Skip to Content

Avoid These 10 Common Mistakes When Planting Grass Seed Full Guide of 2023

This site is supported by our readers. We may earn a commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase through links.

mistakes to avoid when planting grass seedMy fellow green thumb, I see you’ve stumbled into the thorny bramble of lawn care mistakes.

We’ve all been there before, seeds in hand, hopes held high, only to watch our fledgling turf wither in the unforgiving sun.

Focus now on timing, preparation, and seed selection. Test your soil, till thoroughly, and keep weeds at bay.

Grass thrives when properly fed, so apply an appropriate fertilizer once established. Patience and persistence will reward you. Soon your vibrant Kentucky bluegrass will cushion bare feet and withstand play.

You can master lawn care and create a refuge, right in your own backyard.

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing the wrong grass seed for the climate can result in patchy, sparse turf.
  • Mixing grass varieties like fescues and bluegrass can create thicker, hardier turf.
  • Planting at the recommended depth ensures ideal moisture retention.
  • Providing consistent moisture and proper watering is crucial for the germination and establishment of new seeds.

Planting Grass Seed at the Wrong Time

Planting Grass Seed at the Wrong Time
You’d end up with patchy germination if you sowed the seed midsummer when it’s too hot. The ideal times are spring and fall when temperatures are between 60-75°F. Summer heat stresses tender new grass.

The scorching sun dries out the top layer before roots develop. Without an established root system, young grass withers and dies in the heat.

Wait for cooler weather. Prep the site by tilling and raking smooth. Use a quality grass seed blend suited for sun/shade and traffic. Mix in starter fertilizer. Sow at 1/4 inch depth. Water gently twice daily until sprouted.

Mistakes like poor timing, choice of grass type, soil prep, planting depth, and improper watering cause failure. Be patient, start at the right time, and tend the new lawn carefully in those critical early weeks.

Choosing the Wrong Grass Seed

Choosing the Wrong Grass Seed
One of the fastest ways to make a lawn go south is to choose the incorrect grass species for your region’s growing zone and sun exposure. Before heading to the store, evaluate your lawn’s site conditions – soil type, sun exposure, traffic, and intended use.

Select a grass suited to these needs, whether it’s a single variety like Kentucky bluegrass or a seed blend. Use quality seed from a reputable supplier, which is paramount. Store seeds in a cool, dry place and stick to the expiration date.

Rushing to buy bargain seed can lead to sparse germination and weeds dominating. Take time to research grass species ideal for your climate and your lawn’s unique growing environment.

Neglecting to Remove Debris and Weeds

Neglecting to Remove Debris and Weeds
Don’t let dead leaves and nasty weeds stick around before spreading your seed. A clean start is essential for lush grass.

First, mow the existing lawn short and bag the clippings.

Next, thoroughly dethatch to lift matted layers of debris.

An aeration pass punches holes for better seed contact and rooting.

Adjust soil acidity and nutrients through testing to set up prime growing conditions.

Now apply a non-selective herbicide to wipe out tenacious weeds; pernicious bindweed and thistles will choke out tender new growth if ignored.

Hand pull stray sprouts after a week.

Select a quality grass seed suited to sun, shade, and traffic.

With diligent preparation and aftercare, you’ll be rewarded with an emerald carpet free of lumpy debris and invasive weeds.

Not Testing the Soil

Not Testing the Soil
You can wind up with a grass lawn that fails by ignoring a critical first step – analyzing your soil’s nutrients and pH before planting. Many simply grab some grass seed and spread it without testing the soil. This sets you up for sparse, patchy turf or rapid decline.

Before planting, send soil samples to a lab for testing. Check pH and key nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Evaluate drainage by digging a hole and filling it with water to see the infiltration rate.

Apply proper amendments like lime to adjust pH, fertilizer to correct deficiencies, and compost to improve structure.

Test different areas separately, such as shady versus sunny spots. Armed with your soil test results, you can select suitable grass varieties and fertilizers to establish a lush lawn. Proper preparation results in vigorous seed germination, root development, and sustained turf health over time.

