How to spread seed

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You need the help of some sort of tool so the seeds spread as evenly as possible. Buy this tool at a home-and-garden supply store; for bigger jobs, you may prefer simply to rent the necessary equipment or hire someone else to do the job. Generally, though, here are your choices in approach (see Figure 10-1):

1 Cyclone spreader: This hand seeder is relatively cheap and easy to use. Dump in the seed and then trot along the seedbed, turning the handle as you go. The seed sprays out in a semi-circular pattern. Obviously, this method isn't very practical for larger lawns, but it's just fine for modest-size ones.

1 Rotary spreader: A wheeled or handheld spinning spreader (also known as a broadcast or centrifugal spreader) is perfect for bigger lawns. You just fill it up and walk along slowly, pushing it at an even pace.

1 Hydroseeding: This technique involves spraying the yard with a mixture of grass seed, water, fertilizer, and mulch. Most people hire someone to do the work for them. Hydroseeding is usually less expensive than sod but costs more than regular seeding. Many times, people lay biodegradable netting on steeply sloped areas before they're hydroseeded to prevent erosion. This technique is usually very successful as long as you keep the seeded area damp.

Figure 10-1:

Spreading seed with cyclone-type and rotary spreaders.

Figure 10-1:

Spreading seed with cyclone-type and rotary spreaders.

Spreading Seeds

No matter how you spread the seed, start by applying two side-by-side header strips at the bottom and top of the lawn first to provide turning space (see Figure 10-2). The header strips should run along the short edges of a rectangular lawn. If your lawn is round, oval, or irregular in shape, just do the perimeter (see Figure 10-3).

Go back and forth the longest way until you've finished applying seed. Shut off the spreader occasionally to prevent double applications. For instance, shut it off in the header areas, when approaching and leaving a tree, when backing, when turning around, and anytime you come to a complete stop.

Your own turf: Growing lawns from sod

The real advantage of using sod is that it's fast! It also smothers weed seeds. After being laid down, it's not as vulnerable to birds, foot traffic, or drying out. It's also easier for getting a lawn going in shade or on a slope. However, sod is much more expensive than sowing seed, and for some gardeners, it feels like cheating!

Figure 10-2:

How to spread grass seed in a rectangular-shaped lawn.

Figure 10-2:

How to spread grass seed in a rectangular-shaped lawn.

Figure 10-3:

How to spread grass seed in an irregular-shaped lawn.

Figure 10-3:

How to spread grass seed in an irregular-shaped lawn.

You can lay sod just about anytime, so long as the ground isn't frozen. However, the best time is right before your chosen type of grass is about to surge into its peak growth period. So for cool-season grasses, try to lay sod in early fall or early spring; for warm-season grasses, mid- to late spring is ideal. If rain is in the forecast for tomorrow, plant sod today!

Have bare ground ready to go. It should be moist to best receive the sod — too dry is unwelcoming, and too soggy or muddy is no good, either. Use a good, sturdy steel rake and give the ground one last, neat leveling before you begin.

Check around with your local suppliers for the best deal on the best type of sod for your area, and buy the sod as close as possible to when you want to use it. Sprinkle it with water to keep it moist and cool, but don't make it drippy and soggy (it'll just tear if you do that). Never let it sit around for more than a day if you can help it! Ideally, pick it up the night before and plant it the very next morning.

Here are some recommended tools for laying sod — see also Figure 10-4:

  • A strong, sturdy steel rake ^ A sharp knife, for cutting pieces and patches ^ A board to kneel on so you don't squash the sod with your knees ^ A hose and sprayer, to keep the sod moist as you work ^ A wheelbarrow, to transport sod
  • A water-filled roller, to smooth the lawn at the end of the job

To lay the sod, rolling out the green carpet isn't necessarily hard or complicated work, but you do have to work fast so the sod doesn't dry out. And if your lawn is big, the sod rolls can be heavy and unwieldy. Line up some helpers.

to dry out— and when it's finally down, soak the daylights out of the new lawn!

  • Place edges tightly against boundaries and edges. ^ Stagger the ends of the sod pieces, as if you were laying brick. ^ Keep leveling the area with the rake as you go.
  • Water every day (or more often if the weather turns hot) — frequent light waterings help the sod establish itself.

If all goes well, the roots start growing into the new soil in about a week.

Some warm-season grass varieties are available as sprigs and plugs, which are kind of like small chunks of sod. Plant these pieces at the recommended intervals and firm them in place quite well. Keep the soil moist until they're established. You may start fertilizing about a month after planting. Ask your supplier for details.

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