Fall, followed by winter seeding are the 2 best times of year to seed lawns. Both will give your lawn an adequate head start to green-up in Spring. Dreaming of a lush lawn? Successful sowing hinges on first understanding your grass type and how it affects when to plant grass seed. See our guide here. Timing your grass seeding project properly helps you seize the opportunity for success.
Best Time of Year to Over Seed My Lawn
When is the best time of year to seed my lawn?
Fall, followed by winter (dormant) seeding are the two best times of year to seed your lawn. Both will give your lawn the adequate head start it needs to green-up in Spring and suppress weed growth.
Below, we’ll go over the times of year that you can over seed your yard from best to worst:
Fall seeding is hands down your best option when it comes to thickening up your lawn and bringing it back to life. The best time of year to fall seed in the Northeast for cool season grasses is between mid-August and mid-October.
Seeding this time of year gives the new plants 3 wet/cool seasons to develop before the heat and disease pressures of Summer are here.
Grass seeds will germinate within 10-20 days after seeding and will benefit from having a full season to establish a strong root system before going dormant for winter.
2. Dormant Seeding or Winter Seeding
If you are unable to fall seed, dormant seeding is your next best bet.
Dormant seeding is the practice of sowing grass seeds in late fall or early winter when the soil temperature is below 40 degrees . At this temperature, grass seeds will not germinate until the following Spring.
You can dormant seed any time between November thru the end of the year. Remember – seed to soil contact is key, so this is weather-pending and will depend on snowfall.
Dormant seeding will allow the seed coat to slowly break down over winter. When soil temperatures warm up in Spring, seeds will germinates at the earliest possible time, giving them a head start against competitive, emerging weeds.
3. Spring Seeding
While it is possible to seed your lawn in the Spring, we do not recommend it. Grass seed that is planted in spring will germinate and have great access to moisture for about 3-4 weeks but it will not have the strong root system needed to stand up to summer’s pressures.
Why you shouldn’t seed your lawn in Spring:
Lawn is prone to collapsing in summer and requiring a re-seeding in fall.
Grass will grow rapidly on the surface using up significant energy and nutrients in the process. The roots, therefore, don’t get what they need to build strength for the upcoming Summer.
Younger lawns are more prone to damaging diseases.
4. Summer Seeding
Summer is the least desirable time of year to seed your lawn as it is very unforgiving. Be prepared to need extra watering and be prepared to deal with disease issues.
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Solved! The Best Time to Plant Grass Seed
Dreaming of a lush lawn? The trick to successful sowing is a clear understanding of your type of grass and the climate it thrives in.
By Amy Lynch and Bob Vila | Updated Apr 29, 2022 5:55 PM
Q: I’d like to lay some grass seed this year, but I don’t want to get the timing wrong and create more work than necessary. What’s the best time of year to sow a new lawn from scratch?
A: More than anything else, when to plant grass seed depends largely on the climate in your part of the world and the types of grasses that thrive there. Next, consider the actual forecast around that time to select the best time to seed a lawn. Most Americans want to be surrounded by green lawns they can spend time in, and a few factors come into play to ensure the grass seed put down takes root.
Grass Seed Generally Falls into 2 Categories: Warm-Weather and Cool-Weather Varieties
The best turf success comes from planting the right grass for the region in which you live. You might consider water and care needs and appearance. But selecting a grass not meant for your climate can erase some of those benefits. Grass is categorized by season, so choose based on when it thrives: cool season or warm season. Each of these varieties requires different maintenance and—you guessed it—minimum sowing requirements to grow good-looking grass from seed.
- As you might imagine, warm-season grasses (including Bahia grass, Bermuda grass, centipede, and St. Augustine) thrive in climates with mild winters and hot summers and don’t require as much water as other grasses. They germinate and grow in temperatures above 80 degrees.
- Cool-season grasses such as bluegrass and ryegrass fare best in places where summers are temperate and winter days often dip below freezing. Requiring more hydration (often delivered via snowfall), these varieties lie dormant in warmer summer months and do most of their growing in autumn and spring.