Don’t skip this important first step.

Incorrectly Applying Grass Seed

Incorrectly Applying Grass Seed
When sowing a new lawn from seed or overseeding an existing lawn, it’s crucial to apply the grass seed properly for optimal germination and growth. Avoid common mistakes like uneven spreading, which causes patchy growth. Also, make sure to use the correct amount of seed to prevent thin or thick turf.

Additionally, ensure good seed-to-soil contact by gently raking after spreading or rolling the seeded areas. These simple steps, such as carefully calibrating your spreader and using the recommended seed rate for your grass type and lawn size, will give your grass seeds the best start.

Sowing a New Lawn From Seed

You’re planting a new lawn from seed, so spread the seeds evenly and at the proper depth for maximum germination. Prepare the soil, remove weeds, and aerate deeply before sowing at the recommended rate.

Ensure good seed-to-soil contact for moisture retention. Gently water twice daily until sprouting. Avoid old seed, dense shade, and too much traffic. Select a grass species suited to your climate and conditions.

Proper preparation prevents poor germination and patchy growth. Healthy grass starts with quality seed and diligent care.

Over Seeding an Existing Lawn

When sprucing up your lawn, remember to first dethatch before scattering new seeds all around. Before overseeding, prep the ground by removing the thatch layer to let seeds reach the soil. Mow short, then rake to lift dead grass and weeds. A dethatching rake works wonders before seeding.

Control weeds, then give the bare spots a sprinkling of starter fertilizer to feed young ones.

Improper Seed Depth

Improper Seed Depth
Burying the seed too deep or too shallow impedes germination, so precisely place it 1/4 inch down for the grass to grow.

Overwatering emerges the seeds, washing them away, while sparse coverage results if planted too deep for the sprouts to reach sunlight.

Protect newly sprouted seedlings by lightly sprinkling more seeds over patches, ensuring even dispersal critical for uniform growth.

Inadvertent planting too shallow risks drying out and prevents the tender shoots from anchoring below the surface.

Adjust the sowing depth for your soil type, gently pressing seeds into loosened topsoil.

With the proper 1/4 inch depth, regular moistening, and protection from harsh elements, you’ll soon enjoy a lush carpet of grass.

Inadequate Watering

Inadequate Watering
With too little water, the seeds shrivel and rot. To ensure adequate moisture, use a moisture meter to check soil moisture levels in the root zone. Aim to keep the top few inches of soil moist, not saturated. Set up a spike irrigation system on a timer if rainfall is insufficient.

Water new grass seed at least twice daily in the morning and late afternoon. Let the soil dry slightly between waterings to encourage deeper root growth. Shallow, frequent sprinkling leads to shallow roots. Monitor rainfall and reduce watering accordingly.

Invest in an automatic irrigation system on a timer to provide consistent moisture. Proper watering technique is crucial during germination and establishment for a lush, healthy lawn.

Forgetting to Prepare the Ground

Forgetting to Prepare the Ground
Before you start planting grass seed, it’s crucial to prepare the ground thoroughly. You’ll need to till and level the soil for a new lawn, removing any debris, rocks, or weeds. For overseeding existing turf, test the thatch layer depth and scarify as needed to allow good seed-to-soil contact.

Proper soil preparation encourages deeper root development and allows for even distribution of seeds for optimal germination.

Preparing the Soil for a New Lawn

You’ll be kicking yourself later if you neglect testing and amending the soil before planting that lush green carpet. Run a soil test for pH and nutrients. Adjust acidity with lime if needed for most grasses.

Work in compost to enrich soil life. Till thoroughly before laying sod or seed to prep the root zone. Remember, grass is only as healthy as the ground it grows in. Take time to prep soil right, and you’ll be rewarded with thick, green turf for years.

Preparing the Ground for Over Seeding a Lawn

Dethatch your lawn thoroughly before overseeding to remove dead grass and allow new seedlings to take root. Scarify the soil before seeding and core aerate compacted soil to open it up. Ensure you remove any thatch layer, then loosen and till the soil.

