I Tested These Grass Seeds in UK Gardens

Written by Daniel Woodley. Reviewed by Elizabeth Smith. Published to Lawn Care on 27th August 2020. Updated: 24th February 2023.

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Welcome to another entry in DIY Gardening’s popular Lawn Care Guide.

If you want to grow a healthy, green, hard-wearing lawn in the UK, then you’ll need to choose the best grass seed based on:

  • The condition of the soil in your garden.
  • How much sunlight your garden gets (often not much in the UK!).
  • How much wear and tear you expect it to receive.

When I moved into my new home, I set myself the task of growing a lawn from grass seed in a shady area of the garden, and the results exceeded my expectations.

But not all gardens are the same, and neither are grass seeds.

So whether you want a hard-wearing lawn or one that flourishes in the shade or in droughts, check out my guide to the best grass seed UK:

Before and After Photos

Here’s a couple of before and after photos of one part of the test garden.

The soil was very compact, and the garden had drainage issues. There was also minimal amounts of sunlight reaching the garden. I still managed to achieve a good lawn by choosing the best grass seed:

Sept:

Garden in shade

April:

Lawn in shade

The Best Grass Seed For UK Gardens

While I’ve listed the best grass seeds (i.e. grass varieties) for UK gardens at the end of this article in the FAQs section, I recommend these products as they contain blends for specific gardens and situations:

Groundmaster pro

1) GroundMaster Hard Wearing:

  • Large bag quantities.
  • 3 grass varieties with 70% perennial grass.
  • Perfect for high-traffic lawns – pets, children etc.
  • Well over 1000 reviews online and I’ve tested it myself.
A1 Grass Seeds

2) A1 Lawn Seed For Shaded UK Gardens:

  • My second choice for shaded gardens (I tested this along with Groundmaster)
  • Defra approved.
  • Large bags (5kg up to 25kg) but no spreader.
  • 7 different grass varieties are included
Speedy Seed

3) Speedy Seed:

  • This is the fastest germinating grass seed you can buy.
  • Specifically chosen seeds for the UK.
  • I used this on a customer’s garden as they needed a lawn quickly – it works.
  • I saw the seeds germinate in 5 days, making it perfect for situations where you need to tidy up the lawn quickly.
Plantworks Grass Seed

4) Rootgrow Grass Seed:

  • Endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society.
  • Contains Mycorrhiza Fungi which encourages strong roots.
  • Stronger roots can pull up more nutrients leading to strong grass.
  • Only the best grass seed (UK) and from the most recent season is included.

1) GroundMaster Hard Wearing:

Groundmaster hard wearing seed

My Experience

Containing over 70% perennial ryegrass, this blend of grass seed is explicitly formulated by experts for UK gardens.

I’ve grown ryegrass many times and found that it copes well under foot traffic and resists winter damage easily; it’s the ultimate cool-weather grass seed.

While ryegrass can be sowed on its own, I’ve always mixed it with other varieties as I’ve learnt from years of experience and testing, not to rely on just one type.

GroundMaster has added 30% red creeping fescue to their ryegrass.

I’ve seen red creeping fescue cover bare patches with a dense, hard-wearing cover which is more slow-growing.

Perennial ryegrass is an excellent match for creeping red fescue, and I’ve mixed them before several times, and it’s never failed to perform.

GroundMaster sells bags in 1kg and 5kg quantities with discounts for bulk purchases.

Pros

  • I’ve used GroundMaster several times, and I feel they offer good value for money.
  • Created specifically to be hard-wearing and contains 70% of tough perennial ryegrass.
  • Over 1000 positive reviews online.
  • The germination success rate in my test garden was very high with few losses, I didn’t need to overseed any bare patches.

Cons

  • Perennial ryegrass is a thirsty variety, and I know from experience that it requires more watering.
  • Ryegrass grows fast and requires more frequent cutting and strimming than most other types of grass.
  • The bag didn’t come with a spreader, so I had to estimate the dosage by hand.

