How Long Do You Leave Hay on New Grass Seed?

Are you planting a new lawn? A common way to protect grass seedlings is to place straw or hay on top of the soil.

This practice helps keep the fresh seed warm and moist until they develop a strong root system.

Quick Answer:

When seeding a new lawn, hay or straw mulch should be left on top of the grass seed for approximately 4 to 6 weeks. This period allows the grass seed sufficient time to germinate and establish. Once you see the new grass reaching a height of about 3 inches, the mulch can be gently raked off, if desired.

This straw blanket also keeps the seeds from being:

  • blown away during windy days
  • washed away during heavy rains
  • dried out by direct sunlight
  • pecked by hungry birds
  • disturbed by wild animals

Let’s look at these frequently asked questions about putting hay on new grass seeds.

When Should You Remove the Straw From New Grass?

There is no hard and fast timeline for removing straw or hay. The idea is to keep this protective layer in place until the grass is firmly anchored in the soil.

Normal lawn care practice is that you should not take off this cover before the initial mowing. Usually, the grass will already be between two to three inches tall at this time.

Look at the status of the mulch. If it has thinned out and started to rot, there is no need to remove the straw. But if the straw is still thick and unevenly spread on the area, then you can go ahead and remove it using a garden fork. Make sure you lift the mulch without disturbing the new growth below.

Experts recommend allowing nature to take its course. You don’t necessarily have to remove the straw even after the grass seeds have sprouted because it will just decompose on its own. Raking it off means you risk damaging the young plants’ roots and leaves.

If you choose to wait, remember to keep an eye on weeds that may grow among your grass seedlings.

Which Is a Better Option, Straw or Hay?

Some prefer using straw to cover germinating grass seeds, while others strongly recommend hay.

One advantage of straw is that it is seedless. This means that you will avoid introducing weeds into your growing lawn.

In contrast, hay contains seeds, so you may see other plants growing among your grass seedlings. The good thing about hay is that it becomes a supplementary source of nutrients to your lawn as it decomposes.

How Much Hay Should You Use?

Generally, a bale of hay is enough to cover 1,000 square feet of your lawn. Spread the hay so that it is thick enough to keep grass seeds safe from the elements and birds. At the same time, the layer should be thin enough to allow air and sunlight to pass through.

Can you put too much hay on grass seed? Remember, you need to protect these fledgling plants without smothering or crushing them. If you go beyond the recommended single bay of hay, you may end up putting too much weight on your grass seeds. This will do more harm than good.


It can take anywhere from 7 to 14 days for grass seeds to germinate. During this period, give the seeds the best chance for survival by shielding them with a thin blanket of hay or straw.

If you use the right amount of mulch as a layer of protection, you will soon have gorgeously lush lawns.