How to Plant Water Saver RTF Grass Seed




About: I am married with two children. Spring, summer, and fall are my very favorite times of the year. I enjoy working in the yard, sewing, cooking, quilting, gardening, and creating. I do this to keep my sanity.
This spring we planted Barenbrug Water Saver RTF  Grass and I wanted to share our experience with everyone in the community. I am excited because I have wanted a lawn for a very long time! Our goal was to plant a grass that did not require a lot of water nor did we want to use harmful chemicals or fertilizers. Barenbrug Water Saver RTF grass has the ability to grow a very deep root system if the top soil is deep. That is why conditioning the soil or hauling in good top soil is important. It also uses thirty percent less water, at least that is what I have read. Water saver grass will not grow well in low altitude areas where the night temperatures do not drop. Grass seed is best planted in the fall. We planted in the spring because we hope to move by fall.

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. 
Disclaimer: We are not professionals so if you decide to use this method you are doing so at your own risk. I highly recommend testing your soil and speaking with professionals about what grass seeds grow best in your neighborhood.
This instructable was updated 7/2/2013.

Step 1: Author's Notes

Planting a lawn in the Pacific Northwest is easy compared to the southwest. This property used to be a farm with rows of elm trees that lined the south side of the house. Workers would park there cars under the trees, packing the soil, making it difficult to dig. We soaked the soil with water and dug a little here and a little there until we finally got it dug up. We mulched the soil using grass and leaves. 

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. 

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.
Garden tools, such as rake, shovel, rototiller, screed, and wheelbarrow.
We used 2x4 lumber and wood deck screws to make a home-made leveling tool. 
We used a metal screen, saw horse, wheelbarrow, and some buckets to sift our soil because of the clots (not sure it was necessary though).
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

We have been mulching our ( poor )  soil for three years prior to planting a lawn and I did not take pictures of this process. We plan on having a large flower bed where you see the tall green plants growing because . . . we have too many tree roots. This section of the yard has not been planted because it is getting too hot to plant. This will be planted in the late summer months.

Water thoroughly.
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. 
 You can use peat moss instead of mulch if you want to plant right away, but it is best to give the weeds a chance to grow again and then pull more weeds before planting.


Step 4: Till

If you are using peat moss then skip the tilling.
Because the soil has hardened back up over the past few months it will be necessary to use a shovel or tiller so the dirt can be leveled and planted.

Step 5: Water

Water again to make sure the soil is plenty damp for the seeds to germinate. 
Wait for a day or two before the next step.

Step 6: Rake and Level

Hopefully you can see how the 2x4 boards were made to level the dirt. We used deck screws to attach the smaller board.

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

We sifted the top soil to remove unwanted rocks and clods,  and mixed it with a mixture of peat moss and potting soil to use to cover the grass seed (equal parts). Unless your soil is full of rocks, I don't think sifting is really all that necessary but my husband wanted to sift our soil. 

Step 8: Plant Seed

We used metal racks for a guide to see where we planted and to use to judge the depth for the seed. It was the best method we used to plant the seeds.
The pictures show the process.  

Step 9: Water

The directions mention to water several times through out the day until the roots are well established, using a light mist not allowing the water to pool. 

Step 10: Wait and Relax for Several Days

Now it is time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your hard work! Have a cup of coffee and do something fun for a few weeks. 

Credits for animation:

Step 11: Young Grass Beginning to Sprout

Here is what it will look like when the grass is beginning to peek through the soil. You will notice puffs of earth lifting up as shown in the pictures. 

Step 12: Mow

It is best to wait until the new grass is well rooted before mowing, approximately 3-4 inches high. Pull what weeds are visible before mowing.  If you mow it too soon the tender grass will not live. I recommend mowing a small section and wait a few days and if it did not hurt the tender grass then go ahead and mow the remaining grass. If you need to re-seed a few areas, plant the seeds within a day or two after mowing. 

We always use a very long Craftsman screw driver for weeding it works great!

Step 13: Sunshiine's Final Thoughts

Whew that was hard work! I am excited that our hard work paid off. We are now enjoying our beautiful new lawn and can move on to other projects. I wish to thank instructables, our sponsors, authors, and loyal readers for making this community so awesome! This instructable has been entered into the green design contest. If you find this tutorial worth your vote,  the vote button is located at the top right of the intro page. I wish to thank you in advance for your support! 

