It Starts With a Seed: Understanding the Life Cycle of Grass

Ever pass a field or a vacant lot that hasn’t been mowed in a long time, and the tall grasses look like they’ve sprouted on top? Those wheaty-looking tops are called inflorescences, and that’s where grass seed comes from! It may not look like much, but grass leads a pretty interesting life, and it takes quite a bit of TLC - and a little luck - to grow a nice, lush lawn from the ground up. Seeding plays an important role in determining the amount of broadleaf and grassy weeds that will grow in your lawn. Seeding also pro-actively prevents lawn diseases. Let’s take a look at the life cycle of grass, which will hopefully help you love your lawn even more!

How to Plant Grass Seed In Your Lawn

Whether you are planting a new lawn or overseeding an existing lawn, you first need to prepare your property. Once your yard is fully prepped - soil conditioned, the seeds applied, and your lawn watered (often!) and fertilized, it’s time for Mother Nature to do her job and help those little grass seeds start to take root.

Go, Seed, Grow!

For grass seed to sprout, or germinate, it takes a few critical things: water, warmth, oxygen, and sunlight. Moisture is key. Too little, and the seeds will dry and die. Too much, and they’ll drown. The trick is to make sure your soil stays moist all the time. For optimal results, you’ll want to lightly water your lawn at least two times a day, making sure that every square foot of seeded space is watered. (For 3-4 weeks, try heavy soaking in the morning, 20-25 minutes, and light watering in the afternoon, 5-10 minutes) You don’t want to leave puddles behind, but you do want to make sure to soak the soil. It’s crucial to keep the soil damp, because as soon as it dries up, it’s 20% less likely to grow. Once grass blades start to pop out of the ground, you can cut watering back to once a day until the blades are fully grown. Turf tip: After the 3-4 period, adjust your watering schedule to reflect twice a week, 30-45 minutes in each area for another couple of weeks until the new grass has been mowed twice.
  1. What to choose? When choosing a grass variety - most Indiana lawns feature cool season grasses. The ideal seeding window is between August and November. Purchasing the right seed can make or break lawns. Many seeds can contain high weed content, inert matter, undesirable grasses, and grasses that do not grow well in hot, Indiana summers. We recommend Turf Type Tall Fescue. Avoid Kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye, or any fine fescues.
  2. Now what? Once those little green blades break through the surface of the soil, they need to breathe. Swampy soil restricts oxygen. So does compacted soil. Again, make sure your ground is properly prepared ahead of time and capable of supporting your grass through all stages of its life.
  3. Next: Photosynthesis. This process is essential for grass to grow tall and strong, and it can’t happen underground. So, make sure you don’t plant your seed too deep. And when your new grass blades start to grow, ensure they receive adequate sunlight. You may need to trim trees and shrubs to help promote this growth or shop for seed blends that can still thrive in lower light environments.
  4. Oh, there’s one other thing we forgot to mention … patience! You only get one good shot each year to plant grass seed, and it often takes several weeks to figure out if you did everything right. So, remember to do your research beforehand, follow all of the various steps and directions, and commit to the process. This is no time to be lazy or skip a watering session! All your hard work will pay off, when your new grass grows into a full, lush, healthy lawn.

Caring for New Grass

Watering amounts and frequencies are one of the most important steps to growing a successful lawn from seed. But what happens after those seeds turn into blades of grass? Once new grass reaches an above ground height of about two inches, reduce the number of times a day you water, but increase the amount of water you apply. Keep your soil moist by watering at least an inch every week. As for mowing, keep your mower in the garage until your grass has reached a height of at least three inches. At this point, the young blades are still rather fragile, so you want to give them their first trim before they topple over. Set your mower blade height to remove only the top half inch. If your mower has an adjustable throttle, set it to low. When it’s time to mow again, mow in an opposite pattern and remember the One-Third rule - only remove the top third of your grass. Don’t bag your clippings; instead, let them fall back down to provide additional nourishment to your still-growing grass. Once your grass is fully grown, get into a regular mowing habit and remember to alternate your path each time. This ensures the grass grows tall, straight, and sturdy.

How to Store Grass Seed

Grass seed, like just everything else, has a shelf life. Most lawn care professionals recommend planting that seed within two years of purchase, as long as optimal conditions are met between purchase and planting. These conditions include:

Storing seed at room temperature

Keeping seed out of direct sunlight

Keeping seed out of extreme temperature shifts (hot and cold)

Keeping seed dry

Storing seed in its original packaging

  Have any questions or need additional assistance with your yard? Get in touch with the friendly pros at Lawn Pride today!