Breaking the Spring Seeding Cycle Loading player for /content/dam/ext_vt_edu/topics/lawn-garden/turfgrass/turfandgardentips/tips/Breakspringseedcycle.mp3. Break the Spring Seeding Cycle: If you’re unsure of when to plant grass seed in the spring, read on to learn about identifying the right time and how to take care of your growing lawn. Follow this guide on how to plant grass seed for a wonderfully lush, green lawn or to repair bare spots
Breaking the Spring Seeding Cycle
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Break the Spring Seeding Cycle:
As winter breaks and temperatures warm up, many spend some time outdoors, working in the lawn and garden areas, enjoying the sun and making a list of things to get done this year. As we look at the lawn, we often see thin or bare areas, weedy areas, and parts of the lawn we just wish looked better. We get excited as the days get warmer, and we decide, this year, I am going to fix this lawn up. A trip to the store follows, bringing home grass seed, fertilizer, maybe lime, and perhaps even straw for the more ambitious of us. That spring, we work so hard, getting the areas worked up, seeded, fertilized, and maybe even applying lime, and then covering our newly planted seeds with straw. We drag hoses, followed by watering, watering, and more watering, and watch with satisfaction as our new grass comes up, looking great, and all spring our level of satisfaction is high.
However, all good things must come to an end, and as summer gets closer, the day and night time temperatures continue to climb. Our beautiful grass isn’t looking so good, even though we are watering it regularly. It is getting lighter green, not growing, and just isn’t doing well. Finally, in the heat of summer, that beautiful grass gets thin, turns yellow, brown, and then just dies. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the season. By working the area up, watering it and fertilizing it, we also made a great place for weeds to grow, and soon, without the new grass growing in the area, crabgrass and weed seeds germinate and grow. They move right into the area where our beautiful grass was only a few short weeks ago. These terrible looking weeds grow and grow, getting nice and thick. Finally, as fall arrives we get the first frost, the weeds and crabgrass turn brown, leaving the same unsightly area that we had when we started all the way back in March. Frustrated and tired by this time, we vow to either attack that area again next spring, or maybe, after trying several times, to just throw in the towel and let the weeds and crabgrass have that area.
Does any of this sound familiar?
This sequence of events is all too common, and leaves the homeowner feeling frustrated; having spent time, energy, and money only to have no improvement at the end of the season. However, not only do we have an explanation for why this happens, we also have a solution! It is time to break the spring seeding cycle.
The Problems with Spring Seeding:
Although spring seeding is very common for garden crops and other plants, spring seeding of grass is very difficult due to conditions that are often beyond our control. During spring, temperature and rainfall is perfect for grass seed germination and growth. However, when temperatures climb in the summer problems begin to occur. To understand what happens, we have to back up and give some background on grass and plants in general.
The majority of lawns in our area are comprised of turf type tall fescues and bluegrass, all of which are cool season grasses. These grasses are called cool season grasses because they grow well in cooler weather, like we have in the spring and fall. Their optimum temperate for growing and manufacturing food (photosynthesis) is between 68 to 77⁰F. Above 77⁰F, grasses are able to still manufacture food, but at a lower rate. However, once air temperatures rise above 87 ⁰F (which happens every summer), photosynthesis becomes very limited. This happens for several reasons, but the major issue is that the plants try to utilize oxygen instead of carbon dioxide to manufacture food, and a process called photorespiration begins. During photorespiration, a grass plant actually uses more energy than it manufactures. So, during periods of high temperatures, plants have limited food production by photosynthesis and the plant is utilizing energy in photorespiration. Without enough energy to produce new growth, we see a significant reduction in growth, both of the shoots and roots. During this time, grass plants tend to stop growing, roots often die back, and then crowns, or tops, of the grass plants thin out. Have you ever seen this during the summer, thin and slow growing turf in your lawn?
While this happens every year to cool season turf, it usually doesn’t kill the grass. Older grass plants are well established and have carbohydrate reserves. They suffer through the summer, and then resume growth when fall temperatures arrive. However, the problem is with the spring seeded turf. These grass plants are very young, tender, and have limited roots and food reserves. With only limited food and root reserves when summer temperatures get high, these plants are unable to tolerate the stresses of summer and often die. This sets the stage for weeds and crabgrass to move in.
So what does all this mean?