This preparation provides the ideal seedbed for your new grass by ensuring flat, level ground for even germination.

Neglecting to Apply Fertilizer

Neglecting to Apply Fertilizer
Forget fertilizing after planting and your new grass risks slow establishment, weak roots, and susceptibility to weeds and disease. Shockingly, over 80% of homeowners neglect proper fertilization when planting new seed.

Here are 5 crucial fertilizer mistakes to avoid for a lush green lawn:

  1. Assuming the soil has enough nutrients already. Test soil and amend before seeding.
  2. Applying too much nitrogen too soon. Use balanced starter fertilizer only.
  3. Broadcasting instead of targeted feeding. Fertilize new grass directly.
  4. Using quick-release synthetic fertilizers. Choose slow-release organics.
  5. Failing to fertilize regularly after germination. Fertilize weekly at 1/4 rate.

Proper fertilization is vital when planting grass seed to supply essential nutrients, boost root development, and crowd out weeds. Test soil beforehand and fertilize new seedlings lightly but frequently. Organic fertilizers like milorganite provide a steady nutrient release without burn risk.

Remember to continue fertilizing at the right times after establishing your new lush lawn.

Common Lawn Care Mistakes

Common Lawn Care Mistakes
There are many common mistakes that can ruin a beautiful lawn. Choosing the wrong grass seed type for your climate, planting only one type of grass, and scalping the lawn too short can all lead to patchy, sparse turf.

You’ll also want to avoid overwatering, watering at the hottest time of day, and mowing with dull blades. And when it comes to fertilizer, applying too much or fertilizing at the wrong time of year are mistakes to steer clear of.

Finally, don’t forget to leave your clippings on the lawn, as they provide free fertilizer and mulch. Avoid these missteps, and you’ll be rewarded with a lush, green carpet all season long.

Choosing the Wrong Grass Seed Type

Pickin’ the wrong grass seeds for your region’s weather leaves your lawn lookin’ patchy and sad. Selectin’ the proper grass type starts with knowin’ your plantin’ zone and average seasonal temperatures.

Cool-season grasses like fescue and bluegrass thrive in cooler climates, while warm-season varieties like bermuda and zoysia favor hotter southern regions. Don’t just grab any ol’ grass seed off the shelf without checkin’ it’ll flourish in your area’s conditions.

Grass Type Climate Uses
Bermuda Hot Full sun
Fescue Cool Shade tolerance
Zoysia Warm Traffic resistance

The right grass makes your lawn lush. Pickin’ seeds suited to your region’s weather prevents patchy, unfillable bare spots.

Planting Only One Type of Seed

Buy a mixture of seeds like fescue and bluegrass for a thicker turf. Planting just one grass type leaves your lawn prone to disease and environmental stresses. Mixing varieties like shade-tolerant fescues and drought-resistant bluegrass creates a hardy, lush lawn.

Buy premium seeds from reputable suppliers and plant in the fall when cooler temperatures aid germination. Water new seeds frequently but avoid oversaturating. Let seedlings reach 3 inches before mowing high.

Scalping the Lawn

Keep those blades high, friend, lest you starve your turf. Scalping severs crucial photosynthesizing blades, leaving grass weak and moss-prone. Let fescue reach three inches before gently mowing to one-third height. This strengthens roots, encouraging deep water penetration.

Adjust mower height for conditions – higher during drought, lower when soggy. Sharp blades prevent tearing for clean cuts. Aerate compacted areas pre-seeding so tender sprouts thrive, then test soil composition before choosing regional grass varieties.


Soften the strain by giving your grains just enough rain. drowns roots, invites pests and diseases. Compacts soil, erodes topsoil, blocks sunlight from reaching leaves. Let soil dry between drinks. Test moisture before adding more wet. Give her a chance to breathe, drain well, and thirst for the next round.

Watering at the Wrong Time of Day

Don’t get caught watering your lawn in the heat of the day, as this leads to rapid evaporation before the water can fully soak into the soil. Instead, water in the early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler and winds are calmer.

