Sowing grass seed is daunting the first time but the key to a beautiful new lawn is preparation and choice of grass seed. Sow Grass seed for a better lawn, a much better lawn than you will get using turf.

Many people opt for turf when putting down a new lawn under the impression that laying a turf lawn is easier than it is to sow grass seed.

If you choose to use grass seed you have much more choice of grass varieties in the finished lawn than you have with turf. Most turf is rough meadow turf, with coarse grasses. The grasses you want in your lawn are totally different to those a farmer needs to feed sheep.

Sowing grass seed does need a little forethought. You should sow it when there is no frost at night, some rain and warm days, ideally. If you live in an area with long, dry summers, then sow grass seed at the start of fall. If your summers are cool and wet then sow your lawn in late spring.

To sow grass seed and end up with a flat lawn you need to spend time on preparing the ground.

Killing weeds is essential, if your sown grass seed is to have any chance of healthy growth. You can use one of the many herbicides available or you can use black polythene.

Three months before you plan to sow any grass seed buy a roll of the black heavy-duty polythene that is sold as Damp Proof Membrane in builders' suppliers. This normally comes as a roll 4 feet wide. The polythene on the roll is 12 feet wide because it is folded before rolling.

Unroll the black polythene over the weedy area where you plan to sow your grass seed. Cover the weeds; they will die because they are deprived of the light they need for photosynthesis. If you leave the polythene down for a year, even deep, tap-rooted weeds like dock weed will die. Weigh the sheet down with lots of large stones or bricks, being careful not to cut holes in it. When you remove the polythene you will find bare earth underneath. All the weeds will have died.

Dig over the area to be sown with grass seed. This is best done in December or January, so that later winter frosts will break up the soil and make it easier to rake. If you can dig over the ground two months before sowing your lawn the soil has a chance to settle and compact before you sow any grass seed. Put out any stones and weed roots you come across while digging.

Raking the soil to a fine flat tilth is a backbreaking job, but it is essential. Every bump and hollow in the soil will become a bump or hollow in your new lawn. Take out every stone and rake over the soil several times. If you rake it early in the morning or late afternoon the bumps will be easier to see because of the long shadows cast by the low sun. Rake in some lawn fertilizer or chicken manure pellets to help your newly sown grass seed get off to a good start.

You should order your grass seed online or buy it from your chosen supplier at this point. Choice of seed is very important. You need to consider whether your lawn will be shaded or not and the finish you are looking for. The grasses for a putting green finish will be very different from those in a lawn designed for children to play on.

Tell your supplier how your lawn will be used and whether it is shaded or boggy and let the supplier decide which grass seed you should sow. If part of your new lawn will be shaded and part not, then blend the two types of seed near the boundary of the shaded part, otherwise you will have a sharp change in the lawn at that point.

Hire a lawn roller. You will need this immediately after sowing your grass seed.

Sow the grass seed, ideally using a lawn seed spreader, but otherwise by hand at the rate your supplier advises, probably about 2 ounces per square yard. Weigh one handful on your kitchen scales, if you are spreading the seed by hand.

Go over the entire seeded area with the roller you hired. This ensures that the seed and soil are in good contact. The alternative to a roller is to walk over every square inch of garden, destroying all your perfectly raked preparation.

You need to stop birds eating your seed. Forget the scarecrow idea, or standing there with a shotgun. There are much simpler ways to secure your freshly sown grass seed from avian scavengers like pigeons and crows. Push two foot high canes along all sides of your newly sown grass.

Take a roll of dark cotton and string it across the seeded area, just wrapping it around each cane a few times to secure it. The cotton strands need to be about three feet apart. Be careful not to walk into the cotton as you are working on the next strand. Some people tie twists of paper to the cotton, but this is a lot of work, when the cotton alone does the job.

Birds land at a shallow angle to the ground, and the cotton spoils their landing approach. After they have flown into it a few times the birds learn and move on to someone else's newly sown grass seed for a feast.

You will need to use a sprinkler on your new grass seed if it does not rain within four days, and you will need to give it a good soaking, which is considered anti-social in times of drought. Avoid the need to use a sprinkler by sowing your seed when rain is expected in the next day or two.

Keep dogs and children away, or they will trample through your cotton strands without even seeing them.

You can take the cotton away once the grass starts to grow. Give it its first trim when it is about 3 inches high. It will take about 3 months before the new lawn will be fully grown and able to stand the rough and tumble of family life.