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!

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    54 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Kudos for putting in a lawn.  Contrary to some opinions, lawns are often necessary to keep the soil in place.  There are many places where every rain storm will undermine the foundation of buildings just a little.  Then little by little it leads to foundation cracks or tilting of the slab. 

    I cannot help Sunshine with her project, but maybe I can save some hassle for others reading this I'ble.  She made a couple of mistakes which cost her money, set back her project as much as a year, will give her headaches for the next 3 years, and could cost her the curb appeal and value of that tree in the yard. 

    The biggest thing you can do to improve your chances of successfully seeding a lawn is to do it in the fall.  I don't know who is promoting the idea of seeding in the spring, but that is a terrible time.  Had Sunshine seeded her original lawn in the fall, the grass would not have died from heat.  Had she seeded her second attempt in the fall, she would not have been on edge worrying about whether the heat would come and kill her Lawn 2.0.  Another reason not to seed in the spring is that crabgrass seed is germinating at that time.  In the fall crabgrass does not germinate, because the days are getting shorter.  When you seed grass in the spring and it dies in June, the crabgrass moves in fast to fill in where the grass seed died out.  Seeding in the spring is the fast track to crabgrass in July. 

    The next mistake was in digging up the soil.  When you dig soil, it takes 3 years for the soil to settle back down into a structure in harmony with the grass roots.  All you need to install a lawn is a level surface.  Leveling is best done at the surface with minimum disturbance of the surface.  Given the conditions of her 'before' pictures, it looks like filling in the low spots was all that was needed.  This is hard to evaluate in 2 dimensional photos.  If there were high spots, those should be scraped off, not dug out.  In the areas where she dug, the soil will continue to settle for three years.  It will not pay to try and level it before summer of 2016, because anything you do at the surface will still have unsettled soil underneath.  The headache will be from mowing over a bumpy surface that continues to get bumpier every month.  Digging and rototilling is the mistake that keeps on giving. 

    The problem with the tree is it is buried too deep under the soil.  When tree bark is buried, it becomes susceptible to a fungus that eats into the layers under the bark.  Eventually the tree will die as it rots right underneath the bark.  The bark on the roots is different bark and does not rot.  It would appear that a minimum of three inches of soil should have been removed from the entire yard to bring the roots up to the surface on that tree.  It could be more would need to go.  As the tree dies she will see it thinning out, some discoloration on the leaves, yellowing, and eventually death.  What you should see on a tree is the top of the roots flaring out into the soil.  If the top of the flare is two inches above the soil level, that usually works. 

    I would strongly urge anyone wanting to install a lawn to search the Internet for the many lawn care forums.  Please stay away from the forums catering to lawn care professionals.  Those forums are more directly involved with helping professionals with the ins and outs of running their business.  They have some 'how to' forums but when home owners want to know what weed they have, sometimes the pros will get a little curt.  But there are several forums for the rest of us.  A few of them are very good, have a library of articles, plethora of frequently asked questions, and a gallery of showcase lawns.  These forums can get as many as fifty new messages in a day.  Please read up on the project before you do anything.  Then if you still have questions about your situation, feel free to join the forum (they are almost all free) and ask questions.  Oh and always let them know where you live.  Your exact geography has more to do with lawn success than your USDA hardiness zone.

    One more thing directly pertinent to the topic.  Other water saver grasses include the many wheatgrasses along with blue grama.  These are prairie grass but when mowed short make an excellent lawn.  West of the Cascades they might not ever need water.  East of the Cascades they will need water at least four times per year starting in about June.  Fertilizer requirements are minimal.  Mowing should be done monthly.  Check with your most local industrial seed suppliers about which of the wheatgrasses grow best in your area.  These guys sell only seed are not affiliated with a local nursery or garden center. 

    Good luck with your lawn projects!

    3 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I mentioned in my tutorial it would be helpful to read comments about my instructable to get others peoples ideas about how we planted our grass. Have a splendorous summer!


    Reply 2 days ago

    6 years late to the party but you can get seed to grow anytime of the year. the 2 main factors is time and water. you have to keep on the grass. keep soil moist and cool. not soaked so the seed rots. ive placed burlap and soaked it and kept it cool untill a good germination occurred and then watered to get a good root depth. I good fertilizer is key to help get it established. no doubt the lazt way is to plant in fall


    Reply 2 days ago

    Thank you so much for the helpful tips~ I will share this with my hubby~ He will like this idea~ Have a beautiful summer~


    15 days ago

    I planted rtf about 5 weeks ago, all the sudden I'm getting the following white sprouts. Any idea if this is normal?

