Why seed? Making a new lawn from seed is the cheapest and easiest way but does take longer than turf and is not for the impatient or instant gardener. Different types and qualities of seed are available for different situations, and seed will keep until weather conditions are exactly right for sowing – unlike turf which needs laying promptly.
Step 1: Preparation
Autumn is the best time to sow a new lawn as the soil is warmer and seed germinates quicker. Autumn rains avoid the need to water and the lawn will be ready to use the next summer.
Preparation begins about three months before sowing by completely clearing weeds and vegetation, and any rubbish and bricks. Remove pieces of buried wood as these will produce toadstools when rotting down.
Step 2: Dig over
Break up the soil by digging to at least 225mm (9in). Break up any compacted soil well if you suspect poor drainage.
If the soil is poor add well rotted manure or compost. If the soil is heavy add lots of grit to improve soil structure and drainage.
Test the soil with a soil-testing kit. The ideal soil pH is between 5.5 and 6. If your soil is very acid (below pH 5) apply ground limestone at about 50g/metre squared (2oz/yard squared) to correct.
Level the site, breaking up large lumps of soil and removing stones.
Step 3: Firm the soil
Thoroughly firm the ground by walking slowly over the site on your heels. Lightly rake level.
Top dress with a general all-purpose fertiliser, either Grow more or an organic equivalent. You’ll need about 50g/metre squared (2oz/yard squared). Lightly rake in.
Wait a few weeks for the inevitable weed seedlings, then spray with weed killer. Repeat until clear.
Step 4: Sowing
Obtain an appropriate seed mix. You can choose an ornamental, hard-wearing or shade tolerant mix. Calculate the area of your new lawn and buy sufficient seed at a sowing rate of 40g/metre squared (1.5oz/yard squared), which is approximately one handful per metre squared (yard squared).
Choose a day after rain but when the surface is drying out. Gently rake over to loosen the top surface.
Mix the seed with dry soil or sand to spread further. Divide the mix in half and sow the complete area with one half moving from right to left. Then sow the other half moving from front to back, to ensure even coverage. Sow by marking out squares and scattering handfuls at a time or hire a seed drill.
Step 5: Protect from birds
Lightly rake over the surface again to cover some of the seeds and protect from birds with plastic netting – or use fleece for speedier germination. Alternatively, criss-cross the area with black cotton held about 150mm (6in) above ground level between canes.
If no rain falls within a few days use a lawn sprinkler to gently water the surface. Once the seeds are growing well, remove netting.
When the grass is about 75mm (3in) high make the first light cut but remove no more than the top 1/3 of the growth. Continue cutting as normal thereafter.