No question but rolling out a carpet of sod is the quickest way to a beautiful lawn. But sod can get expensive, especially if your lawn is going to cover a large area. The alternative is seeding the area yourself, either by hand or with a method called hydroseeding, which has recently become quite popular. Hydroseeding solves one of the main problems of hand seeding: even dispersal of seeds. The grass seed — a mix of varieties blended for your climate and the type of use your lawn will get — is mixed into a pulp made from virgin wood fibers, fertilizer and binding agents.
When it comes to sharing lawn secrets, the first one is mowing height. Most people mow their lawns way too short, which stresses out the grass. We recommend raising the mower to the highest possible notch so you’re mowing only the top third of the grass when you cut. Taller grass promotes better root development and shads the ground so it doesn’t dry out as fast. An added benefit: the taller grass blocks the sun that weed seeds require to germinate.
Water only once a week, but water thoroughly. A weekly soaking helps roots extend deeper into the soil, while frequent shallow waterings tend to lead to thatch, that unsightly web of dry brown runners just above the soil. To figure out how much water your lawn needs, take your soil type into account: sandy soils dry out faster, while clay soils hold moisture longer and don’t require watering as often.
For a newly seeded lawn, water every day for five to 10 minutes only. Your goal is to dampen the seeds without causing runoff that might wash them away or mar the surface with gullies. After the seeds sprout and the new grass is a half inch tall, water once a day for 15 to 20 minutes.
Even the healthiest lawn needs to be fed. Twice a year, spring and fall, is the bare minimum we recommend for fertilization, though some add a feeding in the middle of the summer. But beware the common N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphate-potassium) fertilizers popular with most gardener centers; they don’t provide everything your hungry grass needs. Instead, we recommends a complete fertilizer that includes micronutrients such as sulfur, copper and iron. In addition to regular fertilizing, we recommends an application of lime every few years. This is because watering and fertilizing cause soil to become acidic over time and lime restores the pH while putting important minerals like calcium and magnesium back into the soil. In some Western areas, soils are naturally alkaline and may not have this problem, so it’s best to test your soil’s pH first.