Planting grass seeds on lawns is a challenging task. You want to ensure the seeds mature into greener and healthier turfgrass. But external elements such as birds eat the seeds, strong winds and heavy rains carry them away, leaving your lawn bare.
A remedy to grow the seeds till maturity is covering them with peat moss. We’ll learn more about peat moss and how to use them on the lawn.
Can you put peat moss over grass seed?
You can put peat moss over grass seeds when establishing a new lawn or when adding seeds to bare spots on the existing lawn. Adding peat moss to cover the grass seeds will protect them from rain or wind, and the birds will not eat them. Peat moss will also help the seeds remain moist and prevent the soil from drying. With peat moss, grass seeds germinate faster than their average growth rate.
How to cover grass seeds with peat moss
Peat moss is dead, decayed sphagnum moss. If you cover grass seeds correctly, strong winds won’t carry them away, and they will mature to desirable turfgrass. Below is a procedure to cover grass seeds using peat moss.
1. Lawn preparation
Prepare the lawn area before covering seeds with peat moss. The first step is to remove debris. Then, apply herbicides to remove any seed weeds lying on the site. This should be done earlier, 2-3 weeks before planting grass seeds.
After removing the debris and weeds, till the lawn area to loosen the soil, for new lawns, till to 6 inches. If there are any low spots or holes, rake through to fill them with soil. Level the ground uniformly.
Use a lawn roller to slightly compact the soil when done.
2. Spreading grass seeds
The next step after lawn preparation is spreading grass seeds. Spread the grass seeds evenly over the lawn area. Use your hands to spread the seeds for a small space, but use a spreader for a bigger one.
Pour water lightly into the grass seeds. Use a mist bottle for small areas or a can with tiny holes for larger sizes. Be sure not to overwater or underwater.
3. Covering grass seeds with peat moss
Add peat moss on the grass seeds to ¼ of an inch using hands or a spreader. Water lightly until the peat moss puddles. Don’t apply excess water or less of it. Water the peat moss at intervals whenever you see a brown color. Water twice a day before the seeds germinate. The grass will grow, and sprouts will emerge from the peat moss after five days.
After the seedling has germinated and grown to an inch tall, lower the watering frequency to one per day to cover ½ inch of peat moss.
Benefits of spreading peat moss on grass seeds
Spread peat moss on grass seeds for its various benefits. Read on to know these benefits if you want to cover your grass seeds with peat moss but are stuck on how it will help them.
1. It helps to retain water
Peat moss’s ability to retain water makes it a top choice over other top dressing materials when planting new seeds on a lawn. Loose sandy soils have low water retention capacity, and with insufficient water, turf blades curl.
Add peat moss to prevent poor water retention capacity when planting grass seeds. Peat moss retains upto 20 times its dry weight when wet. This is because it acts like a sponge, thus holding water for turfgrass roots absorption. Adding peat moss ensures water is readily available to turf anytime.
2. Improves water drainage and aeration
Poorly drained soils are poor for growing turfgrass because they encourage root rot and other diseases. Peat moss has loose particles, allowing water and air to penetrate the roots. Peat moss improves the water drainage capacity and aeration in poorly drained soils.
3. Protects grass seeds from elements and birds
Adding peat moss on grass seeds before they germinate helps keep birds and other animals away who may eat the seeds before they grow.
Peat moss protects the seeds from being carried away by strong winds or washed away by heavy rains. If grass seeds were bare, birds would eat them, and strong winds would carry them away before germinating.
4. Peat moss doesn’t bring weeds or pathogens to the lawn
Add peat moss when planting grass seeds if you want to escape endless battles of killing weeds from your lawn area. Peat moss doesn’t have any weeds or seeds in them. They also don’t have pathogens that cause turf disease. Disinfect your lawn from previous weeds and cover the bases using peat moss.
5. Encourages fast sprouting in grass seeds
Peat moss has good water retention capacity and promotes good drainage and aeration on lawn areas. Its high water retention capacity (20 times its dry weight) makes water available to grow grass seeds. Peat moss is also less compact, allowing air and sunlight to penetrate.
Water, air, and sunlight are essential elements seeds require for growth and development. Peat moss makes these elements available in plenty for grass seeds, and they grow faster to produce more sprouts.
Peat moss Vs. Straw- Which one is Better?
