Does Hay Help Grass Grow? How to Use it for Grass Seed

So much can happen after you have planted the grass seeds. Birds can pick the seeds, heavy rains can wash them away, or strong winds can blow the seeds away. To prevent these, you can use hay to cover the grass seed and encourage it to germinate. But, does it work?

Hay will help grass seed germinate consistently by preventing it from being picked up by birds or eroded away by water. Mulching with hay also helps the soil trap warmth from the sun for proper germination. Lightly scatter 1 bale of hay over 1000 sq. ft. of the seeded area to cover grass seed.

Their decomposition provides the grass with nutrients as it grows, holds moisture, and prevents evaporation. Ensure to scatter the hay such that the ground remains visible if you look down through it.

Does hay help grass grow?

Hay protects grass seeds from birds and provides the seeds with enough moisture and warmth necessary for germination. It also prevents soil erosion, keeping the seeds in place, and helping the germination process.

For your grass seeds to grow steadily without being affected by weather such as heavy rains and strong winds, apply a light cover of hay to keep the seeds protected.

Here are the benefits of using  hay to grow your grass: 

  • It helps retain moisture and heat inside the soil, necessary for germination.
  • Hay prevents the grass seeds from exposure to direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can burn the roots and destroy them before germination.
  • As the hay decomposes, it provides nutrients to the seeds and encourages grass to grow healthy. 
  • It prevents birds from picking the seeds before germinating.
  • Heavy rains can wash away grass seed. Spreading hay in your field will help the seeds remain intact in the soil.

I’ve noted that most people prefer using straw to cover grass seed over hay majorly because hay contains significant quantities of weed seeds. Therefore, you should treat hay before spreading it over the seeded area.

Alternatively, use straw as it has no weeds and can be left until it decomposes completely.

Hay is cut from young grass that is still flourishing, and when dried, it will still have seeds remaining on its forage. When adequately watered and fertilized on your lawn, the grass seeds will germinate alongside the weed seeds from the untreated hay. Therefore, you may a major weed problem in your lawn after seeding or overseeding and covering with hay.

You need to weed the grass after germination using a weed puller such as the Yard Butler Rocket Weeder to keep your lawn clean and attractive. Weeding should be done correctly not to destroy the young germinating grass.

How to spread hay over grass seed

Spreading hay over grass seeds needs to be done carefully not to disperse or destroy the grass seeds. Before you use hay to cover the overseeded or newly seeded lawn area, you should ensure that the hay does not have many weed seeds that will grow into weeds. To treat the hay, you have to solarize the hay, take a large container and dip it inside, and cover the hay tightly.

Solarize by heating the hay to kill weeds and make it ready for use. Add water to the hay until it seeps out in the middle, then remove it from the container and turn it upside down.

Cover the hay tightly with a plastic bag and place it outside in direct sunlight and leave it for 2 to 3 weeks to heat up before using it.

Here’s how to spread hay over grass seed:

1. Separate and loosen the clumps of hay

If you have already overseeded your lawn, separate the large hay into smaller clumps with your hands to get light-weight hay sticks. Separating the hay makes it easy to manage and spread over the grass seeds.

2. Spread hay in thin layers 

Lay a bale of hay to cover 1000 square feet of lawn. Spread the hay in a thin layer above the grass seed area using your hands or hay scatter. Apply 50% as mulch and 50% as grass seed covers. Do not spread less or more than the recommended amount.

After spreading the hay, ensure you can see soil patches between the hay. Evenly scattered hay allows adequate evaporation and keeps the seeds from rotting. It should also allow sunlight to penetrate the soil to provide the necessary warmth for germination.

3. Respread hay to maintain the thickness

Come back to the area the next day and see whether the hay is intact with the soil. If not, replace the areas where the wind has blown away the hay. Check where there are clumps of hay and re-spread again within that place.

4. Remove the hay after grass germinates fully

After a few months, the grass will be already grown so you can decide whether to remove the hay or let it fully decompose into the soil. The hay will be thin, and it will not affect the grass if you leave it.

How long do you leave hay on grass seed?

There’s no specific time to leave hay over grass seed. You can use hay to protect the grass until it is firmly anchored into the soil. When the grass is about two to three inches above the hay, you can decide whether to remove the hay or not.

If the hay is thinning and rotting, you don’t have to remove it from the grass. Let it decompose into the soil and release nutrients that promote the growth of grass. Hay is broken down into organic matter and yields excess Nitrogen and Phosphorus in simple forms that the grass can use.

If the hay is thick and does not show signs of decomposing, you should remove it. Use a garden fork to remove the hay but be careful not to disturb the roots of the newly germinated grass. You can also choose not to remove the hay and let it decompose slowly.

If you choose not to remove the hay, watch out for the growing weeds between the grass. Remove the weeds the moment you see them competing with the grass. Weeding correctly will help loosen the soil, encourage microbial activities, and promote the thickening of the grass.

How much hay to put on grass seed?

The correct amount of hay is one bale of hay spread over 1000 square feet of the seeded area. If the landscape is sloppy, you will need to add about 30 pounds of hay. Do not put too much or too little hay on the grass seeds.

You need to protect the seeds and, at the same time, not overload them with hay. Use the recommended amount of hay. Too much hay on top of the seeds will encourage the rotting of the grass seeds.

Alternatives to hay for covering grass seed

There are several alternatives to hay that you can use to cover grass seeds. They include sawdust mulch, compost, peat moss mulch, straw blankets, and seed mats.

Sawdust mulch

When using sawdust, ensure there are no clumps over the seeds. Clumps can prevent the grass from penetrating the surface. ¼ inches of sawdust throughout the seeded area is enough to protect the grass seeds. Sawdust mulch may cause a mat – a barrier that will prevent drainage and evaporation.

Compost

Applying a light coat of compost on your lawn is a great alternative to covering grass seed. Like sawdust mulch, ¼ inches of compost increases soil fertility and provides a moisture retention layer.

Make sure you use fully decomposed compost. Otherwise, it will encourage the rotting of grass seeds or even attract harmful bacteria. Apply fine-grained compost as clumped granules prevent air, moisture, and sunlight from reaching the seeds. The large granules can hinder grass growth and patch your lawn.

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