Grass planted in the spring comes up great, but it lacks the root development and food reserves to deal with the high summer temperatures we have every year. It thins out, and many of the young seedlings don’t make it to the fall. There are also two other major problems with spring seeding. First, when managing cool season grasses, pre-emergent products are typically applied in the spring to control crabgrass, the number one weed in lawns. Pre-emergent products work by preventing seed germination and they cannot be utilized with new seeding because they will also prevent the new desirable seed from coming up. Second, young turf benefits from fertilization. The young turf has a limited root system and to improve the density, color and growth of young turf, moderate fertilization is recommended. However, this type of fertilization is not recommended in the spring.
So what should I do you ask? The answer is, FALL SEEDING. The best chance for grass plants to survive the stress associated with summer is for them to develop as many roots as possible and to be as mature as possible before summer arrives. To accomplish this, fall is the time to plant. Warmer soil temperatures mean faster seed germination. Typically, our rainfall patterns are more consistent in the fall, and by seeding in the fall, we allow grass plants to become established before winter sets in. They are able to grow roots well into the late fall and early winter. As spring comes, these plants develop more, get thicker, and grow deeper roots. When summer arrives, their food reserves and root development are much better, and they are able to endure the summer stress without dying like the spring seeded grass.
The New Strategy:
So, I should to wait until the fall to seed my lawn? Yes, in order to have the best results possible, waiting until fall is advised, unless you have bare areas or a limited time frame. Even in these cases, we still recommend returning in the fall to overseed again. However, don’t despair, there are a number of things you can do prior to the fall seeding event! During the spring, look over your lawn and decide which areas need improvement. Have a soil analysis performed for the area of interest, so if lime or nutrient adjustments need to be made, they can be made during the growing season. Apply a spring pre-emergent if crabgrass has been an issue, and plan ahead for broadleaf weed control. A month or more before seeding, get rid of the broadleaf weeds and crabgrass with a liquid weed control application, because the young cool season grass seedlings that we are going to plant have a tough time competing with weeds that have been growing all season. Once seeding time arrives, aerate plant, fertilize, and water and wait till next year to see how much better your lawn looks!
Exactly When to Plant Grass Seed in Spring
Wondering when to plant grass seed in spring for ideal results? Discover the best times and perfect seeding schedule for your region, plus our top tips.
Planting grass seed is an efficient way to create a fuller and greener lawn that gives your home an appealing look and provides a lush environment for outdoor fun. However, you can’t throw down seeds at any time and expect perfect results. Grass seeding should be completed at the right time to ensure proper germination and growth in your lawn.
For many people, springtime is the season for completing yard work and other outdoor projects. You’ll need to know the proper time for grass seeding in the spring to get the best results. Read on to learn more about the factors that influence seeding times, how to prepare your lawn for planting, and how to maintain growth throughout the year.
Factors That Influence Seeding Times
While many homeowners have a lawn care schedule in the spring, it’s not enough to just complete seeding at any point during the season. To ensure proper growth, you should consider your location as well as the type of grass you have, as these factors influence the right seeding conditions.
Your location impacts your climate, which in turn affects the type of grass you lay down and when it should be seeded. For example, many parts of the south use warm-season grasses to handle the temperate climate that prevails all year long. Other parts of the country, such as the midwest and far north, experience freezing temperatures that require cool-season grasses.
Unsurprisingly, warm-season grasses thrive in warmer climates. These grasses, including Bahia grass, Bermuda grass, zoysia grass, centipede grass, St. Augustine, and other turfgrasses, germinate in air temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you live in an area of the country where temperatures stay fairly consistent year round, you can typically plant warm-season grasses from early spring to late fall. However, if your yard experiences the highs and lows of traditional seasons, be sure to plant your grass in late spring or early summer.
Cool-season grasses, including Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, fine fescue, and perennial ryegrass, fare better in areas of the country with temperate summers and chilly winters. This type of grass is dormant during the winter and grows during the fall and spring. It’s recommended that you plant your cool-season grass seed in late summer or early fall before temperatures dip below freezing.
In addition to the temperature, which impacts the season you should plant your cool- or warm-season grass, it’s also important to keep an eye on other weather conditions. For example, light rain may help seeds grow, though a heavy pour could wash seeds away. Check the radar to ensure a heavy storm isn’t approaching your area in the days after seeding.
In a similar vein, be sure to plant your seeds when the ground is sturdy and free of mud puddles, which can lead to disease. You’ll also want to avoid windy weather. Just as rain can wash seeds away, heavy winds can push newly-spread seeds across your existing lawn.
