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TIPS: When Should I Seed My Lawn?

When your sights are set on a thick, lush lawn, planting grass seed represents an investment of time, money, labor and hope. From seeding new lawns to repairing rough spots and renewing existing turf, proper timing separates sweet success from something less. Your best time for planting grass seed depends on the type of lawn grass you grow and where you live. Understanding your options and getting timing right helps you seize every opportunity for seeding success.

WHY TIMING MATTERS
Grass grow fastest and strongest when your planting season aligns with the seeds’ natural periods of active growth. Just as with other kinds of plants in your landscape, lawn grasses vary in their growth cycles and regional climate preferences.

Cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue, including Kentucky 31 tall fescue, grow most vigorously during the cool temperatures of late summer and early fall. These grasses flourish across cooler northern climates and into the challenging “transition zone,” where cool and warm regions overlap. Jonathan Green and Scotts carry a full line of seeds and fertilizers for your new lawn.

Warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass, Bahiagrass, Zoysia grass, and Centipede grass, peak in growth during the warmer temperatures of late spring and early summer. These grasses thrive in southern and western regions and up into the transition zone’s southern reaches.

Whether you grow cool- or warm-season grasses, timing your seeding to take advantage of your grass type’s natural periods of peak growth helps seed germinate and establish quickly. Your seed gets off to the best possible start and on track for both short- and long-term success.
WHY SPRING IS BEST FOR WARM-SEASON GRASSES
Warm-season grasses germinate best when soil temperatures are consistently in the 65°F to 70°F range. This generally corresponds to daytime air temperatures near 80 F or more. Planting in late spring and early summer gives warm-season grasses the advantage of warm soil and early seasonal rains, which help keep soil moisture available during germination and establishment.

As with cool-season grasses, best warm-season planting times vary by location. In California, mid-April to mid-May is prime time for seeding warm-season lawns.3 In central and southern Arkansas, lawn owners plan their warm-season grass seeding for late May through June.2 It’s tempting to get out and seed at the first hint of spring, but patience pays off. Wait until all danger of frost has passed and soil warms. Cold, wet soil is a recipe for poor germination, rotting seed and disease. Your county extension agent can help with expected frost dates and timely advice when unexpected weather conditions factor in.

As a general rule, warm-season grasses planted at least 90 days before the first fall frost have time to establish well before winter. These summer-loving grasses go dormant once temperatures drop near 55°F, so late-planted seedlings can’t prepare for what’s ahead. With proper timing, warm-season grass seed gets a natural boost from summer’s warmth and a full season of active growth and development before cooling temperatures bring on winter dormancy.

One exception to the spring seeding rule for warm-season lawns is when overseeding with a cool-season grass, such as perennial ryegrass, for temporary winter color. Do this in fall, once temperatures drop and warm-season lawns begin to go dormant and lose color.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM NEWLY PLANTED SEED
Proper timing allows all types of grass seedlings to root well and get established before natural stresses hit. What that looks like in your lawn can vary depending on your grass type, your growing region and the conditions in any given year.

Grass types and varieties vary in their natural germination speeds. For example, cool-season Kentucky bluegrass germination can take two to three times as long as tall fescue varieties. Similarly, warm-season Zoysia grass may take two to three times longer than Bermudagrass. In addition, many seed products include a mix of seed types that germinate at different speeds.

Whether you’re repairing bare spots, overseeding an existing lawn or starting from scratch, you can generally expect grass seedlings to emerge within seven to 21 days when grown under proper conditions. It may take another three to four weeks of growth before grass is long enough to mow. For fall-planted seed, this can mean waiting until spring for your first mowing. Some grasses, such as Zoysia grass, may need several months of growth to fully establish.

Much of the initial growth of new grass seedlings happens underground, where you can’t see it. New roots get grass firmly established, prepared for the seasons ahead, and positioned for strong, rapid growth when their peak season arrives. With proper timing, new grass seedlings compete well for light, water and nutrients and fight off lawn diseases and pests, including lawn weeds.

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