How to Get New Grass to Grow in the Heat of Summer: Seed With Potting Soil

June 11, 2009 | by Kim (email) |

The best time for seeding your yard is very early spring or else mid-fall.  However, we are working on re-vitalizing our rental property this month, and it is neither of those times.  So I used a tip I’d heard to get our grass to grow even as the sun bakes the yard every day.

Pets are Hard on Grass

bare patches in lawn from dog wasteI mentioned in a prior post that our renters had pets and that one of the hard-hit areas was the back yard.  After 5 years of dog droppings, the lawn was full of bare patches, and the area closest to the patio was completely dead.  Knowing that the soil in these spots was probably saturated with urine even after I picked up the (Walmart shopping bag full of) poop, I decided not to try to get the new grass to grow in the existing soil.  Not at first anyway.

Mix Grass Seed and Potting Soil

grass seeding suppliesI purchased a bag of seed and another larger one of potting soil and used a 5-gallon paint bucket and a trowel to mix the two together. (Potting soil has two benefits over topsoil, which is most commonly used: it contains fertilizer, and it tends to retain moisture a little better after watering. Both help the the new roots’ growth.)

Spread the Mix Over the Bare Spots

grass seed potting soil blend spread on groundI mixed five trowel-scoops of seed into about 4 gallons’ worth of soil in my bucket, then spread the mix about 1/2 inch deep over every bald spot.  For anyone looking to replicate this in your yard, you can probably use less seed.  As I was mixing, I noticed that the neighborhood birds were starting to gather on the fenceline, so I over-indulged, figuring there’d be some left for my yard even after they were done picking away as was clearly their intention.

Water the Newly Seeded Areas

newly emerged grassAfter spreading the mix, I returned every day to water the yard.  For the better part of the first week, I saw nothing.  Then, on day 7, very tiny grass “stubble” broke the surface.

Grass will Grow in 7 Days

two week old grassIn the second week, that grass has grown two inches!  So has all the old grass around it, so we’re going to need to mow very soon.  For THAT process, we’ll set the mower’s blade at its highest setting and then continue the daily watering for at least the first few days thereafter.  Then I’ll switch to less frequent watering until the grass seems to be sturdy.  The goal is to make it as easy as possible for the new root structures to grow down deeply enough to sustain the grass even through summer dry spells.

Final Thoughts

Aside from the hassle of driving over to water the grass every day, this was a pretty simple and inexpensive process.  So if you don’t mind the hose-vigilance (and you’re not living under a county water ban), seed those bare patches!  It’s great to see the change in a relatively short period of time! Click here to learn more about controlling weeds in your lawn and how to spread weed and feed.

17 Responses
  1. Todd says:

    Kim – This is a great tip and one I hadn’t heard before! I’ll be trying that in our yard on bare spots!! Thanks!

  2. Kim says:

    You’re quite welcome! This was the first time I’d tried it, and you can see from the 1st picture to the last what a change occurred in just 2 weeks! So now I’m eager to hit our OWN yard – once we get this rental squared away, that is. 🙂

  3. Baba says:

    Great tip! Thanks!

  4. Jay Todd says:

    Brilliant! Thanks for the tip. I have several big bare spots on my lawn that have stubbornly refused every seed I’ve tried.

  5. J. says:

    I’ve had a dog burning holes in my lawn for years. My fix, which works every time is to simply rake up the dead spot a bit to expose the soil beneath, spread the seed and then water until established. There is sooooo much nitrogen in the soil that fertilizer (starter or other type) is unnecessary. The dead grass does a good job covering the seed, much like straw on a newly seeded lawn.

    The area of lawn that my dog uses is the greenest and thickest of the entire yard, except for the dead spots from where he actually did his business. That’s all that nitrogen doing its job…

  6. HANDYMAN51 says:

    What is your approximate ratio of seed to potting soil? Also, would it help to add more mulch?

    • Kim says:

      I used 1 part seeds to 3 parts potting soil (anticipating the the birds and critters were going to get some of the seeds. The mulch you see in the one picture was actually just mulch that our renters’ dogs dragged from the garden bed into the [no-longer] grassy area. I didn’t mulch because I didn’t want the mulch pieces to inhibit the grass growth. (I was going for a quick turn-around on the grass growth, so we could show the place and re-rent it asap!)

      I ended up having to repeat this process again after our second set of renters also had a dog. It worked the second time, too!

  7. Maggi says:

    Bought a new house, previous owners dog destroyed a patch of the lawn and dandelions ran amuck. I had previously applied grass seed but it wasn’t distributed evenly enough and looks all patchy. (I know first time homeowners right!) I just prepared the ground and applied this. Fingers crossed my lawn won’t look like Frankenstein a few months from now 😉 great tip!

  8. Monique says:

    This absolutely worked!!! We had a few bare areas in our backyard that we were planning to get treated professionally, but came across this post and decided to give it a try. We gave it a try the first weekend in June and I have seen steady growth ever since. I used a mix of grass seed and topsoil because that’s what we had in our garage. So pleased! Thanks for posting this!!!

  9. Brenda says:

    Kim, just wanna thank you for the outstanding tip! Worked like a charm here in San Diego. Took a bit longer, but yes…it does work. Thanks again and looking forward to other great yard tips.

  10. Jackie says:

    So happy to see this post! Great and genius information! We live in Florida so our house pretty much sits on sand and we have a large area of our side and back yard where it’s sand and patches of dead grass. That sand often ends up in the house… I now see hope for my yard!!
    Thank you!

  11. Steve says:

    Does regular top soil work and which brand of grass seed should I use

  12. Geri says:

    Thank you so very much for this post. As mentioned per post, within seven days I seen results. I’m so very excited!!
    Thank you!!

  13. Ashly says:

    Could I use straw to cover it up? My dogs and the previous renters dogs have just destroyed my yard. I have tried to go grass so much and to no avail have I been able to see anything work 😕

  14. Alan says:

    Thanks Kim I’m in the UK and it’s 27%at the moment I treated my lawn for moss and it left big patches I did what you said but I tampered it down and now after 8 days is about an inch high thanks Kim xx

  15. Jacqueline Mayer says:

    can I use fertilizer instead of potting soil ?

  16. Paulina says:

    Amazing! I planted grass seed in the middle of hot summer. 90 degree weather. I used suggestions from the posts above and results are amazing! Remember to water in the morning and at night! 2 weeks later I have a beautiful lawn.

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