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The optimum time to sow grass seed is in the fall when the hottest days of summer have passed and winter is still a few months away. The second best time is in the spring when the weather is warm enough that there is no risk of frost. But what if you missed the opportunity in the spring and you don’t want to wait until next summer to enjoy new grass? Not to worry! It is possible to grow grass from seed in the summer. It takes a bit more time and attention, but the results are worth it. Perhaps there are some patches on your lawn that have gone bare from objects sitting too long, or maybe your neighbor's dog decided to christen the grass and now it’s brown.
Here are some things to watch for while sowing summer grass seed.
Whatever time of year you plant grass, the first thing to do is to prep your lawn. This is especially important in the summer because the lawn has already seen a lot of foot traffic while the weather has been getting warmer.
Heavy winds and rain from summer thunderstorms can knock branches and leaves onto your lawn. Remove rocks, leaves, and branches from your lawn before you seed. When you’re spreading, you want the seed to make contact with the dirt and any debris prevents that. Also remove any weeds so they don’t compete with the new grass.
Next, you want to rough up at least the top four inches of soil to loosen the soil and help get rid of the remainder of the weeds. In summer, your lawn gets more foot traffic and your soil becomes compacted. This makes it difficult for the tiny roots of the grass to penetrate the soil. Take a hard rake and till the soil. You can also add some commercial high-quality top soil and mix with your existing soil to give it some additional nutrients. Break up big chunks of dirt and remove any rocks that you dig up. Afterwards, use a leaf rake to level out the soil.
Spreading seed in the summer is no different than seeding in any other months. Find the right sun/shade mix, set the broadcast spreader to the correct setting and you’re ready to go. What you want to do differently in the summer is to watch the weather when you want to seed.
It’s hard to get a perfect stretch of days for your grass seed in the summer. Ideally, try to seed when there are a few consecutive cooler days. Extreme heat can be hard on your seedlings and also requires you to use more water. You also want to avoid days with too much rain, which, while great for your grass later, can wash away the seed you’ve sown into the low areas of your lawn, or off your lawn completely, leading to patchy grass and wasted seed. If the rain forms puddles on your lawn, seeds stuck underneath can become waterlogged and unable to grow.
Now that we’ve discussed trying to keep water off your lawn, let’s talk about how to water properly for the summer months. Before anything, check your local bylaws when it comes to summer watering. Some cities restrict watering in summer to prevent water shortages. If there is a watering restriction, check to see if there is an exception for new lawns.
Make a schedule for watering your lawn and stick to it as close as possible. Watering first thing in the morning is ideal because you can give the area a good soak and allow the sun to dry it. Water a second time later in the day after the sun has gone down. This will save on water costs, and will prevent the moisture that stays on the seeds from leading to disease and fungus. Use a watering can for small areas and the lightest setting on your hose or sprinkler if it’s a larger area. If the spray is too hard, it will wash away the seeds just like a hard rain.
With some hard work and time, your lawn can go from dry and patchy to rich and green before the summer is up!