2) A1 Lawn Seeds For Shady Areas:

A1 Grass Seeds

My Experience

Despite its bland and forgettable name, A1 Lawns’ grass seed caught my attention due to the number of good reviews online, the size of the bags and the number of different grass varieties in each package.

This grass seed is explicitly blended for shaded areas of the garden and comprises seven different types of grass, many of which have been recommended by the RHS:

  • 20% Dwarf Perennial Ryegrass
  • 35% Strong Creeping Red Fescue
  • 15% Slender Creeping Red Fescue
  • 15% Sheeps Fescue
  • 10% Smooth Stalked Meadow Grass
  • 3% Browntop Bent
  • 2% Wood Meadow Grass

I firmly believe that the more grass varieties in the bag, the better the chances of the lawn growing thick and lush, as even if some fail, the others will fill in the void.

A1 lawns also sell huge 25kg sacks, and I’ve previously purchased from them as I feel they offer good value for money.

In my test lawn, I mixed A1 Lawns’ seeds with GroundMaster and achieved excellent results, you can see before and after photos on my guide to growing grass seed in shaded areas.

Pros

  • 7 different varieties of grass help to improve the lawn even in varying conditions.
  • Product sizes from 5kg up to 25kg.
  • I checked prices online for several suppliers and I feel A1 lawns is very good value on a per kg basis.
  • Great reviews online.
  • I experienced very good results in my test lawn.
  • I used the leftovers to overseed the lawn the following spring which brought the lawn back to health after a dark, wet and muddy winter.

Cons

  • The bag didn’t come with a spreader so I had to spread it the old-fashioned way – by using my hands.

3) Speedy Seed:

Speedy Seed fast growing UK grass seeds

My Experience

I have first-hand experience of using Speedy Seed as I worked on a property where the owner needed a lawn as quickly as possible but they didn’t want to pay for turf.

I recommended Speedy Seed because some of the grass seed is annual. That means some of the grass will die off within one year.

If you’re a little confused as to why anyone would want to grow a lawn for just one year, let me explain.

Annual grass germinates and grows incredibly quickly.

I’ve seen Speedy Seed germinate in 5 days and in a matter of weeks it looked thick and lush.

Speedy Seed also contains perennial grass, which grows more slowly but doesn’t die off at the end of the year.

I recommend Speedy Seed for anyone who needs a lawn as quickly as possible, perhaps you’re having a social event soon or you want to sell the house and you need to tidy up the lawn quickly, if that’s you, consider Speedy Seed.

Pros

  • Very fast germination, I’ve seen it sprout it 5 days.
  • I saw Speedy Seed create an established lawn within a few weeks.
  • Perfect for anyone who needs a quick lawn at the expense of longevity.
  • I’ve used it for patch repairs and emergencies.

Cons

  • Speedy Seed only comes in small product sizes, so it’s not suitable for large areas.
  • Over half of the grass seed is annual ryegrass – it grows very fast but only lives for one year at most.
  • Speedy Seed only contains one type of grass – Ryegrass.
  • Annual grasses are thirsty and I know from experience that they need lots of watering to support the fast growth.
  • I tried Speedy Seed in my garden and while it grew really quickly, I had to overseed it the following spring as it looked patchy after the annual grass died.

4) RootGrow UK Grass Seed :

RootGrow UK grass seed

Overview

Mycorrhizal fungi can be added to the roots of almost all plants when dug into the garden or containers. This fungus extends the root system both deeper and broader.

A more vigorous root system has many benefits:

  • Less likely to suffer during dry periods of weather.
  • Better nutrient uptake.
  • It provides good resistance to diseases.

The Royal Horticultural Society has more information on mycorrhizal fungi.

Empathy has produced a grass seed mixture with added mycorrhizal fungi – a first in the UK.

If you’re having issues getting a lawn developed, try this product from Empathy which can be sowed for an entirely new lawn, overseeded or used as a patch repair.

I experimented with mycorrhizal fungi at my previous property, and it does encourage deeper roots. However, I only recommend this product if you have a small garden as the packets are really small, it’s not economically viable for large areas.

Also, you can buy mycorrhizal fungi separately and mix it with cheaper grass seed.

