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When it comes to seeding new lawns, good preparation is usually the key to success and before you sow the seeds it is important to prepare the soil adequately.
It is important to clear the site completely, removing any large stones and rubble, and all plant growth, including any tree stumps or roots. If the site is already partially turfed, but in too poor a condition to be worth renovating, then remove all the turf. It is sensible to clear the ground using a weed killer initially as it can be more difficult to eliminate weed grasses once the lawn is established.
It is now necessary to rotavate or dig the soil, removing any large stones that may come to the surface. A lawn grows best on medium loam, and you need to try to produce a soil as near to this as possible.
If the area you intend to seed is small, you can dig it by hand, but for larger areas you will find it a great advantage to hire a rotavater. Rotavate the site a number of times and the result will be a fine tilth, ready to be raked and leveled. If you have heavy clay soil, include sand or fine peat. If you have sandy soil dig in some moisture holding material, such as well rotted manure or compost.
Next, you will have to level the area. If the existing soil is reasonably level you may only need to rake it level. If you like, use pegs knocked into the soil, together with a piece of timber stretched from peg to peg with a sprit level on top, to ensure correct levels, or use a laser level. If there is a substantial drop in the level, remove topsoil first, putting it to one side on a polythene sheet. Remove the subsoil to the depth you require, and then return the topsoil. It can be beneficial if a large area is to be built up, to order a load of good quality topsoil. Any surplus may be used in another part of the garden. Try to consider this in the early stages of planning.
Firm the surface by treading it evenly, or by tamping it with the back of a rake. Repeat, if necessary, until the entire site is well firmed. Rake the soil to a fine tilth and leave it to allow any weeds to germinate. When they appear, apply a contact weed killer, and, after about 2-3 days, rake off the weeds. Apply a base dressing of a compound granular organic fertilizer and lightly rake it into the surface. Leave the site for a few days before seeding.
Select a grass seed to suit your lifestyle - are you looking for an ornamental lawn or a practical one? There are a variety of seed mixtures available.
Sowing times will depend on whether irrigation is available. Without irrigation, sow in the spring from late March to early May and autumn sowings from mid August to mid September. If irrigation is available, it is possible to sow throughout the growing season.
Seed may be sown either by hand or, faster and more evenly, by a machine. First calculate the amount of seed needed using the suppliers recommended sowing rate. Generally a rate of 50 gms/m2 will produce excellent results, but a lower rate of 35gms/m2 may be applied where perfect conditions of warm soils, good soil moisture, availability of irrigation and accurate seed application are guaranteed. A good guideline is one good handful of seed per square meter or yard.
Before sowing the seed, shake the container to mix the seeds thoroughly and ensure that small seeds do not settle to the bottom and thus give an uneven distribution of grass types.
When seeding by hand, scatter evenly moving left to right, top to bottom. If seeding by machine, sow half of the seed in the one direction and the other half at right angles of this. Then lightly rake the seeded area to partially cover the seed (to a depth of 0.5cm - approx. 1/4" - is fine). Most of the seed left on top will still germinate.
New grass seedlings will appear over the next 7- 21 days depending on the weather. Remember to water the seeds if it is dry with a 'fine rose' watering can or sprinkler to keep them moist.
It's a good idea to protect your seeds from birds dust-bathing. Stretch some string across the area, tied with lengths of silver foil - standing on a plank as you go to prevent disturbing your newly sown seeds.
When the grass has reached a height of about an inch, the surface may be firmed with a lightweight roller, although this is not essential.
Hold off mowing your new lawn until it has reached about 8cm (approx 3") high and then only take off about 1.5cm (approx. 1/2"). On subsequent cuts you can gradually lower the blades, but don't go lower than an inch.