Do I Need To Cover My Grass Seeds?

Though it is not absolutely necessary to cover grass seed once it’s been planted, most landscapers agree that you will generally get better results if you do so.
It is a common misconception that, if you leave newly planted grass seeds uncovered, hungry birds will flock to your lawn or your pasture and eat up all your hard work. It is highly unlikely that this will happen, but there are other reasons why you might consider covering your newly planted grass seed.

Topsoil protects grass seeds from drying out in the sun, from being washed away by thunderstorms, or blown away by strong winds. However, the most important benefit of topsoil is that it provides all the moisture and nutrients that grass seeds need to grow.

Required Nutrients and Moisture

Grass seeds in themselves do not have any roots or leaves. As such, they have no way to reach out for the required nutrients and moisture. This means that the only way they can receive their required nutrients and moisture is through physically touching the soil. This is where a layer of topsoil will help. But given that seeds also require light in order to grow, you don’t want to cover the seeds with too much soil. Though requirements will vary depending on the type of seeds, for most lawn grass seeds, consider covering with 1/8” of top soil using a light drag or a rake.

If you don’t want to use topsoil, seeds can also be covered with straw; though this can be a pain to clean up, and may result in unwanted weeds. Other alternatives include clear polyvinyl film and burlap.

How do I cover the seed once planted?

Use a light drag or rake. Drags are usually homemade with chain link fence and 4x4 posts. Any means of lightly sifting the seed into the top 1/4 to 1/2 inch. If applying top soil be sure that the seed is not deeper than 1/4 to 1/2 inch.

How often should I water my yard after seeding?

Fresh planted seeds should be watered on a daily basis. If you choose to water your lawn after seeding you MUST continue watering until the grass has reached 4 to 6 inches in height. Watering in the late afternoon or evening will maximize your watering and increase germination. Failure to continue watering after the seedlings have emerged can result in the seedling drying out and potentially dying.

What herbicide should I use to kill weeds?

Contact your local fertilizer company for recommendations pertaining to your specific grass variety.

What is the better Bahia grass seed for my yard?

Argentine Bahia grass is the most appealing Bahia variety due to it has a wider blade, darker green appearance, denser root system, little to no seed sprout production and it is not as tough on your mower as Pensacola Bahia grass.

What is the seed rate for a pasture?

20-100 pounds per acre, depending on what type seed you want to plant and how fast you want it to establish a sod. Heavier seed rates will decrease the time it takes to establish full coverage.

What is the seed rate for a yard?

  • Bahia ~ 5-10 pounds per 1000 sq. ft.
  • Bermuda ~ 3-5 pounds per 1000 sq. ft.
  • Centipede ~ 2-3 pounds per 1000 sq. ft.
  • Zoysia ~ 2-3 pounds per 1000 sq. ft.
  • Seashore Paspalum ~ 2-3 pounds per 1000 sq. ft.

When is it safe to allow my animals to graze my pasture?

Normal rule of thumb is after you have mowed the pasture twice. Mowing will strengthen the grasses root system and promote root growth. If you are planning to graze animals in the first 60 days be sure to fertilizer with a minimum of 300 lbs. per acre of a good mixed fertilizer. A 16-04-08 fertilizer is a good all around choice.

When is it safe to mow after seeding?

Mow when the grass has reached 3 to 4 inches in height. Mowing earlier could damage the young seedlings.

When is the best time to plant?

Perennial grasses (Bahia, Bermuda, Zoysia, Centipede) require 65 degree soil temperatures to activate the germination process. It is safe to plant anytime the soil temperature is constantly above 65 degrees. The ideal planting time is between April and September. Planting during the early spring, late fall or winter can result in slow germination of perennial grasses and possible frost damage. It is safe to plant Un-hulled Bermuda and Bahia varieties during the colder months. These varieties will not germinate until the soil temperatures reach a constant 65 degrees for a few weeks. Planting prior to expected rainfall is a good way to increase the germination process.

When should I fertilize my yard or pasture?

Spread your fertilizer out with your seed for best results. Young seedlings need nutrients to get started and establish a root system.

  • Starter: A good starter fertilizer to use is a 16-04-08 at 5 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. 
  • Established Grasses:
    • Fertilize with a 16-04-08 at 5 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. in the Spring generally after the last frost,
    • mid summer in June / July
    • and again in September / October.

Fertilizing is imperative to establishing and maintaining a healthy lawn or pasture.

Where can I have my soil tested?

University of Florida Soil Lab
Contact your local county extension agent for other soil labs in your specific area.

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