Newly seeded lawn requires extra care and attention for it to germinate evenly. It’s essential to provide ideal conditions that promote germination. Other than providing your seeded lawn with water, cover it to protect the seed from birds and being blown away by wind. So, do you have to put straw over grass seed?
The short answer to this question is, yes. Putting straw mulch on your grass seed is helpful in conserve soil moisture, prevent seed movement by either wind or water and deter birds from feeding on them.
Why you need to put Straw over Grass Seed
When planting a new lawn, it’s important to protect the grass seed by covering them with a thin layer of straw. It help to keep soil warm and moist so as to promote even germination and strong development of roots. There’re also other benefits of mulching your seeded area with straw.
1. It’s easy to apply and clean up
It is quite easy to apply and clean up the straw. You simply apply a thin layer on the surface of the seeded lawn using hands. After the grass have established you can easily remove the straw using a pitchfork. You even don’t need to remove the straw after the grass seed have germinated. You can allow it to break down and disintegrate into the soil.
2. Help to conserve soil moisture content
Applying a thin layer of straw over new grass seed help to lock in moisture. It minimize the rate of evaporation. This means that you don’t need to keep on watering your lawn frequently. You only water when the soil become dry.
3. Minimize seed movement
Covering new grass seed will help to prevent seed movement while promoting even germination of the seed. When a seeded lawn is left without covering, the seed may be carried away by blowing wind or water from a heavy downpour. The straw help to lock the seed in place until they germinate.
4. Prevent birds from pecking on the seed
Black birds, finches and sparrows eat grass seed as part of their diet. Mulching a newly seeded lawn can prevent birds from feeding on grass seed and hence creating even germination.
5. Improve soil conditions after decomposing
When new grass seed germinate, you can either clean up the lawn or leave the straw to decompose. They break down to add nutrients and other organic matter into the soil. Nutrients and organic matter improve fertility, drainage and aeration of the soil.
6. Discourages disturbance from pets and stray animals
Pets, stray dogs and cats are fond of playing and creating holes in a freshly seeded lawn. Applying a layer of straw on the surface can help to minimize the disturbance caused by these animals.
7. Protects the seedling from being dried out by direct sunlight
Newly germinated grass seedling are quite delicate. They can easily dry out when exposed to a direct heat from the sun. A layer of mulch will help to protect the seedling from harsh weather conditions like high temperatures.
8. It discourages weed growth
Mulch from straw suppresses growth of weeds while promoting germination of grass seed. This ensures the grass does not compete with weeds for space, nutrients, light and other resources.
How to Spread Straw over Grass Seed
When it comes to spreading straw over your grass seed, it is important to put a few things into consideration to ensure the job is done right. It is important to consider the amount and type of straw you are using. You don’t want to cover your seed with a thick layer that may not allow the seed to get air and light. The tips below will help you to lay down the straw appropriately.
Prepare the top surface of the soil thoroughly before placing the seed. Use a hoe to brake the clods and a rake to keep the surface level. Place the seed on the fine soil as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Be sure not to agitate the soil when sowing the seed.
Scatter the straw loosely over the grass seed, be sure not to layer it. Use your hands or a pitchfork to shake the straw loose. Break up any lump of straw before scattering it on the ground. When you look at the mulched areas, you should be able to see 50% mulch and 50% seeded lawn.
After spreading the mulch, water your lawn evenly and deeply for about 10 to 15 minutes. The water will help to initiate the germination process
Remove the straw once the seed have germinated. It is important to do it gently using a pitchfork rather than a rake. Lift the straw up rather than raking it away to avoid damaging the new lawn. However, if you applied the mulch properly, it may not be necessary to clean it up. It will just break down and disintegrate into the soil.
How Much Straw to cover Grass Seed
A bale of straw should be able to cover about 1,000 square feet of seeded lawn area. However, if the straw is bagged in smaller amounts, a bag can cover up to 500 square feet of lawn. The number of bale you need will actually depend on the size of the area you are covering. If the area is small, you can go for the bagged straw.
When applying the mulch, the layer should be thick enough to protect the seed from birds, harsh elements of weather and other factors. At the same time, it should be thin enough to allow water, air, and sunlight to pass through.
Don’t use a thick layer of mulch, you may think that you are protecting your seed but you end up with a ruined lawn. A thick mulch can smother or choke out your new seedling.
It is also important to understand that covering your seeded lawn with straw is only one part of lawn care. To maintain a healthy lawn, you have to feed them, control pest and water it regularly.
Alternative to Straw for Grass Seed
Many gardeners prefer to use straw to protect grass seed and seedlings since it is easy to spread and clean up. However, there are other alternatives that are as good as straw or even better. Some of them are cost-effective alternatives to straw. They also help to improve the germination rate as well as the condition of the soil. They include the following:
Compost mulch may include animal beddings, grass clippings, leaves or a broken down compost. These materials are ideal alternative to straw since they are readily available within your garden. They also improve soil fertility, drainage and aeration upon decomposition. You simply spread the compost materials on a newly seeded lawn in a thin layer of about 1/8 to ¼ inch of thickness.
Peat moss mulch is formed from plant materials that are not fully decayed. It’s the best alternative for straw especially if you live in an area that is humid, not windy and does not receive heavy rainfall. They are also the best materials to deter birds from munching on your seeded lawn. However, you are not supposed to apply a layer thicker than ¼ inch.
Coconut coir is the best alternative to straw especially if you live in coastal areas with heavy clay soil. It help to improve drainage and aeration of the soil. It protect the grass seed from wind as well as making it easy for the seedling to penetrate the roots into the soil. Coconut coir is also used to prevent soil erosion especially if your lawn is on a slope.
Sawdust or Wood Shavings
Although sawdust has little valuable soil additions as compared to compost or excelsior mulch, it help to lock moisture on the top layer of the soil as well as protecting the seed from birds and wind. Sawdust is also cost-effective and readily available when you need it. You simply spread a layer that is not thicker than ¼ inch.
This is the rarest option used as an alternative to straw. These materials are made from aspen wood fibers. The fiber materials break down slowly to release nutrients into the soil. They are effective in stabilizing silt or sandy soil. When using excelsior materials for mulching, ensure they are natural. Treated materials may take longer time to break down.
Jute mats or germination blankets are similar to excelsior mats when it comes to controlling soil erosion. Jute germination blankets also help to ensure even germination of grass seed. They also help to improve soil fertility after decomposing.
It take 3 to 4 weeks for grass seed to germinate. During this period, it is essential to protect your seed with a thin layer of straw. Mulching will help to promote even germination of seedling, conserve soil moisture content, improve soil fertility after decomposing and deter birds from feeding on the seed as well as preventing the grass seed from being carried away by wind or water.