Everybody loves an attractive lawn, but lawns do more than just look pretty. They help the soil by cutting down on erosion. Lawns both absorb rainwater and act as a filter for groundwater. They are also instrumental in improving air quality, both by producing oxygen and absorbing particles such as dust. With around a dozen different kinds of grass seeds available to homeowners, starting or reseeding a lawn can be intimidating. This guide will walk you through some of the points you'll need to keep in mind before tackling your next lawn project.
Considerations when choosing grass seeds
Consider the area
Whether you're starting from scratch with a new lawn, reseeding an old one, or just trying to fill in the occasional bare spot, you'll need to study the area first. Does it receive full sun, or is it shady? What kind of climate do you live in? Will the area be highly trafficked by people and pets? Also, how much time and money will you be able to put into your lawn? Knowing the answers to these questions up front will help you narrow down what kind of grass to go with.
Types of grass seeds
Grass seeds generally fall into two basic types: warm season and cool season.
Warm-season grasses, such as Bermuda and St. Augustine, originated in the south and tend to grow better in warmer climates. The best time to plant these grass seeds is in the spring, although in southern areas you can also reseed in the winter for a green lawn year-round. Some warm-season grasses can only be grown from sod or grass sprigs.
Cool-season grasses originated in the north and include such common types as Kentucky Bluegrass and Ryegrass. It's best to plant these grass seeds in the late summer or early fall, and they generally grow the fastest in the spring and fall. All cool-season grasses can be grown from seeds.
Single variety vs. blends
You'll also need to choose whether you want to go with one specific type of grass seed or a blend. Go with a single variety if you're in search of a specific visual "look" for your lawn. Single-variety lawns can be more difficult for homeowners to pull off, but the effects can be stunning.
Blends, whether different grasses from the same species or a combination of species, offer you more options and in general provide better results. Some grass seed blends are disease- or drought-resistant, and they often grow a more uniform lawn. You can also pick up repair blends that combine the seeds with fertilizer and mulch to more easily reseed bare spots and other problem areas.
The price of grass seeds can vary considerably depending on what type you want and how much you're buying. While a larger lawn project will obviously cost you more in seed, by buying in bulk you'll save considerably over buying smaller quantities like one- to three-pound bags. If you are buying in smaller amounts, prepare to pay anywhere from $4 to $12 a pound, depending on the type of seed.
Q. Do grass seeds expire?
A. Grass seeds do have an expiration date. To achieve the best results, try to avoid planting seed that is over 10 months past the expiration date.
Q. I've got my grass seeds. Now what?
A. Work the soil with a hoe or other sharp tool, and remove any rocks or plants. Rake in any organic matter and fertilizer that you'll be using, and then sow the seeds over the area and rake them in about 1/8 inch deep. Mulch with straw, and water daily. When the grass sprouts, start watering more heavily but less often. At three inches, remove the straw and start lightly mowing your new grass. It is also best to rope off the lawn during growth to limit foot and pet traffic.
Grass seeds we recommend
Best of the best: Jonathan Green 40322 Black Beauty Ultra Grass Seed
Our take: A hardy grass that is both attractive and thrives in a variety of climates.
What we like: This grass seed blend is fast-germinating and includes varieties like Kentucky Bluegrass, rye, and fescue. It's heat- and insect-resistant.
What we dislike: Some buyers have reported problems with germinating.
Best bang for your buck: Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Sun and Shade Mix
Our take: An affordable and versatile grass seed blend that thrives in shade and sun.
What we like: These seeds have a protective coating that allows them to grow in both sun and shade. It's a sturdy, high-traffic blend.
What we dislike: It's not a great option for southern regions with long, hot growing seasons.
Our take: A grass seed mix for shady lawns that has a satisfaction guarantee.
What we like: It germinates quickly and grows in both sun and deep shade. The company guarantees this blend.
What we dislike: Some buyers have problems with spotty growth. This mix may grow more slowly in northern areas.
Rich Gray is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.