How do I establish a new lawn from seed?

FAQ
Question: 

How do I establish a new lawn from seed?

Answer: 

The first step in planting a new lawn is the establishment of the rough grade.  Remove construction debris, then fill in low spots and level off high areas.  The ground should slope away from the foundation of the house, drive, and sidewalks.  The rough grading should be done well in advance of seeding to allow settling to occur.  

At least 6 inches of good soil are needed to establish a lawn.  If necessary, bring in additional topsoil or organic matter.  Be sure the topsoil or organic matter is weed-free.  Incorporate the additions into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil.  

To determine soil fertility, conduct a soil test.  Apply the recommended fertilizer, then incorporate it into the soil.  Where a soil test has not been made, apply 10 pounds of 10-10-10 or similar analysis fertilizer per 1,000 square feet and till it into the soil.  The final step in soil preparation is raking the area.  This is also the last opportunity to establish the final grade.  Immediately prior to seeding, apply a starter lawn fertilizer.  A starter fertilizer is high in phosphorus.  

To achieve uniform seed distribution, apply the seed with a drop-type seeder.  Sow half the seed in one direction.  Apply the remaining half at right angles to the first application.  After sowing the seed, lightly rake or drag the area.  The seed should be covered to a depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch.  Roll the area lightly to insure good contact between the seed and soil.  

To promote seed germination, mulch the area with clean, weed-free straw.  Mulching materials help conserve soil moisture.  They also prevent soil erosion and crusting of the soil surface.  Do not apply too much mulch, it may smother the emerging seedlings.  Approximately 50 percent of the soil should be visible through the straw.  One bale should cover approximately 1,000 square feet.  Erosion control mats or blankets (available at garden centers and home improvement stores) are excellent options when sowing seed on steep slopes and other erosion-prone areas.  

After the ground has been mulched, water the area.  Moisten the upper 1 inch of soil.  After the initial watering, irrigate the area frequently and lightly.  The objective is to keep the seedbed (upper 1 inch of soil) continuously moist.  Do not allow the seedbed to dry out during the germination period.  It may be necessary to water 2 or 3 times on windy, sunny days.  When the grass seedlings are 2 inches tall, water less frequently but deeper.