This way is not easier but it is better for the environment. Follow through and I will share how we planted our grass achieving great results so far.
Update: It could be helpful to read the comment section to see what other people have said about how we planted our lawn. We had very very poor soil. It was so hard we could not dig it with a shovel unless we soaked small areas with water to soften the soil. This is one reason we did not have a lawn for a long time. It takes time to condition soil naturally.
This instructable was updated 7/2/2013.
Step 1: Author's Notes
Last year we planted water saver grass from Barenbrug because it required less water than the other brands. They suggest watering less but watering deep to encourage deeper root growth. Unfortunately we had an unexpected heat wave and the newly planted grass wilted and turned brown because the roots were not well established. The shaded areas continued to grow even though we quit watering it.
This year we re-planted the same brand early this spring and to our dismay another unexpected heat wave ( very unusual for that time of year). We needed to act fast because the new sprouts were looking sickly and we thought they needed more protection from the sun, so we purchased some peat moss. It saved our newly planted grass but today June 17, 2013, I read different views about using peat moss. I will leave it up to my readers to decide if they will use it or not. This was the first time we have ever purchased peat moss for planting grass. Here is an article I found that says it is a renewable resource. Perhaps a reader can enlighten us about this subject. http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/other_comments/1780209/the_truth_about_peat_moss.html
Update: This area of our yard is still not planted but we will be planting it as soon as the weather is cooler. Now that summer is here the fine blade fescue is drying out in the full sun areas but in the full shade is it doing great. This is not a concern for us because the Barenbrug Water saver grass contains a mixture of seeds. The grass roots will spread and fill in the bare spots. We will reseed in the late summer or early fall to fill in the remaining bare spots.
After our experience I recommend soil testing if you are in doubt, so you know exactly what your soil needs to grow a healthy beautiful lawn. It removes a lot of the guess work and in my opinion is worth the expense.
Mulching requires time to break down the grass and leaves to produce rich organic soil. It is best to wait 8-9 months before planting after you turn under the mulch. Water it occasionally to help break down the leaves and grass into humas. We normally turn the soil with a shovel even though we have a rototiller. It causes less damage to the soil because the tiller grinds the dirt to powder and when wet the soil sticks together like glue; making it unsuitable for plants.
In the beginning we tilled our garden a couple of years until the mulch decayed. Mulching has many advantages, it is organic so your plants, garden, and grass are well balanced and it is not toxic to the environment and is healthier and the produce taste better. It also makes the soil a lot easier for digging and it is easier to hand weed. I always prefer planting my garden with organic seeds, so I can save the seeds to plant the following year.
We used aged manure instead of store bought fertilizer to minimize the chemicals we use for our lawn and garden. We have not used weed and feed or any commercial products.
In the beginning it is more difficult to take care of a yard or garden using the older methods, but eventually the hard work pays off. We have less weeds and the ground is richer and softer to work with and the produce taste amazing!
If you have a vacant lot next to your property it helps to plant shrubs or have a fence to block the unwanted weed seeds from blowing in.
A sprinkler system is something to consider before planting a lawn. I wished we had put one in because it takes us two hours to hand water during the summer months. In my opinion a sprinkler system would use less resources than one attached to a garden hose. It is too easy to forget to move them and more water is used.
Step 2: Supplies and Tools
Water Saver RTF grass seed by Barenbrug ( brand we used)
We used grass clippings and tree leaves for mulching the ground
We substituted Peat Moss, dirt, and potting soil as a mixture to cover the seeds only because we did not have enough good top soil.
Well decomposed or aged horse or sheep manure. Composted chicken manure works but it has a high nitrogen content and can burn the plant roots, so please make sure it is old enough.
We used scrap plywood to lay down over the ground as we planted, to avoid footprints in the ground from our feet. This method worked great reducing the need to re-seed because the seed did not puddle in the low spots.
We used 2x4 lumber and wood deck screws to make a home-made leveling tool.
We used old wire racks as a guide for the depth of the seed. We planted our lawn in different stages. We were concerned that we covered the seeds too deep so in areas we did not use the wire rack. We noticed the wire rack areas offered perfect coverage.
Step 3: Soil Preparation
Pull the weeds the following day.
Spread out the manure and mulch.
Using a shovel or rototiller turn the mixture under mixing it thoroughly.
Water again to promote weed growth.
Wait about two weeks until the weed seeds sprout and pull the weeds again.
If using mulch wait for 8-9 months before planting grass seed, keeping the weeds pulled and water every 3-4 weeks to help decay the mulch.
Step 4: Till
Step 5: Water
Wait for a day or two before the next step.
Step 6: Rake and Level
Using a rake and the screed begin leveling the soft soil and remove the dirt clods and rocks as you go. I used a small bucket to put them in.
Use the long board to level and as a guide to fill in dirt where it is low.
Water if the dirt is too dry.
Step 7: Peat Moss Mixture
Step 8: Plant Seed
The pictures show the process.
Step 9: Water
Step 10: Wait and Relax for Several Days
Credits for animation: http://gifmaker.me/
Step 11: Young Grass Beginning to Sprout
Step 12: Mow
We always use a very long Craftsman screw driver for weeding it works great!
Step 13: Sunshiine's Final Thoughts
Thanks for stopping by and if you have any questions I am happy to answer them the best that I can. Meanwhile have a splendorous summer!