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Growing Healthy Turf from Seed

This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook explains how to grow grass from seed

Roger Cook and lawn seeding
Photo by Anthony Tieuli, (seeding) Kindra Clineff

Three years ago, I leveled a low spot in the lawn with 1 to 2 inches of topsoil, and now grass won't grow there. I reseed the spot in the spring, but it doesn't come back after the winter. What should I do?
Steve Montone, Windsor, N.Y.


It's really not that difficult to grow healthy turf from seed, as long as you provide the right conditions for it to germinate and thrive.

Maybe there's something wrong with the soil you used. Grass prefers topsoil rich in organic matter and with a pH between 6 and 7. A soil test will tell you whether you need to amend or replace what you have.

Or maybe you inadvertently planted an annual ryegrass, which doesn't survive the winter. Look for a cool-season perennial species, such as tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass, and don't forget to check the date on the bag to make sure the seed is fresh.

The real problem, I suspect, is your timing. You'll probably have better luck if you plant the seeds in the early fall, when rainfall is plentiful, weeds are in decline, the ground is warm, and the air is cooler. Just provide consistent moisture during the four to six weeks it takes for the seeds to sprout and become established, and you'll be rewarded with a thick stand of fresh green seedlings that should bounce back next spring.

Or plant sod, if you don't mind the expense, and water it liberally until its roots take hold.

— This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook


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