Growing grass can be kind of intimidating especially when you start reading online about it. There are guides that are thousands of words long that describe and show everything, that can be done wrong and every little bit that you have to look out for in order to get the perfect results. Normally you are supposed to cover the grass seeds with a thin layer of soil or you are supposed to use some tool to get the seeds mixed in the very top layer of the ground but do you really have to do all of that. I personally tried to simply throw the seeds on the ground to see if they would germinate and if the result was as good as when you covered the seeds with some soil. And here is what I found out and what professional gardeners told me after the experiment.
So grass seed will indeed grow if it is just thrown on the ground but the germination rate of the seeds will be much lower if the seeds are not covered by soil. The roots of the grass will also have a hard time establishing themselves properly so after a while the grass could die because it is not as resilient as it could have been.
When we tried this experiment we initially just threw the grass seeds on our lawn and on some ground where no grass was growing yet. We decided to start this experiment right before it was supposed to rain for a week straight. Mainly because newly sown grass seeds should be kept wet so that they can germinate in the first place.
We eventually had to water the area where we had sown the grass seeds manually to keep them wet.
And after about 20 days new grass began to grow. It looked good and it grew fast but we immediately noticed, that the new grass grew very patchy and wasn´t evenly spread. This is because only about one-third of the seeds, that we had sown out, actually started growing the rest simply never germinated in the first place.
This is probably because the seeds were not protected by any topsoil.
The next thing, that we noticed was, that the area where we didn´t have any lawn and we simply threw the seeds on the bare ground almost no grass was starting to grow. Even after another 15 days, almost nothing. That is probably because the rain and our manual watering efforts have been washing the seeds away. Without any topsoil protecting the seeds they have simply been washed away.
So in the end, we managed to grow a new few patches of grass in our lawn and almost no new grass on bare soil. So I would recommend to at least cover your grass seeds with a little bit of topsoil to protect them and to give them a chance to build strong roots.
We talked to a professional gardener after all of that and he told us, that the few patches that we managed to grow in our little experiment will probably only survive if we take really good care of them. That is because without any topsoil the grass seeds cand establish strong roots and without strong roots, the newly grown grass will have a very hard time surviving.
And we actually lost a few of our newly grown grass patches when we went over them with our grass mower.
So don´t do it the way, that we did and try to at least protect your grass seeds with a little bit of soil and you could even use special soil for growing grass that will help to give your grass seeds the best starting conditions that it could possibly have.
Alternatively, you could also simply prepare the soil before planting the grass seeds. That way you don´t really have to get any soil to cover your seeds.
How to Prepare the Soil for Growing Grass
As I mentioned above and for the reasons that I mentioned above, you should definitely protect the grass seeds. The most common way is to protect the newly sown grass seeds with topsoil or a special kind of soil for growing grass. This method works great but it is also very expensive to buy that much soil. So here is an alternative method where you don´t have to buy soil you only have to prepare the ground before hand.
For optimal results, I would highly suggest testing the pH of the soil. For grass, it should be between 6.0 and 7.0. I have a guide on different methods to test the soil pH including how to test it without a commercial tester.
If the pH of the Soil is not between 6.0 and 7.0 then you have to adjust it. You can adjust the pH of your soil with commercial products. I would suggest checking out your local garden center or hardware store for products, that will either raise or lower the pH of your soil. I personally use german products that are not available in the US and I don´t want to recommend products, that I personally never used.
Next up you need to rake the area, that you want to sow the grass seeds. Remove anything, that could hinder the growth of the grass like small rocks, loose dirt, etc.
Now simply sew the grass seeds in the groves, that you created with the rake and carefully cover the seeds with the soil again. Now you have to keep the area, where you planted the seeds moist at all times.
You can do this by either watering them regularly, or you could wait for a few rainy days to safe on water or you could also cover the area in a thin layer of fine mulch.
Mulch will prevent the soil underneath it from drying up, which is perfect for growing grass.
Depending on the variant of grass, that you are using, the grass should germinate after about 5 to 30 days.
Should You Rake in Grass Seed?
This is another question, that we asked ourselves and another reason for our little experiment. We simply threw the seeds on our lawn and on a grass-free area with very little to almost no result, you can read more about that above. We didn´t rake the area before we sew out the grass seeds and we didn’t cover them with any topsoil.
So grass seeds should be raked in because without enough contact to soil the grass seeds will not germinate properly. A little bit of soil on top of the grass seeds will also protect them from drying out and from being washed away. If an existing lawn is being seeded, then raking will not be necessary.
As mentioned above, in our little experiment we did not rake the seeds in and we did not cover them with any topsoil and that resulted in very poor germination, only about one third actually germinated, and poor protection for the grass seeds, a lot of them were simply washed away by the rain.
So generally it is advisable to rake in the grass seeds to protect them and give them a better chance to establish strong roots and a good root system.
If you just want to seed an existing lawn that is thinning out, then I would not rake in the seeds. This will only damage your lawn or uproot some grass patches. If you want to seed an existing lawn, then covering the seeds with a thin layer of soil or with a little bit of fine mulch will be enough. The most important thing is to keep the lawn moist at all times until the grass germinates.