    3 replies

    Reply 14 days ago

    Hello, I have not seen anything like this before. I would suggest contacting the company and send them these pictures explaining what you are experiencing. There are so many different factors in determining what might cause this in my opinion. I am sure the company will assist you. I had great success calling and asking to speak to someone in the company who has a lot of knowledge about their water saver grass. They may offer to send you replacement seed depending on what is causing this. I wish you the best and thanks for stopping by.



    Reply 14 days ago

    I believe it was because of the use of mesotrisone which was in the seed fertilizer that I laid down last week. This has the common side effect of bleaching it and making it look white. They said that it will return to normal a couple of weeks later.


    Reply 14 days ago

    Thanks for letting us know. Hopefully it did not damage the baby grass. Enjoy your new lawn~

    OK so I'm from England and I am always amazed by the effort Americans go to to water and maintain grass. I see grass everyday popping up in cracks in the pavement and no-one I know ever waters grass

    5 replies

    I'm from the US and I'm always amazed by the effort Americans put into growing lawns, period. I find monocultures to be far less visually attractive, and in the case of lawns, completely useless. I'm a fan of planting food gardens in my front yard instead. I'm not sure what inspired the American lawn obsession, but its time needs to pass. ;)


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I like to lay in grass during the spring and summer and nap, and there's no better place for me to do that than at home :) Which is why I tend to my lawn.

    the "obsession actually started in England and other European countries where grass easily grows. And absolutely agree that food gardens are far more practical. there's actually a really good video about this by John Green at here


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    right so plant a native grass variant, in my case a Fescue a pasture grass. Turf type to be precise. Uses nowhere near the water and needs to be mowed every 3 weeks

    I had to laugh at your comment! I think the Pacific Northwest has weather similar to England. However here . . . . most of the time weeds are mowed and watered just to have a small bit of green to keep the dust down! Thanks for sharing and please do have a splendorous day!

    Tex Arcana

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Warning for those in southern and hotter/drier climates:


    Fescue is fine for anything north of oklahoma, but it'll bake and die in places like Texas, new Mexico, Arizona, southern California, Mississippi, alabama, and Georgia. Moister climates might be okay, but anyplace drier will destroy this grass.

    Stick to Bermuda at least; or zoysia or buffalo grass. these are native to drier southern climates, and are hardy with minimal watering. They grow decently deep root systems, if you water deeply and infrequently, and if you mow then deep, they'll shade out most weeds. They do require full sunshine (8-12 hours a day), so planting a shadier variety (bluegrass/fescue hybrids) under heavily shaded areas is best.

    And don't mess with StAugustine in dry climes: takes way too much water to survive. It's good for wet areas (southeast Texas, Louisiana, florida), but that's it.

    And, yes: I'm a lifelong Texan, and been dealing with this all my life. :-)

    Hope this helps

    2 replies
    sunshiineTex Arcana

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for sharing this with my readers. I recently called the Barenbrug company and learned it is not so much the state you live in as it is the altitude. Low altitudes like Phoenix is not suitable for this type of grass, however, it will grow in Tuscon. It also makes a difference if the nighttime temperatures cool off. Have a splendorous summer!


    5 years ago on Step 12

    Thanks for good make-lawn-guide, Sunshiine!
    Would you be so kind to describe how to use acumulator screwdriver to mow weeds i.e dandelion?

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 12

    It is simple actually. A day after I water, I insert the long screw driver very close to the stem of the plant and push the screw driver into the soft ground. Then I slightly wiggle ( as not to make a huge hole) and carefully pull at the base of the plant. If the plant stem does not pull easily I wiggle the screw driver a little more and try again. It usually does the trick. Thanks for commenting and I hope this helps!


    6 years ago on Step 7

    Ok I can follow what you are doing, but for the life of me I don't see when you put the "seed" down!!! You go from talking about the peat moss to planting the grass seed. On the step that says plant seed, you don't talk about seed you talk about mixing the different dirt. Can you explain a bit better? Do I add the seed with the dirt, and if so how much?? Hope you can help