There’s a lot that may go wrong with grass seed once it’s been sown. Birds may gather the seeds, a strong wind may blow them away, or water may wash them away.
When establishing a new grass, cover the seeded area with a small layer of mulch at about a 1/4 inch to encourage germination.
Gardeners employ several types of mulch or soil to increase the rate of grass seed germination.
In our guide, you can learn more about how to cover grass seed with straw to get the benefits on offer when seeding and your seeds germinate.
By the end, you’ll find your newly seeded lawn plants has the best chance of growing to their full potential through mulching. (Read When To Mow After Overseeding)
What Do You Do With Straw After Grass Grows?
Covering your newly sown grass with straw helps keep moisture and increases the chances of a healthy lawn establishment before you can start mowing.
The common question is often, what do you do with the straw once your grass has sprouted?
You can leave it on your lawn, rake-off your grass and use it in your compost pile, use it as mulch, or for animal bedding.
Leave mulch in place
The straw will be chopped into small bits by mowing and can be left on the lawn to break down and offer nutrients to your plants.
The grass is ready for its first mowing when it reaches a height of around 2 inches. When you mow, the straw will be broken into small bits by the mower, then fall back into the grass to decompose and contribute nutrients to the soil and root system.
To ensure that the straw is cut into small enough bits, go over the grass twice in various directions.
This method works best in locations where there is enough rain to keep the grass moist and help with the straw’s decomposition. It can also stop seeds from blowing away in the wind and strong weather conditions along with retaining moisture. (Read Will Weed And Feed Kill Grass Seed)
Compost the straw
Straw can be composted on your compost pile along with kitchen scraps to help balance carbon and nitrogen levels.
Straw is a dry, high-carbon crop and will help break down high-nitrogen waste, such as kitchen scraps, green weeds, or leaves. You can stack your straw next to your compost pile and gradually add it to kitchen waste as required.
Straw for animal bedding
If the straw is clean enough, it can be used in nesting boxes and bedding for hens and other animals. It can be used in your chicken coop, rabbit hutch, or beneath a blanket for your dogs if the straw is still quite clean or if you have straw remaining after mulching recently planted grass.
Will Grass Seed Grow Through Straw?
Invest in a bag of grass seed and a bale of straw if your lawn has been burnt by a hot, dry summer. Plant grass seed in the late summer or early fall, when the weather has cooled down, or in the early spring, before the summer season begins. Grass seed is far less expensive than sod and, with careful planning, can produce a beautiful lawn.
Ask your local garden centers about a seed mix that will grow in your area’s climate and surroundings.
Once you’ve sown the seeds, cover them with straw to keep them moist and prevent them from blowing away during germination.
Here are the steps you need to follow for a newly seeded lawn.
Prepare to Sow Grass Seed
1. Remove Debris and Weeds
Remove any trash, rocks, or other debris from your lawn area. Hand pull weeds, so they don’t compete with your grass seedlings.
2. Fertilize Soil
Mix a 5-10-5 fertilizer as directed and add to the top thin layer of 2 to 4 inches of soil. The percentages of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are displayed on your fertilizer bag. The most vital ingredient for grass seed development is phosphorus.
3. Level Soil
Rake soil away from your house, shed, garage, and sidewalk to smooth downhill terrain. If your lawn is usually moist after rain, a drainage system may be required.
4. Irrigate the area
One week before planting the seed, thoroughly water the area. With an aluminum or wooden lawn rake, grade the site one last time.
5. Planting Grass Seed
Follow the manufacturer’s directions to figure up how many grass seeds you’ll need. Place the seed in the spreader after dividing it in half.
6. Sow Grass Seed
Walk in a north-south back-and-forth rhythm to sow the first batch of new grass seed to cover the area. Refill your spreader and walk in an east-west pattern to sow the second batch of new grass seeds. You can create a thin layer of seeds by walking in both directions.
7. Rake Your Lawn Area
Rake the soil lightly and covering grass seeds to a depth of 1/16 to 1/8 inch on your new lawn.