This allows moisture to penetrate the soil without excessive evaporation. Follow a weekly watering schedule, adjusting for rainfall. Observe the grass for signs of stress. Install moisture sensors to determine soil needs precisely.

Mulching after seeding also helps retain moisture. Proper timing prevents waste, promotes deeper roots, and healthier grass.

Mowing With Dull Blades

You’re mangling your lawn using those ragged blades. Sharp mower blades cut grass cleanly, while dull ones tear and shred it. That invites disease, slows growth, and leaves brown frayed tips. Rotating sharp blades weekly or biweekly ensures a healthy, verdant lawn.

Proper mowing height and watering are key too. Sharpen before overmowing causes damage. Infrequent, deep watering develops deeper roots. Mind the details for a flawless carpet of green.

Applying Too Much Fertilizer

You over-fertilize and damage the grass. For example, your neighbor applies fertilizer every week instead of following package directions. Excess fertilizer salts burn grass roots, turning them brown. Don’t guess—have your soil tested and follow a tailored feeding program.

Use a properly calibrated spreader to apply the right amount. Organic and synthetic fertilizers both work if applied at the proper rate. Let clippings nourish the lawn. Test soil first and fertilize just 2-3 times per year.

Fertilizing at the Wrong Time

Try feeding your lawn during periods of rapid growth rather than during dormant seasons.

  • Fertilize in early spring as soil temperatures rise above 50°F.
  • Make a second application 4-6 weeks after spring greenup.
  • Fertilize again in fall when grass resumes growth.
  • Avoid summer fertilizing, which can burn grass.
  • Get a soil test to determine exact nutrient needs yearly.

Fertilizing at the right time when grass is actively growing allows the nutrients to be utilized for lush, green growth rather than wasted.

Bagging Lawn Clippings

Right now, ditch bagging those precious clippings since they’re green gold for feeding your lush, green lawn. Instead, let clippings decompose right on the grass. This natural recycling nourishes your turf, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers by up to 25%.

Clippings add organic matter to the soil, improving moisture retention and texture. Just be sure to mow regularly so clippings remain short. Your lawn will reap the rewards of this free fertilizer and natural mulch.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What type of grass seed grows best in shade?

Surprisingly, fine fescues thrive with just 4 hours of filtered sunlight daily. Go for finer-bladed when choosing seed, as broader types can’t photosynthesize sufficiently.

How long does it take for newly planted grass seed to germinate?

The time it takes for your grass seed to germinate depends on the type, but most sprout in 10-21 days. Keep the seeds moist and the soil above 60°F for the quickest results. Patience is key – resist overwatering or digging up the seeds to check them.

Can I plant grass seed in early spring or late fall?

Yes, you can plant grass seed in early spring or late fall when soil temperatures are above 10°C. The ideal times are when cooler temperatures and increased moisture help seeds germinate. Prepare the soil, buy quality seed suited for your conditions, sow at the proper depth, and keep seeds moist until established.

How often should I water grass seed after planting?

Water newly seeded grass lightly twice a day, around 8 AM and 5 PM, to keep the seed bed constantly moist but not saturated. Use a sprinkler or gentle mist setting to prevent washing away seeds. Adjust the duration based on weather and soil to maintain dampness in the top half-inch without puddling.

How do I know if I applied enough grass seed per square foot?

You’ll know you’ve applied enough grass seed if it’s evenly distributed at the recommended rate per square foot for your seed type. After planting, gently press seeds into the soil for good contact. Then keep it moist, not soaked, until sprouts emerge.


Reader, picture this – you’re lounging under the shade of a lush blanket of green grass, soaking in warm rays of sunlight on a perfect summer day. This grassy paradise is within reach if you avoid common pitfalls when planting seeds.

Focus on the right grass variety, test the soil, apply seeds correctly, water consistently, and nurture your new lawn with proper fertilization. Then you’ll be on your way to mistake-free landscaping success and the tranquil oasis of your dreams.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.