What to cover new grass seed with

A lush, beautiful lawn is something to which most homeowners aspire, yet a lawn's grass may fall victim to anything from pests to weeds or extreme weather. If this is the case, the solution may be as simple as patching bare spots in the lawn, or in extreme circumstances the entire yard may have to be replanted. In either case, proper choice and care of grass seed is critical, and there are a number of considerations when choosing the right covering for new grass seed.

Choose Seed and Prepare Soil

Choose a packaged mix of grass seed that is formulated to grow well in your area. In general, mixes composed of zoysia, Bermuda grass and bahia do well in hotter, sunny areas of the country, while cooler areas will require mixes of bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass. Also consider mixes that are formulated to grow well in shade or partial shade if necessary. Prepare the soil so your new grass seed will have the best chance of maturing into a green, healthy lawn. Begin by tilling or breaking up the soil so the new grass will have a loose medium in which to germinate. Bear in mind that the composition of the soil is important as well. Soils laden with clay or sand will need to have quality topsoil added.

Cover Your New Seed

Covering your newly planted seed serves three basic purposes. New grass seed must be kept moist while it's germinating. It needs to be protected from animals such as birds which can eat a substantial portion of it before it even gets a chance to sprout. And loose seed may be lost as it's prone to runoff in heavy rains. You can choose from three common coverings, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The first is a light covering of finely screened mulch to a depth of between 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch. Mulch is a good choice because it guarantees superior contact between the seed and soil and it holds moisture well. Another advantage of mulch is that no further work is required when the grass begins to grow, whereas other coverings need to be removed or cleaned up. The downside is that covering large areas with mulch will be more expensive than other options. Another choice is fabric covering. Sold in full service garden centres and home centres such as Lowe's and Home Depot, seed covering fabric typically comes in rolls and sheets that protect new seed from both runoff and birds. An advantage of using fabric is that it is easier to deploy than spreading mulch, but care must be taken to use fabric only in cool weather. If used in summer or hot sunny areas, the grass will overheat and may die. The least expensive but possibly most problematic option is hay. Hay does have the advantage of being less costly than mulch or fabric and is easy to spread over large areas, but it may also contain undesirable weed seeds that can germinate and compete with your new grass. Another issue is that hay needs to be picked up once your grass germinates and begins to grow. This is a time-consuming step, as it needs to be done by careful raking or by hand. Whichever way you choose, it's important to avoid damaging the delicate new growth.

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