Grass Seed 101: Recap & Recommendations

Meredith Gaines — Sep 21, 2022

Now that you’ve completed our Grass Seed 101 Course, let’s recap. As you’ve probably noticed, there’s a lot that goes into a green lawn, but your efforts will not be without reward! A yard of grass has wonderful benefits for both you and the environment, the largest one being carbon dioxide mitigation. Like all plants, grass takes in carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. So, as you go about your day in your car and just breathe, grass (and all other plants) is working hard to make sure we have enough oxygen in our atmosphere.

Grass also helps your property by preventing erosion and keeping the temperature of your soil and air cooler, allowing for more plants to grow. It provides the perfect backdrop for most landscapes while boosting curb appeal. There are so many more benefits to growing and investing time in your lawn, so know the work that you put up front into establishing or repairing yours will not be wasted. 

Tools of the Trade

If you’ve been in a hardware store lately you might have been confused by the sheer number of tools and gadgets available for lawn care. Below is a list of the most common tools and their uses, so take a look and see which ones might be right for your yard. 

lawn tools

  • Sprinkler: If you don't want to spend 30 or more minutes holding your hose, invest in a good quality sprinkler to save water and deliver it evenly to both new and established lawns.
  • Tiller: There are both machine and hand tillers, but they do the same thing–break up compacted soil. You can also use these on garden beds.
  • Lawnmower: There are countless options of lawnmowers to choose from, but our recommendation is to look at reviews and see what you need based on your yard. For larger yards, it might be worth getting a riding mower as opposed to a push one. 
  • String Trimmer or Weed Wacker: the secret to a well-manicured lawn is neat edges. You can use an edging machine, but most of the time a string trimmer is all you need to not only freshen up the edges of your lawn but reach the areas that the mower can fit.
  • Rake: Having a good rake is something no one should take for granted. Get yourself one with metal teeth to remove thatch, lawn clippings, and leaves. A rake is one of the tools you’ll use most of the year.
  • Spreader: Unless you’re fixing some patches of grass, you’ll greatly appreciate the ease of a spreader. There are handheld and push versions that can be used to evenly disperse seed and fertilizer. 
  • Aerator: You might not need this when starting your lawn, but down the road, it's a good tool to have. You can find a variety of spiky-looking tools to aerate your lawn, from a hand tool that you push down to a spinning wheel. As with a lawnmower, look at how much lawn you have and make the best choice for you. 

Finding the Perfect Seed

The best kind of grass is the one that fits your areas and needs. Think about what you want out of your lawn and follow the charts below if you’re still having trouble narrowing down your options. 

grass map

cool season grass map

transition zone map

warm season zone

When Things Aren’t Going Right

If you’re feeling like you’re doing everything you should and still have a less-than-desired lawn, look at your soil. The best thing you can do is get an official soil test through your local extension office. However, getting a page of numbers and symbols back might leave you even more confused about which direction to go in. So, instead, consider digging up some dirt and doing an at-home test.

Squish Test

For the squish test, you need to take around a handful of moist soil and squeeze it in your fist. If you open your fist but your soil stays compressed, you have a fair amount of clay. If you open your hand and your soil crumbles apart, then you have a lot of sand. If you squeeze and the clump stays together but will crumble with some help, that’s loam (equal parts sand and clay).

Context Clues

If you don’t need to know all the specifics from a soil test you can always look around to see what soil you have. Asking your local garden or extension centers can help, or you can look at what’s growing well in your area. For example, pine trees that are thriving indicate acidic soil!

The ideal soil is one that has a finely milled texture (clumps the size of peas) with around 6-8 inches of healthy topsoil, high organic matter, and balanced nutrient and mineral content. 

soil nutrients

Lawn Alternatives

Sometimes you have to be real with yourself. If you look around your area and see no grass growing you might have to look in a different direction. You can still get the feeling and lots of the benefits of a lawn without the actual grass. 

Try clover if you live in an area with strict water restrictions, poor soil quality, or shade. Clover might be viewed as a weed, but this little plant not only gives you a soft and green lawn; it also helps your local bees! Clover can be mowed just like other lawns but is a great solution if the grass isn't working out. A bonus is that it’s pet friendly too!

