Any other grass farmers out there?

Right now is the middle of the fall window for starting grass seed in the Chicago area. Cool nights, warm sunny days.

I always find planting grass seed an interesting - and yes I’m a dork - somewhat exciting proposition. Every time I do it, it always seems preposterous to think that the tilled soil will son become a verdant lawn. Oddly seems to involve a degree of trust that I can make this “miracle” predictably occur in my yard. Moreover, my “survival of the fittest” approach to gardening inhibits me from coddling my infant seedlings over much.

Anyone else engaging in this great adventure right about now? Do you do anything special to prepare the soil? Buy any fancy seed? What is your watering schedule? Any success? How long to germination? First mow?

I planted 2 areas in my back yard last Sunday, 9/28 where we reworked the boundaries of our gardens. Used a mix of red fescue, sun and shade mix, and perennial rye. Didn’t amend the soil, which was good quality, friable black loam. Just cultivated and raked it (relatively) smooth. Broadcast the seed by hand, and worked it in with the back of the rake. Did not cover/mulch.

Plan is to water at least once a day - morning or night - preferably both. I predict germination in 10 days - on Oct 8. Probably won’t mow those areas until - hmm - Halloween weekend.

Yes - I am so incredibly boring that I get enjoyment out of watching grass grow!

Wow. I am clearly doing it all wrong.

Does dumping seed on the bare spots and hoping nature takes over count? It’s actually worked pretty well for me. When I bought my house 5 years ago, the yard was a jungle that the County would occasionally come out and cut back. It’s gone from mostly weeds to mostly grass. I simply overseed in spring and fall, and fertilize twice a year. The crabgrass is Satan’s pet, so I’ve had some problems on that front. But currently I can yell to my neighbor that the grass is in fact greener on my side of the fence.

      • Kinda off topic, but when I drove through northern Arkansas once there were many sod farms. HUGE fields, as a mile or more per side, with nothing but grass growing–perfect, pure grass. Kinda odd to me: where I live is food crops, often corn that is too tall to see over.

Yet another reason I want to buy a house-- to plant grass and watch it grow.

Guess I’m a dork too.


Here’s my seeding dance, paraphrased from James Crockett’s Victory Garden book.

  1. Scratch the area with a garden rake. Pick up and throw out as many rocks as you care to. If the area is bare, you can even do a shallow pass with a rototiller. You want at least 1/4 inch of loose dirt.

  2. Broadcast the seed generously. The seed, by the way, should be the best available for your kind of lawn (sunny or shady.) Cheaper seed has more weed seed; why plant weeds?

  3. Scratch with the rake again to mix seed and soil.

  4. Walk on it to compress the seeds; they germinate better that way.

  5. Cover loosely with straw. This hides the seed from birds, and it will shade the tender seedlings while they’re young and weak.

  6. Water every day. New roots are very shallow, and a dry day can kill half your crop.

  7. When the new grass gets a solid start, pull off the straw or simply mow it.

I do the bare spots in my lawn pretty much as stated by AskNott, except I use a light layer of fine peat moss rather than straw.