Pros

  • Mycorrhizal fungi does work, I tested on plants in 2018.
  • Deep roots provide drought resistance.
  • Reduced watering.
  • Improved nutrient uptake and better disease resistance.
  • Approved by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Cons

  • Small packet sizes with 1kg the largest.
  • The cost per kilo is very high compared to most other grass seeds.

FAQs

What is the best time of year to sow grass seed?

I’ve sowed dozens of lawns here in the UK, and I feel the best time of year to grow grass seeds is in the autumn, after the scorching heat of summer but before the frosts. The grass will have time to harden over winter and will be strong enough for foot traffic by early summer.

I have sowed grass in springtime, but I had to water it more often, and I couldn’t use the lawn until mid-summer.

Based on my experience, I feel the best time to sow is in the autumn, followed by a top-up overseed in the spring. I’ve done this several times, and I’ve always seen good results.

Why can't grass seed be sown in the summer here in the UK?

You can sow grass seed in the summer but consider these points, which are based on my experience:

  • You may need to water it every day for several weeks.
  • The excess water may wash away some of the seeds.
  • Foot traffic from you and your family using the garden in the summer may damage the young lawn (less likely to happen in spring or autumn).
  • It won’t have enough time to develop properly, so it won’t look lush and thick until autumn.

What's the best UK grass seed for hard-wearing lawns?

Perennial ryegrass is a tough variety that I’ve seen coping well with wear and tear from humans and pets. Most hard-wearing grass UK blends contain at least some perennial ryegrass. Red fescue is often added to perennial ryegrass in hard-wearing blends.

One issue I have with perennial ryegrass is that it’s a fast-growing and thirsty grass, and I’ve found that it requires more frequent mowing and watering.

What is the best UK grass seed for a luxury ornamental lawn?

I’ve sowed luxury lawns before and from experience, I know they rarely perform well in shade and most don’t tolerate too much foot traffic either.

I’ve previously used a combination of slender creeping tall fescue, chewings fescue and browntop bentgrass and this mix can be cut low so you can get the neat look to the lawn. The mix will need good drainage and plenty of sunlight to thrive.

What UK grass seeds are best for shaded UK gardens?

The following varieties of grass are often found in products formulated specifically for shaded UK gardens:

  • Strong Creeping Fescue
  • Chewing Fescue
  • Hard Fescue
  • Smooth Stalked Meadowgrass
  • Perennial Ryegrass
  • Poa Supina.

All of the shade grass mixes I have grown have contained at least one fescue – a variety that is known to thrive in the shade.

I suggest you avoid products that contain only one variety; most good brands contain at least three different grass varieties, and I believe that this increases the chances of success.

Pro Tip: If your garden is very shaded, use tree loppers to prune off branches from shrubs and trees to increase the light into the garden. Read my detailed guide to growing grass in a shaded garden, it’s a great read.

How I Tested The Grass Seed

I know how frustrating it is to read a product review or recommendation from someone who has never used the product.

Here’s my experience with these grass seeds:

I mixed GroundMaster and A1 seeds when sowing a lawn in a shaded garden back in 2019. The results were impressive and you can see before and after photos here.

I also used GroundMaster as an overseed in early 2024 to fill in some bare patches and thicken out the grass.

I’ve used Speedy Seed on a property that was up for sale in 2021. The owners wanted to improve the appearance of the garden as quickly and cheaply as possible. I discovered that the seed does indeed germinate very quickly and the initial growth was incredible.

I’ve added mycorrhizal fungi to new plants and have witnessed the strong roots that it encourages. I recommend the Empathy grass seed product based on the inclusion of this fungi, the positive reviews online and the fact that it’s endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Learn more about DIY Gardening’s review process here.

Meet The Author: Daniel Woodley

Daniel has over 18 years of experience in the construction, home improvement, and landscape garden industries.

He previously worked as a project manager and has experience in managing teams of tradespeople and landscape gardeners on both small and medium sized projects.

Daniel is also a keen gardener and enjoys growing unusual plants and tending to his lawn.

More About Daniel Woodley.

Daniel Woodley

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