If perfecting this timing sounds overly complex, full-service lawn companies such as TruGreen lawn care can attend to seeding and fertilizing your lawn on the right schedule.
How to Prepare Your Lawn
While timing is important when seeding your lawn, preparation is also key. Readying your lawn ensures that your soil is ready to promote new grass seed germination and growth. Preparing your yard consists of multiple steps, including actions like leveling your lawn, testing your soil, and aeration. Take a closer look at each step of the process below.
Level the Lawn
Before planting new seed, it’s important to remove any inconsistencies in your lawn, such as rocks and debris. Additionally, be sure to level the various peaks and valleys in your yard with a soil mixture that consists of sand, topsoil, and compost. Don’t just use topsoil, as this fresh mixture may contain weed seeds and other harmful nutrients.
Address Bare Spots
Bare spots pop up in lawns for a variety of reasons, such as heavy foot traffic, drought, and insect infestations. Once you’ve identified the brown spots in your lawn, you can prepare them for overseeding by digging up the area, mixing in new topsoil, and using a rake to level the ground. From there, the bare spot is ready for seeding. To help prevent future bare patches, you can apply a pre-emergent herbicide in conjunction with a fertilizer to prevent weed germination.
Test Your Soil
Much of a seed’s growth depends on the pH levels of your soil. Since every lawn’s pH is different, testing your soil is important to determine if it’s acidic, neutral, or basic. Based on these results, you’ll know which minerals and nutrients your soil is missing. Many home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot, sell simple five- or six-step DIY soil testing kits. If you prefer to use a professional, many full-service companies will do it for you.
When your soil has become stagnant and compacted, it’s time to aerate your lawn. This loosens your tightly-packed soil and helps with weed control while fighting the stress from droughts. Try simple DIY methods like garden forks or aerator shoes for a lower cost of aeration. However, for more tightly compacted soil, you may want to use lawn care professionals.
Fertilizing provides new lawns with concentrated nutrients needed while establishing a strong root system. Cool-season grasses should be fertilized using a spreader in the fall, while warm-season grasses can be fertilized throughout the summer. Many homeowners choose a starter fertilizer, which uses nutrients to meet the needs of growing seeds until the root system develops.
Maintaining Your Spring Seeding
It’ll take some time to see results. Cool-season grasses will begin to germinate in five to seven days, while warm-season grasses can take up to three weeks.
Here are some tips on how to nourish your grass as it grows:
- Be patient with grass that’s in the shade, as these seeds will take longer to germinate.
- Water your lawn regularly but don’t overwater, as this will damage the growing grass.
- Wait until at least two months have passed before mowing your grass. Grass will be around three inches in height when it’s ready to be cut.
- Compost kitchen and garden waste to add nutrients to your growing lawn.
Timing is everything when it comes to seeding your lawn. If you have cool-season grass, aim to start seeding in late summer or early fall before freezing air and soil temperatures hit your area. Start the seeding process in the late spring or early summer for warm-season grass.
No matter which type of grass you want to grow, be sure to continue lawn care even after the initial planting. If this process sounds too time-intensive, you may want to consider a lawn care service to seed, fertilize, and maintain your yard throughout the year. Our recommendation is TruGreen, a provider that offers comprehensive services and seeding.
How to plant grass seed – for a luscious and healthy lawn
Many gardeners crave a healthy green lawn, and knowing how to plant grass seed correctly is the most important first step in achieving luscious, soft grass.
A pristine lawn can make all the difference to the appearance of your backyard and is a year round feature of your garden to enjoy. If you choose the best fast-growing grass seed you can quickly see the results.
An important element of how to plant grass seed is getting the timing right, so make sure you first know when to plant grass seed in your zone to get off to a good start, and give the grass seed the best chance of germinating and producing healthy green blades.
Whether you are sowing a new area of lawn, or repairing patches in grass, you need to know how to plant grass seed to ensure success.
How to plant grass seed – what you need
Learning how to plant grass seed is an easy job for any gardener that requires only basic tools. To reseed small patches, you will simply need a garden fork, rake, grass seed and fertilizer.
If you are covering a large area, it will save you time to invest in a seed spreader. These can be bought inexpensively from garden centers or Amazon (opens in new tab) .
You may also want to use an aerator to loosen compacted soil and help distribute water and nutrients.
