed is as fresh as possible we bag it as soon as we can and all 5, 10 and 20 kilo bags are sealed with a dated green Certification label. This means customers storing unused seed in a cool, dark, dry area can be confident of satisfactory germination for up to 2 years.
We suggest testing seed (see 2nd Q&A) once it is over 2 years OR increasing seeding rates by 30% for each year you have kept. Once the seed is 5 years old it is best discarded.
Can I cover the grass seed?
Covering seed protects it from bird predation and evaporation. It also creates a greenhouse effect warming the seed and speeding germination in cooler weather with no need for watering.
Start by building a reservoir of moisture in the soil by watering over a few days. Let the surface dry for a few hours, then do a thorough seeding procedure followed by covering with light clear polythene. Large rolls of polythene can be acquired cheaply from builders merchants.
Do NOT do this in warm or hot weather as you will cook your seed.
Dogs and Cats
Planting grass seed with dogs (and sometimes cats) in the household does require some special attention, as your pet is unlikely to read your well-meaning “Keep Off Grass” signs. Though 'wild' grass ears are the main cause of harm to your pet keeping the animal off of the lawn for a few weeks after the date of initial seed germination may be a wise precaution for some.