Why is new grass seed covered with straw? Can any kind of straw be used? -Jack

When seeding new lawns, it’s generally recommended that a thin layer of mulch be scattered on top. That mulch really only has one purpose – to hold in moisture to keep the seeds from drying out. It’s not as necessary when over seeding older lawns, because the existing grass helps hold in moisture.

    Wood chip mulch
    Wood chip mulch helps retain moisture in planting beds, and can protect termites.

    There are several options to choose from

    • Wheat, Barley, or Oat Straw: Yellow grain straw is the most popular choice. It’s inexpensive, readily available, relatively free of seeds, and as your new lawn grows, it’s pretty easily chopped up with the lawn mower. Don’t use hay, as it contains too many seeds.
    • Compost: Finely screened regular or mushroom compost makes excellent mulch, because it also breaks down to deliver nutrients. Apply about a 1/4” layer to the ground.
    • Aged Pine Straw: Pine straw is a matter of some debate, because the needles contain chemicals (called terpenes) that suppress the growth of plants underneath. Ever notice that the grass is often thin under pine trees? However, those terpenes evaporate away quickly once the needles fall. So if you want to mulch your lawn with pine needles, use well-aged, brown needles that no longer have an aroma, rather than freshly-fallen pine straw from under trees.
    • Peat Moss: Well loosened peat moss can also be used as mulch over grass seed.
    • Sawdust: If you use sawdust, apply no more than 1/4” layer.
    • Manufactured Lawn Mulch: You can also try a commercial product. A biodegradable seed mat is especially helpful on slopes, because it holds itself together. Or, you can spring for a pelletized mulch-and-fertilizer combo such as Lesco Seed Starter 3.

    Fresh mulch

    Lawn Mulching Tips

    When mulching your newly seeded lawn:

    • Don’t use too thick a layer of mulch, which could choke out your new seedlings.
    • Scatter the mulch loosely; don’t layer it. If using straw, use your hands or a pitchfork to shake the straws loose.
    • Break up any clumps of mulch or straw.
    • When you look down at your mulched and seeded lawn, you should see about 50% mulch and 50% seed covered soil. If you apply it properly, you won’t have to remove the mulch later; it’ll just break down and disappear.

    Further Information

    Editorial Contributors
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    Danny Lipford


    Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio, TodaysHomeowner.com, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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