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Seeding grass in North Carolina, 2023

back grass, at night, freshly mowed

I'm documenting here for everyone to see, I seeded my lawn this year! When we built our house, we cleared more than 20 trees from our property. At the beginning, there was only a 50 sq ft. area of the backyard that wasn't covered with things. By the end of the construction, there was more room. We envisioned having room for plants, but we had a large enough area for grass for the kids to play on.

During the construction this area was used a little for tools, but it was also bulldozed over a couple of times. The construction folks called this a "rough grade".

As our first step, we set up the things around it. Notably, we installed pavers along the back of the house. This provided part of the border for the grass.

Grass prep

backyard with some sprouts, mostly bare

To prep for the grass, we did a few things:

  1. We watered it thoroughly. We started watering before everything else, in part to help make our soil tillable and not hard as rock.
  2. We tilled the soil and removed any rocks we could larger than a quarter in diameter. We tried to till down to 4" below the surface. Given our Carolina clay soil, it was very hard to till the soil in some places.
  3. We did a soil analysis. The kit told us that our soil was depleted in nitrogen and phosphorus. The soil was also very acidic.
  4. We spread fertilizer. A couple weeks before planting, we bought Sta-green and tilled it in.
  5. We amended the soil. We bought compost for about 1 inch of soil depth (it was a lot of bags!). We tilled it in the best we could.
  6. We seeded the soil - this step is the most critical. We did this on a day that we had 4 hours to work, but also would not have rain in the forecast for a week to wash away our seed. We chose a week before temperatures got really cold at the beginning of October. If you plant too early, it may still be very hot. If you plant too late, you risk having your new lawn covered in leaves before it is ready to weather the shade. We spread the seed with a Scott's Whizz Spreader set to the setting indicated on the seed bag. Once we spread the seed, we lightly raked the seed to get it just under the tilled soil.
  7. We stayed off of it - we tried not to run or walk on the grass.
  8. After about 2 weeks, we had a lot of grass that had popped up!

backyard with seeds backyard witih grass growing

Selecting grass seed

To do this, I went to all of Lowe's, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware, taking a picture of every seed that was available at each store.

I cross-referenced every label with the recommended seed cultivars from NC State from 2020 and 2022. It is good to have a seed that mixes different seeds. I choose one that had 3 recommended varieties, which this year was Scott's Turf Builder Rapid Grass Tall Fescue. It has fertilizer as well, but we mostly focused on the total seed content, while minimizing the inert matter and weed seed.

Tools we used


  • NC State Extension: Carolina lawns — this article is the best you can find about planting lawns, especially in North Carolina. It mentions major grass breeds, planting proceses, and timing.
  • NC State List of seed cultivars, 2020 and 2022