What do I need to do to keep grass seed from washing away when planting on a hill?

Written by samantha volz
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What do I need to do to keep grass seed from washing away when planting on a hill?
Grass on a hill only thrives if it doesn't wash away. (erba image by Axel from Fotolia.com)

One key sign of a healthy landscape is the look, feel and thickness of the grass in the yard. If your landscape is incomplete, spreading grass seed over an area is a sure way to thicken a lawn or to create a new one. However, if you live on a sloped or hilly plot, your grass seed may wash away with constant watering necessary for germination. You must take steps to ensure that the seed doesn't float away.

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Spreading straw over your newly seeded grass is one way to prevent soil erosion that often washes grass seed away. The straw absorbs rainfall and sprinkler water, preventing it from directly striking the seeds and pushing them downhill. However, because the straw has direct contact with the soil, the grass seed can still absorb the moisture it needs. Straw will also help to prevent birds and other predators from eating your grass seed before it has a chance to germinate.

Burlap or Cheesecloth

Open-mesh burlap (sacks or rolls) or cheesecloth will perform the same duty as the straw, but will be more effective over larger areas since you can spread a single piece farther and don't have to sprinkle straw everywhere. Both straw and burlap should be removed as soon as the grass blades begin to poke out of the soil by ¼ to ½ inch, indicating that they have taken root and can hold themselves in. Leaving the straw or burlap on the surface can stunt grass growth.

Biodegradable Cloth

Some nurseries and garden centres carry a special mesh specifically designed for the purpose of holding grass seed in place. The open-mesh material will keep the seed in place as the other materials will, but it does not have to be removed when the seed starts to grow. Instead, it will gradually degrade and fade into the soil, providing some nutrients for the grass.


When you cover the area with straw, burlap, cheesecloth or biodegradable cloth, you must ensure that some of the soil can be seen through the covering. If no soil is visible, it means that no sunlight or air circulation is getting through the covering. This could lead to slow germination, stunted growth or even fungus build up beneath the covering because of high moisture and temperature. Consult with a professional at a garden centre or nursery if you have questions about which option is best for your particular property and type of grass.

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