After you have a newly seeded lawn and your grass seed has been sown, a lot of things can go wrong. For example, birds may eat the seeds, blown away by strong winds, or washed away by rain.
The major way that pro gardeners deal with these issues is to use hay or even an alternative mulching material. Once you use a mulch, they help keep the ground moist while offering protection for your grass seed and speeding up grass seed germination.
In our guide, you can learn more about how to cover grass seed with straw and much more. Hay, unlike straw, may appear the same, but it can bring lots of weed seeds rather than be an effective mulch.
By the end, you’ll see how mulching or straw over grass seed helps your grass plants germinate and add a layer of organic matter for healthy growth. (Read Peat Moss Or Straw For Grass Seed)
How Long Do You Leave Straw on Grass Seed?
Leave the straw mulching in place until the young grass seedlings have reached about 3 inches in height. This can take anywhere from three to five weeks after planting, depending on various factors such as weather.
The grass seedlings will have developed strong enough root systems to extract water from deeper levels of the soil, reducing the need for straw covering to retain moisture.
If your lawn has been burned by a hot, dry summer, grab a bag of grass seed and some straw. Plant grass seed in late summer or early fall, when the weather has calmed, or in early spring, before summer begins.
Straw mulch works wonders to lock in moisture, so your plants have complete protection and the best chance to grow. Grass seed is much less expensive than sod and can produce a beautiful lawn with good preparation. Inquire at your local garden centers about a seed mix that will thrive in your climate and environment.
Cover the seeds with a layer of straw once they’ve been planted to keep them moist and prevent them from blowing away on windy days during germination.
Steps for how to prepare for grass seed straw on your newly seeded lawn:
Clear your yard of any rubbish, rocks, or other waste. Weeds should be pulled by hand so that they don’t compete with your grass seedlings.
Use Starter Fertilizer
Mix a 5-10-5 fertilizer according to the package directions and apply it to the top 2 to 4 inches of soil. The percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are displayed on your fertilizer bag. Phosphorus is the most important component for grass seed growth. (Read Is 15-15-15 Fertilizer Good For Lawns)
Level Your Soil
To flatten downhill terrain, rake soil away from your house, shed, garage, and walkway. If your grass is frequently wet after rain, you may need to install a drainage system.
Irrigate Your Lawn
Water the area thoroughly for one week before planting the seed. Then, grade the site one last time with an aluminum or wooden lawn rake.
Planting Your Grass Seed
Calculate how many grass seeds you’ll need by following the manufacturer’s instructions. After dividing the seed in half, place it in the spreader.
Sow Your New Lawn
To sow the initial batch of new grass seed to cover the area, walk back and forth in a north-south rhythm. Then, refill your spreader and walk in an east-west pattern to sow the second batch of new grass seeds. By traveling in both directions, you can build a thin seeds coating.
Rake The Lawn Area
On your new lawn, softly rake the dirt and cover grass seeds to a depth of 1/16 to 1/8 inch.
Cover Your Newly Seeded Grass Seed
Place a tarp alongside the grass seed you just sowed. Next, place the straw bale and split it up with a pitchfork to make your grass seed mulch.
Take a handful of grass seed and shake it loosely across the top of the grass seed you’ve sown.
The straw mulch should only cover the newly seeded ground to a depth of 1/4 inch. The straw mulch will rot if it is too thick, and your grass seedlings will not grow.
A bale of straw can cover 1,000 square feet of lawn, promoting germination and grass seedling growth.
Irrigate the Lawn
Water the spot and your straw mulch with a sprinkler every day for the first two weeks. There is just enough water to keep the soil moist for grass seed germination until the young roots start to grow.
Alternative Mulch Options for Straw
Here are several ideas for mulching after seeding.
Yellow grain straw is the most common. It’s cheap, readily available, and seed-free.
If you leave wheat straw on your new lawn, it is easy to cut up with a lawnmower. Never use hay since it is seedy. Hayseeds can compete against your new grass seeds.
Aged Pine Straw
Using well-aged pine straw as a mulch on the newly seeded lawn is contentious because of terpenes in the needles. They swiftly vanish as the pine needles fall. Use well-aged, brown needles that have no perfume smell rather than fresh pine straw needles to mulch your lawn,
Cover newly seeded grass with 1/4″ sawdust. Sawdust takes longer to decay and blocks sunlight on newly sown grass.
Man-Made Lawn Mulch
You can also buy a commercial seed mat. A biodegradable seed mat can stop soil erosion on slopes in your yard. (Read Best Mulch For Vegetable Garden)
Peat moss can be used as it breaks down to supply nutrients to the area it covers.
Apply a thin layer of peat moss no thicker than 1/4″.
The best method is to cover new grass seed with peat moss when you can, as it acts as a natural fertilizer to retain moisture water and promote high germination rates when seeding.
Peat moss protects seeds from birds and won’t bring weed seeds like hay.
Do You Need Straw To Cover Grass Seed?
There is no written rule about using straw on your lawn, yet like with any mulch, it offers bountiful benefits for your lawn and grass seed. Seeds and sprouts have protection from birds and wind, and direct sunlight.
With the slow evaporation of water, the ground remains moist throughout seeding and when the seeds germinate. New gardeners often ponder over what to do with the straw mulch once the grass doesn’t need its help.
Here are the potential uses of your straw.
Leave Straw On Your Lawn
Mowing breaks down the straw into small pieces that can be left on the grass to break down and feed your plants.
When the grass reaches 2 inches in height, it’s time for your first mowing.
When you mow, the mower breaks down the straw, allowing it to decompose and spread nutrients to the soil and root system.
Go through the grass again in different directions to ensure the straw is cut small enough.
Use this strategy when there is enough rain to keep the grass moist and aid in straw decomposition. In addition, it can help keep seeds from blowing away in windy weather conditions.
Compost The Straw
Straw can help balance carbon and nitrogen levels in food waste compost.
This low-nitrogen crop will help break down high-nitrogen waste like kitchen scraps, weeds, and leaves. Straw can be stacked near your compost pile and added to kitchen waste as needed.