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Seed Establishment

Seeding basics

Several turfgrass species for home lawns can be established through seed. Following the proper steps to prepare a site can help avoid issues that are more difficult to manage during grow-in or once the turfgrass is established. It is worth noting that propagating turfgrass by seed can be more economical but typically requires more time and greater effort by the homeowner during grow-in. Warm-season turfgrass seed is typically established early in the growing season (March to July).

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Site preparation

Step 1: Evaluate and determine the soil characteristics, drainage pattern and any other existing conditions, such as shade, that will affect turfgrass establishment and growth. This evaluation will help you select the proper turfgrass species for the site and identify other issues that may need to be corrected before establishment.

Step 2: Collect a soil sample and submit the sample for fertility analysis several weeks prior to beginning establishment. For larger areas or an area with differing soil types, more than one soil sample may be necessary.

Step 3: Destroy any existing vegetation. Destroying vegetation can be accomplished through mechanical methods, solarization or nonselective herbicide application. The method chosen will determine the duration needed before implementing Step 4.

Step 4: Once the existing vegetation is destroyed, till the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches and remove dead vegetation and debris. Tilling aerates the soil and can allow slight contouring of the area for better surface drainage. If adjustments in soil pH or fertility are recommended based on soil test results, then incorporate the required amendments or fertilizer.

Step 5: Rake the area to remove any remaining debris and shape the area to allow for drainage. In-ground drainage or an irrigation system can be installed at this time.

Step 6: Establish the final grade and lightly compact the soil surface with a roller so that it will hold the desired contour.

Step 7: Select the proper turfgrass species. Warm-season turfgrass species that can be seeded and are recommended for home lawns in Louisiana include centipedegrass, carpetgrass, zoysiagrass and bermudagrass.

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Site prepared for seed application

Considerations for purchasing seed

It is recommended that you purchase certified seed when establishing a lawn. Information on the label, such as percent purity and percent germination, are used to calculate the amount of seed needed to achieve the recommended pure live seeding rates for each turfgrass species.

Seed application

Depending on the turfgrass species selected, certain factors, including the speed of germination and the rate of turfgrass growth, will vary. Make sure to seed a turfgrass in the early part of the growing season (March to July) warm-season. This not only allows the turfgrass time to develop greater coverage, but it also increases its winter hardiness.

Seeds can be applied using a drop or broadcast spreader for even distribution across an area. Before putting seeds into the spreader’s hopper, make sure the spreader is clean and is in proper working condition. Next, calibrate the spreader in order to apply the recommended seeding rate.

Make sure to apply seeds in two directions across the area for better seed coverage. Once the area has been seeded, lightly rake or roll the area to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. A light mulch (e.g. straw) can be used to help retain moisture and reduce erosion.

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Drop spreader application

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Example of a pattern used to increase seed coverage

Post seed application maintenance

Irrigation: Irrigation frequency will depend on environmental conditions. Once the lawn has been seeded, the soil should be kept moist until seedlings emerge. Once seedlings emerge and begin to grow, irrigation should be applied less frequently over time. This will encourage deeper rooting by the turfgrass. Be sure not to irrigate to a point of surface runoff and take rainfall into account when scheduling irrigation.

Nitrogen Fertilization: Fertilize 10 to 14 days after turfgrass plants emerge from the soil. Fertilize with up to 0.5 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Subsequent nitrogen fertilization may be necessary as the turfgrass establishes. More vigorous turfgrasses, such as bermudagrass and carpetgrass, can be fertilized more frequently, whereas less vigorous turfgrass species, such as zoysiagrass and centipedegrass, will be fertilized less frequently. Never apply more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per application. Fertilize only when the turfgrass is actively growing. Follow soil test recommendations for proper fertility if fertilizers were not incorporated during tilling in the soil preparation process.

Mowing and Traffic: During the establishment period it is best to limit traffic across the area to prevent turfgrass stress and surface disruption. Mowing should be initiated once the turfgrass reaches a point of sufficient growth that mowing will not damage the turf. Make sure the soil is not saturated so that a mower does not rut or compact the soil. Follow the recommended mowing height per species. Never remove more than one-third of the leaf blade at one mowing. Mowing at the appropriate height and frequency are key to having a healthy turfgrass, prevent scalping, and reduce weed encroachment.

Turfgrass Species Mowing Height Nitrogen Rate (per 1,000 ft2 per year)
Bermudagrass 1 to 2 inches Up to 3 pounds
Centipedegrass 1 to 2.5 inches Up to 2 pounds
St. Augustinegrass 2.5 to 3 inches Up to 3 pounds
Zoysiagrass 1 to 2.5 inches Up to 2 pounds

Download here: Louisiana Home Lawn Series: Seed Establishment 3624-TTT

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