How To Plant Grass Seed On Hard Dirt?

This post may contains affiliate links. If you click and buy we may make a commission, at no additional charge to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more details.

Your lawn might be receiving adequate care and ample sunshine. Yet, large patches of it may appear far less vibrant (not luscious and grassy enough) than the rest. This is a common problem that may lead you to wonder: What is the likely reason why sections of my lawn lack the same vigor as the rest of it, and how do I fix it?  

plant grass seed on hard dirt

The likely reason is: There are sections of hard soil (also known as compacted soil or clay soil) in your lawn. Hard dirt (also known as fill dirt) has tightly pressed particles that disallow water, air, and nutrients from entering the soil. 

Hard soil can also be caused by constant foot traffic in a particular area of your lawn. Regular foot traffic makes that particular area of the ground hard and compacted. 

Next, you’ll wonder, how to plant grass seed on hard dirt, so that grass grows there?  To develop ideal grass growing conditions on the troubled patches of your lawn, areas of hard dirt need fixing before planting grass seed. This is because you need to get air into the root zone of the soil before seeding. 

The good news is that you can get grass to sprout in hard dirt, by following certain steps.

Steps for Planting Grass Seed on Hard Dirt

Have you been dreaming of turning the hard dirt areas of your lawn into lush green grass? Read through the steps to find out how you can make your dream a reality!

Step 1: Get a soil test done in a laboratory.

It is challenging to grow healthy grass without knowing the existing soil condition and deficiencies. A soil test (soil analysis) gives essential insights about how much clay, sand, silt, and organic matter make up the soil. The examination also reveals which nutrients are missing.

To get the test done, you need to collect an accurate sample and take it to a soil testing center near you.  To obtain the sample, dig up garden soil from about 10 to 12 different places in your lawn. Take a small portion from each of these places, and mix them. The lab result of the analysis will help you in selecting the most suitable fertilizer or compost for the dense areas of your lawn.  

Step 2: Core Aerate the Topsoil

For grass to be able to grow, the ground beneath has to have enough spaces within it for air (oxygen) and water storage. When the ground is hard, enough air and water don’t seep through it.  With the help of a core aerator, you can create channels in the topsoil (top 3-inch layer of the ground), through which air, water, and nutrients can penetrate the soil.  

The core aerator machine makes small cylindrical holes in the ground, to remove cores of about 3 inches in depth, which makes planting easier.  Topsoil aeration should be done up to two times yearly (Fall and Spring) and continued for a few years.

Step 3: Till the super hard ground 

Sometimes, soil hardness is so severe that aeration by itself won’t take care of the problem. In such a scenario, it is only possible to loosen the ground (for planting) by tilling 6 to 10 inches into the earth. A rototiller machine is most suitable for performing this task. You may rent the rototiller since you may not need it regularly.   

planting grass seed on hard dirt

Step 4: Till Compost Over the Soil

After performing step 1 above (soil test), you would have discovered the deficiencies of your lawn’s existing soil. Now, after aerating and tilling the earth, you need to put the right type and amount of compost or fertilizer (as per the soil analysis done) over the cultivated ground.

That wheelbarrow in your storage, along with a rake, would be rather useful at this stage. Typically, at least an inch to two inches of suitable compost is added all over the aerated soil. This step rectifies soil deficiencies discovered through the soil test and prepares the ground. Adding compost means adding organic matter on the soil surface and inside the holes created with the core aerator.

Note, the amount of compost should be equivalent to about 25% to 50% of the weight of the soil. Further, it may have to be tilled as deep as 18 inches (instead of one to two inches), depending on your location and conditions. 

After mixing the soil with the compost, you now have to level the land several times with a rake. Then after letting it settle for some time, use a wet lawn roller to make it firm.

Step 5: Plant the grass seeds

Once you have prepared the soil, hard dirt should no longer be a reason for hindering grass growth. Though, this does not mean the next steps are unimportant. Correct planting of the grass seeds is a matter of technique and precision. 

Here’s How You do this

  • Load up a drop seed spreader with the grass seeds. Set the dial of the dropseed spreader following the directions laid out on the bag of grass seeds. The container should specify how much seed to spread for every 1,000 square feet. 
  • Using a rake, spread the grass seed evenly over the entire lawn area requiring planting. Make sure the seeds are planted within ¼ inch of the topsoil. Pull the rake through the lawn three or four times.
  • Use an empty lawn roller to press the grass seed further to the soil.

Grass Seed Selection for Hard Dirt Conditions

The factors that affect grass seeds selection are temperature, sunlight, and season. 

  • During Fall & Winter – Plant cool-season grass like Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea). Grass varieties like Kentucky bluegrass and Perennial ryegrass are other popular cool-season grasses ideal for hard dirt conditions.  
  • During Late Spring to Early Summer – Plant warm-season grass like Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon).  Grass varieties like Zoysia and Centipede are other popular warm-season grasses ideal for hard dirt conditions. 

Best Time to Plant Grass

When planting new grass seeds, maintaining consistent moisture is crucial to growth. With that in mind, the best times of year to plant grass include late spring or in early fall. During both these times of the year, the soil temperature is non-extreme and warm. 

Step 6: Watering

The next step is to soak the seedbed in water. Make sure not to overwater the newly seeded lawn. The top one inch of soil should be consistently kept moist (not soggy) until the seeds germinate.

Once the germination starts, the top two inches of soil should be kept moist (not soggy) until it reaches a mowing height of 3 inches. After that, watering the grass twice a week is sufficient, but it would have to be soaked more deeply (about 6 inches) so that the grassroots grow deeper into the soil.   

Step 7: Fertilize the Grass

To ensure the grass remains nutrient-rich and healthy, you need to fertilize it. We recommend 1/2 to 1 pound of the fertilizer (a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer) per 1,000 square feet of lawn area. This should be undertaken every two months in fall, spring and summer, beginning from the growing season.

Step 8: Mow the grass

When the grass grows to a height of about 3 inches, it’s the right time to mow it. The height to cut the grass to depends on which season grass it is. Cool-season grass should be cut to a height of 2 inches tall, while warm-season grass should be maintained at the height of 1 to 2 inches. For large lawns, a top-rated riding lawn mower will make this task effortless.

When cutting the grass, it is wise to use new lawnmower blades that are sharp enough. Mow the grass regularly throughout the year, so that not more than a third of the grass height is mowed at each mowing session.

Summing Up

Hard dirt is not the ideal environment for growing grass. Yet, it is feasible to plant grass seeds on hard earth by improving the soil, to get that lush green, healthy lawn you desire. 

Every successful outcome is a result of hard work and dedication. In this case, amending the soil using a specific step-by-step method is the hard work required. We’re confident, by following the steps we have outlined above, you wouldn’t find planting seeds in hard dirt anywhere as challenging as it could have been.

Leave a Comment