- If you live in an area that falls between those two climate zones, you’re in a transitional region. Cool-season grasses (with late summer/early fall preparation) are more likely than their warm-weather cousins to flourish in a zone that falls between the extremes, but you can plant a mix of both—cool-weather grass sown in late fall and warm-weather planted during the spring and summer months of the following year.
- Grass can thin over time, requiring you to overseed the lawn to fill in. You can mow the existing turf shorter than normal, prep the ground, and sow grass seed to fill in. Overseeding also works best when temperatures support germination for the grass type chosen.
- Consider your neighborhood’s altitude and the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. If you’re still unsure which type of grass matches your climate, do some local research. This list of university extension programs might help you look for the safest choice and best time to plant grass in your area. Or consult local nurseries or hire a landscape professional.
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When is the Best Time to Plant Grass Seed?
The short answer is to match your timing to align with the natural course of a grass type’s active growth. That means when to sow grass seed depends on optimal temperatures for their germination. Of course, there is more to consider than just temps in your timing.
- Take care not to distribute your seeds just before heavy rains, which can erode the soil and disrupt germination. (Sowing right after it rains is fine, but dry soil is generally easier to seed.)
- Specific timing can get tricky for both seasons. The best time to plant warm-season grass seed is late spring or early summer, or when temperatures hover near 80 degrees or higher in your area.
- Plant cool-season grass seed in late summer or early fall (when daytime temperatures lower to about 60 to 75 degrees) for best success. September is typically the best month, although you might be able to get away with seeding as early as mid-August or as late as mid-October; it all depends on the forecast.
Time When You Plant Grass Seed Well After You’ve Last Applied Herbicides
If you use chemical treatment on your existing lawn to control weeds, wait at least a month after the treatment before you lay down new grass seeds. If you’ve used a crabgrass prevention product, the recommended waiting period is even longer—usually around 4 months.
Ideally, plan your lawn maintenance well in advance so that you can wait the appropriate amount of time between treating a lawn and when ideal temperatures for seed germination typically set in. If you didn’t save yourself enough time to weed before seeding, know that you can resume your weed prevention routine once your new lawn has been mowed at least four or five times.
Pay Attention to the Weather When Planting Grass Seeds
You can plan ahead for the best time to put grass seed down based on average temperature patterns in the area, but it helps to check the forecast to pinpoint the best time to plant grass seed. Make sure you won’t have an unusual cold snap or heat wave.
Likewise, watch for rain events. While a good soaking can help seeds germinate, a downpour can cause seeds to erode or migrate, gathering in a bunch at the bottom of a hill, for example. And it is best to plant grass seed before a steady rain, not right after a heavy one. Muddy ground is hard to work and too much moisture around new seeds could lead to a fungal disease that kills the seeds.
Seeds still can germinate in cloudy weather, assuming temperatures are near suggested levels for the grass seed you choose. It’s probably best not to seed the lawn on a windy day, which can affect broadcasting of seeds or blow just-set seeds around if not tamped down.
Scheduling Your Seeding Depends on When You Have the Time to Prep the Soil
Whether you seed or sod a lawn, allot time on your calendar for a bit of prep work as the time draws near. This might require some pretreatment with an herbicide, and that month or more of waiting. You can also simply remove all weeds with hoes and by hand.
Starting with bare ground? Loosen the top 2 inches of soil and remove any materials (i.e. sticks and stones) that could block airflow. If you’re broadcasting grass seed over a large, bare area, a seed spreader and light tiller might come in handy. Hard ground might first require aeration or loosening soil a little deeper, closer to 6 inches.
Otherwise, if you’re working with an existing lawn that just needs some rehabilitation, take the weekend to mow it as short as you can. Then loosen up the soil in any bald spots.
