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Why Put Straw on Grass Seed

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One of the goals when planting a new lawn is keeping the grass seed in place until it germinates and establishes a root system to anchor it to the soil. Another is to keep the newly planted seed sufficiently moist and warm to encourage germination. Both goals can be achieved by placing a thin layer of straw over the grass seed and leaving it in place until grass seedlings appear.

Germination Process


Grass seed must come into contact with the soil in order to germinate, a process helped along by heat and moisture. Because of its small size, it's important not to bury the seed too deeply, and a light sprinkling of soil over it is usually sufficient. Depending upon the variety, it takes up to three weeks for grass seed to germinate. The process begins by sending down a small root that eventually develops additional lateral roots. Above the soil, a crown appears from which will emerge three to five tiny, undeveloped leaves. All subsequent leaves grow from the center, and each is taller than the ones before it. Applying a thin later of straw allows sunlight through, and the grass has no trouble growing through the openings.

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Benefits Straw for Grass Seed


Not only does straw keep grass seed moist and warm, it also keeps the seed from blowing around on windy days or washing away during heavy rainstorms watering. Without straw, grass seeds may be exposed to too much direct sunlight, and can be easily washed away during heavy rains that deposit it in patchy areas, leaving other spots bare. Straw also discourages birds and small mammals from feasting on the seed. As it decomposes, the straw contributes valuable nutrients to the soil.

Weed Control and New Lawns


Less seed content in straw allows it to be used as a grass seed mulch. Straw is formed of grass stalks, while hay includes flowers and seeds. Straw does contain seed from field grasses and weeds. An unwelcome lawn plant.

It is possible to limit weed growth by removing the straw mulch from the grass seed sooner, but most seed content likely reaches the soil within days.

Growing Grass With Straw


Because straw is seedless, it doesn't introduce weeds into the new lawn, and also helps discourage other weeds that may try to germinate. It should not be applied too thickly, as it will defeat its own purpose and prevent the grass seed from growing. A bale of straw should cover roughly 1,000 square feet of lawn if it's applied so that the soil is visible through it. Grass seed should be tamped down lightly so as not to crush it, and the straw applied before the initial watering in order to avoid walking on wet, newly seeded soil.

How Long Do You Leave Straw on Top of New Grass Seeds?


Allowing grass seed or recently germinated plants to totally dry out can kill them. A straw mulch slows evaporation and keeps the soil moist as grass seeds develop. Wait until the new grass seeds germinate and grow tall enough to mow before removing the straw. The straw can either be removed or left to rot among the grass blades.

Considerations


As tempting as might be to remove the straw once the grass seed has sprouted, raking it off may damage the plants' tender roots and shoots. If applied sparingly, experts say it can be left on as it will decompose rapidly into the soil. According to Sunset, it's best not to press grass seed too deeply into the soil with a weighted roller, as this may compact the soil and cause it to dry out more quickly.