Should You Rototill Your Lawn Before Seeding?

Rototiller on lawn

People have been tilling their farm fields and gardens for centuries, both manually or mechanically. With the invention of rototillers, this process has become all the more convenient. But, should you apply this method to your lawn as well? Is rototilling your lawn before seeding beneficial or harmful?

Rototilling your lawn is not mandatory before you plant grass. While it can help aerate and break up clumps of soil, it can also have an adverse effect. Indeed, the tilling can create unevenness, prompt weed propagation, and destroy the microbes in the soil. So, rototill if your soil is very hard and clumpy.

In this article, we are going to cover the important details about rototilling and lawns. We will discuss when you should till and when you should not. We will also share the do’s and don’ts of rototilling in case you do need to till your lawn. Finally, we will go over more related topics.


Should You Till Your Lawn Before Seeding?

“To till or not to till:” that is a question that plagues many lawn enthusiasts. On the one hand, you see people till their land all the time before propagation. It is what our ancestors did for years with all types of soil. On the other hand, cultivating a farming land and your backyard is quite different.

First, let’s see why people till or rototill their land. The main benefit is that it breaks up hard, clumpy soil into softer and more hospitable bedding. Since hard rocks and compact soil are not suitable for plant growth, people till their fields to break up all the hard parts.

During that process, it also helps to integrate more oxygen and other organic substances into the ground. The more nutrients that get mixed with the soil, the better it is for your plants. Also, tilling can help you kill weeds and other unwanted plants.

Tilling is also helpful for mixing the fertilizer and compost that you have applied. It allows for the nutrients to get into deeper layers of the soil more evenly. It can even keep the soil drier, which is beneficial in wetter climates.

However, there are a few downsides to this method. By disturbing the ground so much, you risk drastically reducing the microbe population that lives there. Microbes or microorganisms are a massive part of any fertile land. They help decompose organic material and integrate nitrogen into the atmosphere. Thus, killing microbes will decrease the fertility of your lawn at an alarming rate. You also risk killing earthworms, which help improve the fertility of the soil.

Then, there is the problem of having an uneven turf. Yes, tilling can be useful to make clumpy and rocky soil more even. However, you also risk making it lose its cohesiveness, thereby making it more prone to erosion. Meaning, the soil will lose its natural structure and become less sturdy and reliable. Ultimately, this can create an uneven lawn.

Furthermore, tilling will invariably reduce the moisture in your lawn, which is helpful in rainy conditions. However, the grass on your lawn tends to need plenty of moisture to remain fresh and healthy. So, you want to retain as much moisture as you can, especially during the dry season.

The final verdict tells us that you should only rototill your lawn if the conditions call for it. If your lawn is too clumpy or if it is lacking oxygen and other organic substances, you should consider tilling the entire area, or at least the one you are planning on using.

But, if your lawn is not in such a bad condition, then you do not need to trouble yourself with any such machinery. Chances are that your lawn is not as clumpy nor heavy as you find with many farming lands. In that case, all you require is to top-dress with compost and then aerate it with a rake.

Trust me; this will save you a lot of physical labor. Unless your lawn badly needs a proper tilling, you should not exert that amount of effort.


How Do You Seed Grass After Tilling?

Let’s say that your lawn required a thorough tilling before you could use it. Now that you did that, it is time to start planting seeds of grass. After all, a lawn is only as good as the grass that is on it. But, should you start planting the seeds right after the tilling?

We recommend you to wait for some time after tilling and not immediately rush to seed the grass. After a reasonable amount of time has passed, you can start working on the grass. This process is not too complicated, and we will take you through step by step.


Picking the Correct Seed

This part is simple. Quality seeds will bring about quality grass, provided you take proper care of it. Many government and non-government organizations rate the various seeds you find on the market. A good example would be the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) rating.

These grasses have been certified to produce a superior green color. So, these should make your lawn pretty as a picture and give it a royal feel. Again, choosing the right seed is important. Otherwise, all your hard work, including preparing the lawn and caring for the greenery, will go to waste.


Preparing the Soil

This step should be almost complete after the tilling. But, you still have dead weed and other plant remains to stick in the ground. You should clean up all the debris as these might interfere with the growth of the grass.

You should also level the soil. Tilling will create spots with empty pockets of space. The surrounding ground will collapse to fill that void and create uneven areas. So, after tilling, you should always take the time to level the soil properly.

Now, if you are working on a brand-new lawn, you need a good covering of topsoil. If the lawn is used and you are just changing it, you can use the existing topsoil.


Planting the Seed

Once the soil is ready, you have to evenly distribute the seeds across your lawn. If the seeds are too close together, they will fight against each other for food and nutrients, which will harm their growth.

You should typically plant 15-20 grass seeds per square inch of soil. You can map out the entire lawn beforehand to aid you in this aspect.

Also, it is best to do this by hand. Most people prefer to use their own hands while some do rely on machines. However, you have fewer chances of disturbing the soil with your bare hands. Of course, if it is a very large area, you will most likely need the assistance of machines or extra personnel.


Covering the Seeds

After properly seeding the grass, you have to cover it with topsoil. No more than ¼ inch of the soil should be covering the seeds.

You can use mulch to retain moisture. It is a crucial step as grass does require a great deal of water. However, be careful with what you use as mulch. Indeed, many people use sawdust, which effectively retains moisture. However, it can also ruin the nitrogen content in the soil.

Instead, use starter fertilizer. The amount you need depends on the nutrient level of your soil. So, it is best to get your soil tested before you start applying any fertilizer or seeding.


Watering the Seeds

Some may call this the fun step. But, you do have to maintain regularity while watering any plant. We recommend you supply one inch of water per week. Usually, watering for 20 minutes about three times a week will get the job done.


How Long After Tilling Can You Plant Grass?

You should wait at least a week before you start preparing for seeding. This will give your lawn enough time to adjust and become ready.

How Else Can You Prepare a Lawn Before Seeding?

You can prepare your lawn without tilling. For instance, you can:

  • Use a shovel to dig up the ground a few inches for aeration.
  • Take a rake and go through the entire lawn. This will loosen up the soil and break up clumps.
  • Use your hands to remove the debris or pull off the weeds.
  • Use a shovel to level uneven spots on your lawn.


Rototilling can be beneficial for your lawn, but it can also destroy it. So, properly examine the conditions of your lawn before you decide to till it. Sometimes, you can achieve a perfect lawn without using a rototiller.

Recent Posts