Thyme is a great option to bring a delicious scent to your yard and would work in areas that are full of sun. Expect petite flowers and a creeping nature to fill in areas along walkways and borders. Plus, it holds up well to foot traffic and won't attract deer. 

For heavily shaded areas, you can use moss. It feels heavenly underfoot and is great for placing between pavers or in areas where the soil never seems to be dry, providing a lush green color similar to grass but without mowing or fertilizing. 

moss lawn

Embrace native plants and use ornamental grasses to frame your landscape. While it might not be a full green lawn, you’re still incorporating grass and textures. Try creeping varieties that stay low and offer green cover to your ground. 

Create a meadow with wildflowers and other natives to create a dreamy landscape that’s full of variety and pollinators. Research wildflower mixes for your area and scatter the seed just like you would grass to make your very own meadow. And make it cozier by planting perennials on the edges. 

Other options include Corsican Mint, Sedges, Creeping Wire Vine, Sedum, Woodruff, and Creeping Jenny. Don’t limit yourself, and get creative! 

wildflower garden

FAQs

For more helpful grass seed info, check out the frequently asked questions below. 

We just moved into a new house, and I have no clue what kind of grass is planted there. How do I tell?

Depending on the condition of your lawn, it might not matter. If you need to reseed your entire lawn, for example, the type of grass that was already there won’t be of importance. But, if you’re looking to make some repairs rather than a complete overhaul, you’ll want to match the new grass to the current grass. If this is the case, ask the previous owner of your home if they know the grass type, or you can use context clues. Find out what grasses grow in your area (cool season or warm season grasses), and look at what makes them unique. From there, you can take a closer look at your lawn and try to match your grass. Another suggestion is to ask your neighbors if you notice they have the same kind of grass. 

Do I have to fertilize my grass?

Yes and no. Just like with any plant, if you want it to grow strongest, then yes, feeding your lawn or leaving the grass clippings to put nitrogen back into the soil will help it stay lush. However, if you miss fertilizing one year, your lawn won’t parish–it just might be less lush.

Should I get my lawn treated?

It’s completely up to you and what you feel comfortable with. There are several companies that will happily treat your lawn for mosquitoes and other pests and issues if you desire. Ask questions, look into what will be applied to your lawn, and make the right decision for you. 

My grass stopped growing. Am I doing something wrong?

If your grass has slowed down or stopped growing, it might not be your fault. Grass will try to conserve its energy in times where conditions aren’t optimal like during times of drought or cold temperatures. If you’re in a dry spell, give your lawn a deep watering, and if you’re in fall, let your lawn go dormant and enjoy the break from mowing as often.

So, how much grass seed do I actually need?

You’ll have to do some math for this one or be really great at estimating. The easiest way to calculate is to make some rough estimates by measuring the borders of your yard or the area that you’re seeding. Next, use these measurements to figure out the area, and read the label on the grass seed to see how much area one bag covers. Or, just use our calculator found on any of our grass seed pages!

Stop dreaming of your perfect lawn and bring it to life! Yes, it will require some work up front and issues might pop up along the way, but there are also lots of resources available to help you out. Start by evaluating what you have and researching what kind of grass best suits you and your area, and you’re halfway there. You no longer have to be intimidated by a lush green yard because you’re ready to create your own! And we’re here to help every step of the way on your grass journey, so take a look back at all of our grass seed guides and get started. It’s time to make those neighbors jealous. :)  

 backyard

Plus, be sure to check out our grass seed recommendations and the helpful tools you’ll need to plant and care for your brand new lawn, below! 

    Meredith Gaines

    Meredith's love for plants started at a young age, and only grew when she started working in the Desert Exhibit at the South Carolina Botanical Gardens and the Historic Filoli Estate in the Bay Area. After graduating from Clemson University (GO TIGERS!) with a degree in Biology and Horticulture, she found her niche in the FastGrowingTrees.com family as a horticulturist and has grown in her current role as Senior Plant Expert.

    She currently resides in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, and enjoys spending any time she can outdoors. She learns new things about plants every day and loves sharing her plant knowledge and tips with those around her. Her favorite plant is constantly changing, but her long-time favorites are peonies, oak trees, and ferns.

    Questions? Contact Meredith at information@fastgrowingtrees.com.

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