Down Garden Services

Up to 50% off selected plants
Garden furniture
Design service
Garden Machinery

Grass Seed

Preparation  Laying Turf   Lawn Maintenance  Lawnmowers  Weeds and Pests

Seed and Sowing

When choosing the seed, the future use of the grassed area and its site should be considered. There are different mixes available made up of a number of species of grass which can cope with the local conditions and withstand the type of wear to which the finished lawn will be subjected. For a 'luxury' lawn with the 'bowling green' look, which will only have to tolerate some gentle strolling, then a mixture if the finer Bents and Fescues would suit. If the lawn is going to be used as a playing surface, a 'utility' mix would be the choice. So the front, more ornamental grass could be the luxury mix and the back garden would have the utility mix.
Below is a table of the more commonly found grass species to be found in seed mixes. Some grow as a tuft so the finished sward is made up of individual plants and others spread using rhizomes or stolons to form a mat of connected plants.

Grass SpeciesQualityGrowth HabitProperties
Brown Bent,
Agrostis canina montana
luxuryBentdense tufts, creeping rhizomes good drought resistance
Agrostis tenuis
luxury Benttillers using short stolons and rhizomesfairly drought resistant, suits dry, acid soils
Creeping Bent,
Agrostis stolonifera
luxury Bentspreads by stolonsshallow roots giving it poor resistance to drought and wear
Velvet Bent,
Agrostis canina canina
luxury Bentfine leaves, tillers by stolonsprefers damp, shade tolerant
Chewings Fescue,
Festuca rubra
luxury Fescuedense tufts, no rhizomesgood drought resistance, relatively quick to establish
Creeping Red Fescue,
Festuca rubra rubra
luxury Fescuespreads by slender rhizomesdrought and shade tolerant, not for close mowing, suits most soils except heavy clay
Hard Fescue, Festuca longifolialuxury Fescuelow-growing, tufted, no rhizomessuits most soil, except heavy clay; tough, tolerates drought and close mowing; used in sports fields
Smooth-stalked Meadow Grass,
(Kentucky Blugrass)
Poa pratensis
utility slender rhizomes and stolonshard wearing; not for close mowing; prefers well drained, acid soil, suits shady site
Rough-stalked Meadow Grass,
Poa trivialis
utilitytufted with short stolonssuits wet and shady areas; not so hardy
Wood Meadow Grass
Poa nemoralis
utilitytufted, no rhizomesgood in deep shade; does not withstand frequent mowing
Annual Meadow Grass,
Poa annua
utilitytufted, sometimes has short stolonswithstands close mowing; suits all soil types and in shade. Considered a weed in luxury lawn
Perennial Rygrass,
Lolium perenne
utilitytufted quick to establish, all soil types. Newer varieties - 'Manhattan' & 'Hunter' withstand closer mowing
Phleum pratense
utilitytufted with a swelling at base of stemshard-wearing; shallow roots, not drought tolerant

There is an old saying which describes the amount of seed you will need:-

"One for the Sparrow, one for the Crow,
One to rot and one to grow"
(Some versions say Rook instead of Sparrow)

When sowing seed measure out the required amount, split it in two, sowing half in one direction and half at right angles. This should result in a more even spread of the seed. The rate of sowing is about 30 to 45g (1 to 1.5oz) per square metre; do not leave dense clumps as this can lead to damping off. Roughly speaking this is a handful to 2 square metres in each direction, hold your closed hand, fingers upward at waist height, and shake in a circular motion allowing the seed to fall out. Rake gently - a spring-tined rake used upside down works well. Deter birds with carrier bags tied to canes placed around the area.

When germination begins the seedbed should not be allowed to dry out, so use a fine spray or sprinkler to keep it damp - avoid waterlogging as the seed will rot. Unless the topsoil has been sterilized there will be a crop of weeds which will probably start growing before the grass. Chickweed and Hairy Bittercress are the 'usual suspects' and may not be too much of a problem if fairly sparse. A period of fallow before sowing would have induced many of them to germinate and be treated, but among the grass they will die away as soon as mowing begins. Only Daisies, Buttercups, Dandelions and other weeds with low growing points will survive and these can be uprooted after the first mowing or treated the following year with a selective weedkiller.
When the grass has grown to about 50mm it should be rolled to settle in the roots and encourage tillering. Use the roller of a mower with the blades tipped up or hire one as this is probably the only time you will ever need it. When the grass stands up again in a day or so, it can be lightly trimmed at the highest setting of the mower.

Most of the turves sold at garden centres contain mainly Rye-grass so are best suited to a utility lawn, for a finer finish you will have to find a specialist grower. When choosing the turf unroll it first to check that it is recently cut and has not been sitting around for days - ie. no yellowing blades of grass and the soil is moist. Also the root system should be mature enough to hold together if you give it a tug, otherwise it will fall apart as it is laid.

To reduce the maintenance to a minimum some areas of the garden can have a wildflower 'meadow' effect by reducing the fertility and allowing the grass to grow naturally. A number of wildflower species are included and cutting is only required once in the late summer to allow the annual seeds to fall and germinate for the following year. If a patch of grass has been mowed (removing the cuttings) and unfertilized for a long period, it will be pale and weeds will have invaded. By digging out the more invasive weeds like Creeping Buttercups it should have the potential to become a 'meadow' area. It is difficult for the wild flowers to establish from seed so they are usually introduced in the form of plug plants, either bought in or raised in trays.

Grass  Preparation  Turf   Maintenance  Lawnmowers  Weeds and Pests

Back to Down Garden Services