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My yard was covered with a number of overgrown raised beds. Exactly one week ago, I:

  1. Pulled out the more noxious weeds (grapevine, milkweed, creeping charlie)
  2. Chopped down the remaining weeds and raked them away (mostly overgrown grass)
  3. Roto-tilled the soil, in two steps: once, a few hours after it had rained, then again the next morning once the top layer dried out. The beds had been filled with topsoil and mulch so I didn't add either of these.
  4. Raked away the sticks and clumps of old sod
  5. Raked out a gentle grade
  6. Put down seed (Scotts sun and shade mix) with a fertilizer coating
  7. Watered lightly
  8. Used a roller half-filled with water once the soil drained.

Since then, I've been consistent about watering morning and evening just until I see puddles starting to form. We've also had about 2" of rain over the same time period, so the ground has been damp or wet the whole time. Highs have been in the low 90s F, and it has been very humid.

Having never planted a lawn before, I don't know what I should be looking for. The grass is coming up (yay!), but do I have too much? not enough?

Does the week-old lawn in my picture look about like it should? And if not, is there anything I can do at this point to fix it?

  • I am in Madison, WI (USDA plant hardiness zone 5a)
  • Highs have been in the 80s F this past week
  • The lawn has morning and evening shade, with direct sun for several hours each day

Most of the new lawn looks like the picture above -- a few dense spots, a few thin spots.

  • 1
    give it time, my parents had some lawn redone late last fall, and we didn't get the grass to grow until a few weeks into spring. Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 5:05
  • I live near Madison myself, so I know the weather you've been experiencing. A few questions: - What grass seed mix did you use? - How long did you wait after one of our storms before you rototilled? - Am I right in assuming that you seeded your lawn immediately before the 90+ degree F days we've had for the last week? - Did you do anything to kill the weeds you had before you removed them (dig up the dandelions, for example)? - Did you use any crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides this spring? If so, when?
    – Jurp
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 10:56
  • @Jurp I added a few more details. I've never used any herbicides on the grass.
    – LShaver
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 14:15

2 Answers 2


You may have done steps 4 5 and 6 in the wrong order. It would have been better to get the ground level and rolled (if you needed to do that) before sowing the seed. The lightly rake the seed in after sowing. It doesn't matter if some of the seed is still on the surface.

It's also a good idea to wait after prepared the site for one crop of weed seeds to germinate, and kill them before sowing the grass seed. If the ground settles unevenly while you are waiting, it's much easier to fix that before you have grass growing.

But apart from all that - just wait. You will always get an uneven distribution of seed, and uneven germination conditions. Don't panic unless you still have "bald patches" after a month.

And don't be in a rush to mow the lawn for the first time - you don't want to pull up the grass before it has grown enough roots to hold it down when you cut it!

Sowing grass seed in the middle of summer is a bad idea unless you get regular rain. The seed will survive before it germinates, but you risk it dying from lack of water immediately after it germinates. The best time is usually September (in the northern hemisphere) when the ground is still warm, but there is not so much sun and likely to be more rain, and the grass has time to establish itself before winter. If you sow a lawn in September, unless it gets really long and untidy you can let it grow naturally, without mowing, till the next spring.


To add to Alephzero's excellent answer, bluegrass takes 21 days to germinate, so what you'd be looking at is perennial (I hope) ryegrass and fescues, which germinate in 7 days or so; the watering you've done will have leveled off some of the soil and covered some seeds deeper than others, which will delay their germination.

I have to say that I'm not a fan of your seed mix, mainly because Scott's doesn't list on its webpage the types and percentages of seed used. These values should be on a label attached to the bag; since the seed is for sun and shade, it should contain a mix of perennial ryegrass and perennial fescue for shade plus a decent amount of bluegrass for sun. Many mixes - even expensive ones - contain 30% or more of annual grasses, which will germinate quicker than bluegrass, look great for the summer, and then die over winter.

Scott's did get one thing right - seeds germinate best below 80 degrees F. We have definitely had much warmer weather than that since summer finally arrived in late June, so be patient - the seed should germinate later in the summer. You will, though, have to keep the weed seeds brought to light by rototilling from taking over your lawn before the seed sprouts.

  • The mix is on the bag -- I'll add that detail when I get a chance to look at it. I have to cross the new lawn to get to the shed, so I'm trying to minimize trips!
    – LShaver
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 13:54

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