When is the best time to sow grass seeds in the UK?

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When is the best time to sow grass seeds in the UK?

Lawns and grass areas often need some help that goes beyond just cutting and feeding, some lawns need bald areas re-sown. Commonly the grass has worn away through overuse during the summer months, some grass will re-establish but large bare patches will more than likely succumb to weeds so it is a better option to re-seed these and the best time of year to do this is in the autumn.

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Why is autumn the best time of year to sow grass seeds?

Mid- summer to late autumn is the best window in the year to sow grass seeds and re-sowing bald patches can save you from having to take up dead areas of lawn and re-lay with new turf. In any event, there may only be pockets here or there which need attention so patch sowing should cover this and avoid the time and expense of buying and laying new turf turves. Grass seed is also good for those tricky areas like slopes and corners.

This time of year is perfect because there is less competition from weeds, the soil is warm but it is late enough in the season for there to be real rain and overnight dew all of which combine together to form the perfect conditions for seeds to germinate. The other alternative is to sow grass in mid-spring but this only works if you water the grass well and consistently. Sowing in summer is a waste of time and money as the grass seed is unlikely to receive enough water and will probably shrivel and die.

Choosing the right grass seeds

There are an infinite variety of seed mixes to choose from including blends for drought conditions or variations for a fine, ornamental lawn. For the average household garden, a hard-wearing family lawn mix that contains rye grass is usually perfect.

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Preparing the soil

The area that is to be sown will require some preparation first by skimming off any old remaining grass, removing large stones and weeds which can be done by hand and then levelling the soil. Fork over and till the site and then rake it to leave a level and fine finish. Compact the soil by walking over it a few times and then rake it again. Two or three days before the seed is to be sown, lightly rake in a granular fertiliser.

Sowing the seed

  • Shake the box to mix up the seeds
  • The usual rule of thumb is 50g per square metre unless the instructions with the seed state anything else so if you have a large area mark out each square metre and measure out the appropriate amount of seed
  • Split the measured seed amount in half and scatter one half in one direction across the area and then spread the rest in the opposite direction
  • After sowing, lightly rake and then water

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any aftercare I should implement after sowing grass seed?

It can be helpful if people avoid walking across the soil for the first few days so you could rope the area off, more difficult if you are just improving lots of bald areas which are spread over the entire lawn. If you have a large area which has been completely re-sown then it is worth pegging out fruit netting over the top of it to prevent the birds from feasting on the new seed. Plenty of watering is required as seedlings are very vulnerable to drought and, despite the time of year, you cannot always rely on rainfall. Remove weeds carefully by hand if they appear whilst the grass is becoming established – weeds predate on bare soil or poor areas of grass and will quickly choke out the new growth.

When can I first cut the new grass?

When the new grass reaches about 2cm in height, cut it down to about half height with a rotary mower. Rake up and remove the clippings, do this for the next four cuts.

The weather is so unpredictable, how can I pick the best window to sow new grass?

The growing season is quite a large window, anytime that the temperatures are consistently 8-10 degrees or above as this is when germination occurs. The recommended time to sow grass seeds is mid-summer to late autumn but providing the weather is consistent then there is nothing to stop you sowing grass seeds earlier in the year. The main thing is to avoid adverse weather which is becoming much harder in the UK as the seasons get muddled up and there can be sudden changes in temperature or unexpected and unseasonal conditions.

Can I scatter grass seed by hand?

You can scatter grass seed by hand or use a handheld spreader. You need to calibrate a mechanical spreader to the correct setting in line with the manufacturer’s spreading rate for that particular seed. The standard rate is 50g per square metre for new grass or 35g per square metre for overseeding an existing lawn.

How can I establish a wildflower meadow?

It is possible to buy a wildflower seed mix but it is not as easy as it sounds to establish these plants. Wildflower meadows thrive on poor quality soils rather than the rich tended ground of a domestic garden. The reason behind this is that rich and fertile soils support grass (and weeds) very well and wildflowers just cannot compete. So it’s not just a question of scattering some seed and waiting, wildflower meadows take just a little bit of guile and knowhow to get established. Remove anything growing from the soil bed you intend to use, that includes grass, weeds and any other plants. This is best done well ahead of when you intend to sow the seed mixture, even as far ahead as a few months. When the area is clear, break up the soil - a large area may require machinery. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions very carefully when you sow the seed as sowing wildflower seed is very different to sowing a conventional lawn seed.

For more information on plant legislation, see this article on the Plant Heritage website, and for more information on indoor seed sowing, find out more from The Royal Horticultural Society.

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