Do you Have to Put Straw Over Grass Seed? How + Alternatives

A newly seeded lawn requires extra care and attention for the seed to germinate evenly. Other than providing your seeded lawn with water, cover it to protect the seed from birds and being blown away by the wind. So, do you have to put straw over grass seed?

The answer is Yes. Putting straw mulch on your grass seed helps conserve soil moisture, prevent seed movement by either wind or water and deter birds from feeding on them. Alternatively, you can use compost, peat moss or sawdust.

Do you have to put Straw over Grass Seed

When planting a new lawn, it’s important to protect the grass seed from winds, birds, and moisture loss. The following are reasons you need to put straw over grass seed:

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 your hands. After the grass has been established, you can easily remove the straw using a pitchfork. You can also 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 minimizes the rate of evaporation. This means that you don’t need to keep on watering your lawn frequently. You only water when the soil becomes 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 helps to lock the seed in place until they germinate.

4. Prevent birds from pecking on the seed

Blackbirds, finches, and sparrows eat grass seed as part of their diet. Mulching a newly seeded lawn can prevent birds from feeding on grass seed, creating even germination.

5. Improve soil conditions after decomposing

When new grass seed germinates, 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 soil fertility, drainage, and aeration.

6. Discourages disturbance from pets and stray animals

Pets, stray dogs, and cats are fond of playing and creating holes in the 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 hot sunlight

Newly germinated grass seedlings are quite delicate. They can easily dry out when exposed to direct heat from the sun. A mulch layer will help protect the seedling from harsh weather conditions like high temperatures.

8. It discourages weed growth

Mulch from straw suppresses weeds’ growth while promoting grass seed germination. This ensures the grass does not compete with weeds for space, nutrients, light, and other resources.

Also read: Will grass seed germinate on top of soil? (When not covered?)

How to Spread Straw over Grass Seed

When it comes to spreading straw over your grass seed, it is important to consider a few things to ensure the job is done right. The amount and type of straw you are using are critical. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Scatter the straw loosely over the grass seed, and 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 see 50% mulch and 50% seeded lawn.
  3. Water your lawn evenly and deeply for about 10 to 15 minutes: The water will help to initiate the germination process.
  4. Remove the straw once the seed has germinated: Doing it gently using a pitchfork rather than a rake is important. Lift the straw up rather than raking it away to avoid damaging the new lawn. However, if you apply the mulch properly, it may not be necessary to clean it up. It will just break down and disintegrate into the soil.

Also Read: How to Tell if Grass Seed is Germinating

How Much Straw to cover Grass Seed

A bale of straw should 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 bales 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 weather elements, 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 you are protecting your seed, but you end up with a ruined lawn. A thick mulch can smother or choke out your new seedling.

Alternative to Straw for Grass Seed

The following are suitable alternatives to straw:

1. Compost

Compost mulch may include animal beddings, grass clippings, leaves or broken down compost. These materials are ideal alternatives 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.

2. Peat Moss

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 should not apply a layer thicker than ¼ inch.

3. Coconut Coir

Coconut coir is the best alternative to straw, especially if you live in coastal areas with heavy clay soil. It helps to improve drainage and the aeration of the soil. It protects the grass seed from the wind and makes 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.

4. Sawdust or Wood Shavings

Although sawdust has few valuable soil additions compared to compost or excelsior mulch, it helps to lock moisture on the top layer of the soil and protect 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.

5. Excelsior Mats

This is the rarest option used as an alternative to straw. These materials are made from aspen wood fibres. The fibre 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 a longer time to break down.

6. Jute Mats

Jute mats or germination blankets are similar to excelsior mats in controlling soil erosion. Jute germination blankets also help to ensure even germination of grass seed. They also help to improve soil fertility after decomposing.

Final Thoughts

It takes 3 to 4 weeks for the grass seed to germinate. During this period, it is essential to protect your seed with a thin layer of mulch to conserve soil moisture, deter birds from feeding on it, and prevent the grass seed from being carried away by wind or water.

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