To get the best out of your lawn once it is planted and grown, set it off with stylish lawn edging ideas and care for it with one of the best ride-on lawn mowers.
What month should I plant grass seed?
The best month to plant grass seed will depend on the hardiness zone where you live.
‘Spring is a great time to fix those bare patches and the earlier we do it in the season, we will find that nature gives us a helping hand,’ says David Hedges Gower, chairman of the Lawn Association (opens in new tab) .
Early fall is also a good time to plant grass seed for a new lawn.
However, once the grass and lawn is more established, you can plant grass seed throughout the summer. ‘Healthy grass is consistent and if you find that you have a couple of bare spots in your lawn then you may want to consider overseeding. This is a great way to sow new seed over existing lawn and can lead to fuller looking grass,’ says Chris Bonnett, founder of GardeningExpress (opens in new tab) .
The best grass seed to use
Choosing the best grass seed will depend on your location, how much sunlight the lawn receives, and whether it needs to be durable enough to withstand backyard soccer games.
‘Identifying what grass currently grows in your lawn will give you a great indicator of what likes to grow there,’ says Hedges Gower. ‘Choosing the same variety makes success far easier in the long run.’
Grasses are broadly made up of cool-season and warm-season varieties – which type you choose will depend on your local climate.
Cool-season grasses include fescue, ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass and bentgrass, which grow better in cooler climates. Bentgrass and fescue are widely used in seed mixes, while ryegrass is particularly tough so a good choice for families.
Also known as Southern grasses, warm-season grasses include Bermuda grass, zoysia grass, St. Augustine grass and centipede grass. They thrive in areas with hotter summers and milder winters.
Bermuda and zoysia grasses are widely used throughout the south, while centipede grass is a good low-maintenance choice. St. Augustine is more shade tolerant than other warm-season grasses.
Many lawns are made up of a seed mix, rather than a single variety. ‘Seed mixtures are generally a blend of species to suit most lawns and guarantee a better strike rate,’ says Hedges Gower.
‘However, be aware that seeding ryegrass, for example, into a traditional lawn mixture will stand out like a sore thumb, and vice-versa.’
Options include luxury lawn mixes, shade-tolerant mixes, hardwearing family mixes, and fast-growing varieties. Choose a mix compatible with your climate and garden conditions.
How to prepare lawn for seeding
Good preparation is the most important aspect of learning how to plant grass seed. Luckily, getting it right is easy.
‘To prepare your soil before planting grass seed, simply till and loosen the soil to create the best growing conditions – you don’t need to put down topsoil,’ says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love (opens in new tab) .
To till the soil, Hedges Gower recommends using a fork to lightly dig it over to a depth of about 2-3 inches. ‘This will allow new seedlings to take root,’ he says.
Remove any rocks and weeds as you go, but don’t apply weed killer as this will hinder growth.
‘If possible, leave the seed bed for a few weeks and then get rid of any weeds and rake in some lawn feed before sowing,’ says the experts at Johnsons Lawn Seed (opens in new tab) .
If you are applying seed to cover patches in a large lawn, it’s a good idea to use an aerator to punch holes into the ground and pull up small plugs of turf and soil.
‘Doing this has two benefits. The first is that some seed will fall into the holes and improve germination. The second is that aerating the soil reduces soil compaction and improves water infiltration,’ says Landscape Tutor (opens in new tab) Brian Walker. You can buy aerators on Amazon (opens in new tab) .
To give your grass seed a helping hand, it’s important to feed it. Depending on the product, you can apply pre-seeding fertilizer at the preparation stage, or you can wait until after you have sown the seed to use starter fertilizer.
Rake the soil level before planting the grass seed.
How to sow grass seed
For small areas, it’s easy to sow grass seed by hand. ‘Carefully spread the seeds on the ground and cover them with about a quarter of an inch of soil,’ says Noah James, owner of Liberty Lawn Maintenance (opens in new tab) .
‘Moisten the ground, mix the seed and scatter it evenly. Sow 1 1/4 ounces of seed per square yard (35g per square meter) half from right to left and the other half from left to right to ensure a good coverage,’ add the experts at Johnsons Lawn Seed.
For larger areas, use a spreader to sow the seed. ‘Trying to use your hands for large areas can lead to very uneven coverage of grass seed,’ says Walker. ‘I have found that push rotary spreaders do an excellent job. They apply the seed at a consistent rate for uniform coverage.’
Once you have sown your seed, carefully cover the seeds over with soil using either your hand or a rake.