8. Covering Grass Seed
Place a tarp to the side of the grass seed you have just sown. Place the straw bale and break it up using a pitchfork to create your grass seed mulch.
Grab a handful and shake it loosely across the top of your sown grass seed. The straw mulch needs to just cover the ground, to only a 1/4 inch deep. If too thick, the straw mulch decays, and your grass seedlings won’t thrive.
One bale should cover 1,000 square feet of lawn area, and grass seedlings should be able to push through the thin layer of straw.
9. Irrigate your Lawn
For the first two weeks, water the location and your straw mulch with a sprinkler every day. Irrigate the soil just enough to keep it moist but not saturated.
Peat Moss or Straw for Grass Seed?
Because there are options besides automatically using straw mulch, it is good to understand the differences, as this can affect your lawn and the growth of your grass seedlings.
Here you can learn more about using peat moss or straw mulch on your new lawn. (Read How To Get Seeds From Broccoli)
Peat moss holds water better than straw when you use it to cover grass seed. The wetness promotes seed germination and creates the ideal environment for new grass seedlings.
Yet, peat moss is acidic and can harm your soil in the end. Straw is a renewable material with no acidic properties and doesn’t harm the ecosystem when harvesting.
Peat Moss Pros
- Peat moss outperforms straw as it creates more new grass plants per square foot over straw. It holds up to ten times its weight in water to deliver a moist environment for grass seed germination.
- Peat moss doesn’t create clumps or suffocate grass seed when broken up and properly covered your lawn.
- You don’t get weed seeds in peat moss.
- It takes little effort for grass seedlings to get air and sunlight by poking through peat moss.
Peat Moss Cons
- Peat moss is detrimental to your soil. It isn’t acidic enough to alter soil pH, yet the antibacterial side causes more of an issue. Beneficial soil bacteria may not thrive in peat moss, thus lowering soil quality and reducing available nutrients to your grass.
- Peat moss has little nutritional value and even after decomposing.
- Peat moss harvesting poses many environmental risks as it is a nonrenewable source.
- Straw benefits lawns by adding nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.
- Straw leads to slow evaporation of water.
- Straw won’t increase soil acidity or prevent microbe growth.
- You can use decomposing straw as compost or mulch.
- Straw is less expensive than peat moss.
- Straw is a sustainable resource.
- Straw cover for grass seed prevents soil erosion in heavy rains.
- Straw can contain weed seeds, which germinate with your grass.
- Straw can form mats or clumps that smother your grass seed.
- Straw doesn’t hold water like peat moss, and covered seeds can still dry out.
- You get lower seed germination rates from straw than peat.
Alternative Lawn Mulch Options
Here are several options for mulching your lawn after seeding.
Wheat, Barley, or Oat Straw
The most popular grain straw is yellow grain straw. It’s cheap, commonly accessible, and primarily seed-free.
Wheat straw is easy to chop up using a lawnmower if you leave straw on your grass as your new lawn grows. Never use hay as hay contains too many seeds. Hay seeds can compete against your new grass seeds.
Aged Pine Straw
Mulching with well-aged pine straw on grass plants is controversial because the needles contain compounds such as terpenes, limiting plant growth. Have you ever spotted how bare the ground is beneath pine straw?
However, once the pine needles fall, said terpenes quickly dissipate. When wanting to mulch your grass using pine needles, use well-aged, brown needles, which have no perfume smell, instead of fresh-smelling pine straw.
Apply a 1/4″ layer of sawdust when covering grass seed. Sawdust will take longer to decompose on a newly seeded lawn and block out sunlight laid too thick.
Manufactured Lawn Mulch
You might alternatively purchase a commercial product as a seed mat. Since these hold together, a biodegradable seed mat is useful on slopes in your yard to stop soil erosion.
Regular or mushroom compost, which they finely screen, makes good mulch since it will break down to supply nutrients to the area it covered.
Apply a layer of around 1/4″ to the ground.
The best method is to cover new grass seed with compost when you can. Compost is a natural fertilizer that retains water and promotes high germination rates.
Compost can protect seeds from birds and doesn’t bring weed seeds into your yard.