How to Prepare Soil for Grass Seed
There are no secrets when it comes to successfully sowing grass seed, but it all must start with good preparation. Sowing seed into a well-prepared seed bed will improve seed germination times and help to ensure more even establishment over the whole area. Our easy to follow guide outlines the steps you may need to take to get the best results. If you still have some questions, feel free to contact us and we would be glad to help.
Step 1 – Clear existing vegetation
The area will first need to be cleared of any vegetation such as existing grass or unwanted plants. For areas of existing grass, it is possible to kill off the grass using a glyphosate-based herbicide*, allowing the existing grass to die and begin to rot down. It is then possible to rotavate or dig in the old grass and sow seed into the treated area as glyphosate does not affect subsequent seed germination.
Before the seed is sown, it is an ideal opportunity to prune back any trees, bushes or shrubs that are encroaching or that may begin to encroach in the following years. Seed will not germinate as well in areas that are affected by surrounding plants. This can be due to shade causing the area to be colder or plants' roots causing the soil to rapidly dry out.
Step 2 – Cultivate the soil
The soil will require cultivating to a depth of approximately 50-100mm. This will create an ideal environment for the seed to germinate and for the new roots to develop, anchoring the plant and sourcing nutrients and water as they move through the soil.
For smaller areas, the soil can be turned over with a hand fork or with a small pedestrian rotavator. This will leave a very rough surface, so the soil will require ‘treading in’ to break up the lumps of soil and to gently firm it back down. It will then require raking over to smooth over any remaining lumps to create a level surface. For larger areas when machinery can be used, a rotavator will create an ideal seed bed. In difficult soil conditions it may be necessary to make multiple passes with the rotavator to break up the soil.
Key to successful cultivation is soil moisture levels. Too wet and the soil may become sticky and unworkable; too dry and it may simply become too hard to work with tools or machinery. This is particularly so on clay soils where it may be necessary to plan in advance and wait for an opportunity when ground conditions are favourable.
When cultivating the soil, it is very likely that you will bring stones and maybe roots to the surface. In the worst-case scenario, you may find bigger items of debris such as bricks! These of course need to be removed, but raking off as many smaller stones as possible is important as these can damage mowers when it comes to giving the grass its first cut.
Step 3 – Control emerging weeds
In any areas of land there will be a significant volume of weed seeds naturally present in the soil. Even topsoil that is purchased and brought in from off-site will still contain weed seeds. If it is apparent that weed growth is likely to be a problem, it is possible to control them before sowing. Once an area of soil is prepared it can be left for a period to allow for the first flush of weeds to come through. These can either be removed by hand or for larger areas treated with a glyphosate-based herbicide*.
Once all of this is done, you are ready to sow the seed.
*Herbicides should always be used in accordance with the product label and by qualified individuals where required. For specific guidance on the suitability and use of herbicides, please contact the supplier or manufacturer of the product.