‘Press the seeds down by standing on them or using a tool like a roller, because they need a firm seedbed,’ adds James.
Take care not to plant the seeds either too deep or shallow. ‘Bury them too deep and they will take longer to germinate. Too shallow and the seeds will be prone to drying out or being eaten by birds,’ says Hedges-Gower.
Once you have planted your grass seed, you can apply starter fertilizer if you didn’t do so prior to planting. Water immediately. ‘In case of dry weather use a fine spray to keep the seed bed well watered and moist,’ add Johnsons Lawn Seed experts.
Should I put topsoil over grass seed?
Do not put top soil over grass seed, but you can add a thin layer of organic matter to help the seed to germinate.
‘Never put topsoil over newly planted grass seed,’ says Yamaguchi. ‘This won’t provide healthy growing conditions – it will actually prevent the seedlings from sprouting by essentially suffocating them.’
‘Leaves, straw, and peat moss can be used to help hold moisture for the seed to germinate and grow,’ adds James.
Once the grass is more established then ‘top dressing is something you can do a couple of weeks after fertilizing a lawn if you’re really keen for your grass to grow. Mix together materials like sand, soil loam and peat and apply this to your dry grass. The materials will transfer nutrients back into the soil and promote growth,’ says Chris Bonnett.
How often should you water grass seed?
How often you should water grass seed will depend on the weather conditions and climate where you live. Watering is an important part of establishing your new grass, but be careful not to overdo it.
‘Too much water can make it sit too wet and too dry won’t allow the seed to germinate,’ says Hedges Gower.
‘As a rough guide, a patch of around 3×3 feet (1×1 metre) should need about 15-30 seconds of water every 2-8 hours, depending on how warm the weather is.’
Always check to feel how damp the soil is before applying more water.
Once the grass is established, only water when needed and know when to water grass. ‘Overwatering grass can lead to its demise and therefore grass should be watered during the cooler time periods and only once a week. When watering grass you are looking to water deeply to ensure there’s enough water to see through a drought, ‘add the experts at Marshalls (opens in new tab) .
To encourage strong, vigorous growth, How Cobra, manufacturer of garden lawnmowers, recommends watering lawns early in the morning when heat is at a minimum to reduce the amount of evaporation. ‘This allows water to penetrate the deeper into the root. An infrequent yet heavy dose of water is also recommended as it’s one of the most effective ways of stimulating stronger grass growth.’
Water butts are also a great way to collect and reuse any rainwater so that it can be saved to keep lawns hydrated and gardens watered as a sustainable garden idea.
How do you maintain brand new grass?
Feeding a new lawn is one of the most important steps to maintaining it after you have mastered how to plant grass seed .
‘Seedlings require a lot of food in the initial germination phase. We need to turn this into a nice lush adult grass plant as quickly as possible,’ says Hedges Gower.
Feed your lawn every 4-8 weeks until it is well established, then twice a year.
Don’t reach for the lawnmower too quickly. New lawns shouldn’t be mowed until the grass reaches three inches tall. Make sure you know how often you should mow your lawn so you don’t destroy all of your hard work in planting grass seed.
‘Reseeding lawns after heavy footwall will help recover dull patches and bring back its lush color,’ add the Cobra experts.
‘If filling in patches, continue to mow the lawn as usual but keep the blade slightly higher in order to allow the new seedlings a better chance to absorb more food and water,’ says Hedges Gower.
In addition, know how to aerate a lawn to improve a lawn’s overall health, and try to keep pets off the grass as their urine is high in nitrogen, which can easily scorch lawns when undiluted.
What is the easiest way to plant grass seed?
The easiest way to plant grass seed is by hand.
‘Carefully spread the seed throughout the areas where you want to see new growth occur,’ says James. ‘Lightly water thereafter in order to soak the seeds and help encourage new growth.’
Will grass seed grow if you just throw it on the ground?
Grass seed will not grow well if you just throw it on the ground. While you might be lucky and some grass seeds will take root, for a healthy patch of grass or lawn, it requires more care and attention, as outlined above.
It’s worth your time and effort learning how to plant grass seed as ‘the cheapest way to get a thriving garden is by growing a lawn by seed, as turf isn’t cheap and can be difficult to lay. With seeding, you’ve got much greater control over which species of seed are going into your new lawn,’ explains Carlos Real, managing director of TotalLawn (opens in new tab) .