You can also use straw instead of peat moss to cover grass seeds when planting. Straw is dry stalks of grasses used to cover grass seeds. While both are good for covering grass seeds, there’re distinctions between them worth considering before deciding which one to cover seeds with. We compare peat moss and straw below.
1. Water retention capacity
Peat moss has a high water retention capacity of upto 20 times its dry weight, while straw retains less water.
Peat moss mimics a sponge to hold a lot of water for grass seeds. It can hold water up to 20 times its average dry weight. This makes it preffered over straw in poor water retention soils.
On the other hand, straws retain little or moderate water. Seeds can even dry out when covered in straws.
2. Sprouts production rate
Peat moss produces more sprouts faster, while straws make fewer sprouts slower.
Because peat moss has high water retention capacity, good drainage and aeration, and allows more sunlight penetration, seeds covered in peat moss grow faster and produce more sprouts.
Conversely, straws have low water retention capacity and don’t allow much sunlight penetration; thus, seeds covered in them grow slower, producing fewer sprouts.
3. Environmental hazards
Peat moss is non-renewable and harmful to the surroundings, while straws are renewable and eco-friendly.
Once extracted from a bog, peat moss is non-renewable. Extracting peat moss from bogs pollutes the surrounding wetlands. Peat moss doesn’t decompose or allow microorganisms to live in them. When microorganisms’ activities lack soil, there will be no breakdown of organic matter to add more nutrients.
Meanwhile, straws are renewable and encourage soil microorganisms, producing more nutrients for turfgrass. Straws also decompose over time to release more nutrients to the turf.
4. Weeds and pathogens
Peat moss is clean and has no weeds or disease-causing pathogens, while straws have weeds and pathogens.
Peat moss is decayed sphagnum moss remains with no weeds or disease-causing pathogens. It is preffered because it doesn’t introduce weeds and pathogens to the lawn.
Conversely, straws can have weeds that will grow and invade the lawn area when used to cover seeds.
Below is a simplified table showing the significant differences between peat moss and straw.
|Has high water retention capacity.||Has low water retention capacity.|
|Produces more sprouts faster.||Produces fewer sprouts slower.|
|Non-renewable and toxic to the environment.||Renewable and eco-friendly.|
|Has no weeds and pathogens.||It can have weeds and pathogens.|
Choose peat moss over straw if you want more sprouts faster, good soil drainage, and better water retention capacity. Choose straw if you’re going to add more nutrients to the soil and don’t want to destroy the environment because straw is eco-friendly.
From holding more water, growing more sprouts faster, introducing no weeds to the lawn, aerating the soil, and protecting the seeds from harsh elements and birds, peat moss outranks straw.
How much peat moss to use for grass seeds
Add ¼ inch of peat moss to the lawn after planting grass seeds. If adding peat moss before planting seeds, spread between 1-3 inches of peat moss and dip into 6 inches deep. Using too much peat moss on lawns is harmful to grass because peat moss produces hydroxide, making the soil more acidic. Increased acidity in soil lowers soil pH, and turf won’t thrive in more acidic soils.
Other ways to use peat moss on lawns
Apart from covering seeds, use peat moss when overseeding or topdressing.
The best time to overseed a lawn is in spring and fall. Follow the steps below to overseed your lawn with peat moss.
- Mow the grass to at least ½ inches tall. Remove any debris and aerate the soil using a rake to expose the soil.
- Add seeds to the area using hands or a spreader for large areas. Apply 7 pounds of seeds per 1000 square feet.
- Go over the area with a roller to compact the soil.
- Add a layer of peat moss to ¼ inch on the area.
- In the first two weeks, water frequently for the seeds to germinate and sprouts to emerge. Don’t overwater or underwater.
- Mow when the seedlings are 2 inches tall.
- Apply fertilizer after the second mowing.
Peat moss is one of the materials used to level a lawn with low areas to make it more consistent and easier to mow—Topdress when the grass is actively growing. Follow the steps below to topdress using peat moss.
- Identify the thin spots you want to level in the lawn area and clear the debris from the place.
- Aerate the place to loosen the soil using a rake.
- Add about ¼- ½ inch of peat moss to the place and spread using a rake or shovel.
- Insert a ruler into the peat moss to ensure the level is even throughout the area.
- University of Vermont Extension: What is Peat Moss?