Next, no matter whether your lot is bare or simply balding, inspect that the surface is as level as possible and add fresh topsoil wherever it dips; this helps prevent puddles of standing water once you begin the irrigation process. With this prep work under your belt, you’re ready to begin sowing grass seeds—and soon enjoying a lush lawn.
Time Other Activities That May Affect the Seeding of Grass
Planting grass seed is one of the least expensive ways to a lush lawn or to fill in a large bare area of weeds or blowing dust. Still, the seeds and their early growth (seedlings) need a little tender loving care early on.
Typically, you should avoid walking on the new lawn area for at least 4 weeks. Any activities from kids or dogs on the growing lawn can disturb your carefully broadcast seeds. Once the seeds germinate, the seedlings are tender as they grow above and below the ground, establishing roots. Walking on seedlings can damage them or uproot them.
So, avoid kids’ birthday parties or training a new puppy within a month of setting seed. Avoid mowing until the seedlings reach at least 3 ½ inches high; the longer you can wait, the better.
How Long Will It Be Before You See Results?
Time from planting to picnicking on a new lawn can vary depending on the specific seed type (some grow faster than others), site prep, seed quality (and age), and unpredictable factors like weather. In general, cool-season grasses grow faster than warm-season ones. Most cool-season grass seeds should begin to germinate in 5 to 7 days. Popular warm-season grass seeds usually take nearly 2 weeks and as long as 3 weeks. Be patient; a few factors can affect germination, such as:
- How well you prepped the area, loosening soil, leveling, removing rocks and weeds, and mulching lightly.
- Unseasonal dips or peaks in temperature, even in the evening, that can affect soil temperature and seed germination.
- Lack of sunlight; seeds can germinate in cloudy weather, but seedlings need some sun (6 hours a day or more) to help them grow and spread to form turf. Grass seed planted in shady areas of the lawn might take longer to germinate.
- Irrigation, especially too little, affects time to germination. Seeds need steady moisture to sprout, and do best with water sprayed lightly on the soil surface. Over-irrigating to the point that water pools or runs is nearly as bad as drying out. Spray seeds several times a day for the first few weeks, depending on the weather.
FAQ About When to Plant Grass Seed
Will grass seed grow if I just throw it down?
Yes and no. Native grasses, in particular, will likely sprout in some areas, but there is a difference between sporadic sprouting and a broad area of seeds taking root. Just throwing seeds out will likely lead to uneven coverage. Plus, the blades that might pop up will not be healthy, well-rooted grass without adequate site preparation. If you want to speed up the process, try asking a lawn care professional to hydroseed your lawn.
Is March too early to plant grass seed?
In nearly all regions, March is too early to plant grass seed. Temperature is a better barometer; wait until days average about 80 degrees before planting grass seed for summer. March is too late to sow cool-season grasses.
Do you need to rake in grass seed?
Once you spread the grass seed, use a rake to work it into soil, but only to about ¼ inch. Don’t push the seed down too deeply or cover it with a thick layer of mulch that will block light. If you can, use a roller to pass over the area after raking to ensure seeds have good contact with soil. You can sprinkle a light layer of compost or straw over the soil to help retain moisture, but only thin enough to prevent blocking light.
Should I soak grass seed before planting?
It’s not necessary to soak grass seed before planting; the seeds are small and typically germinate 1 to 2 weeks after planting with consistent watering. If you have a short window for the best time to seed a lawn, especially for getting cool-season grass going before cold sets in, you can soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. Then, drain the water completely from the cup or bucket, and leave them in a warm location like a heated shed for a few days until small sprouts appear.
DIY Lawn Care. Simplified.
Bob Vila has partnered with Sunday to get your lawn exactly what it needs to thrive.
Free Lawn Analysis
The Best Time to Plant Grass
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 grows 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.
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 gets on track for both short- and long-term success.
WHY FALL IS BEST FOR COOL-SEASON GRASSES
Several distinct advantages make fall the best time to plant cool-season grass seed. In early autumn, the soil is still warm from months of summer sun. This combination of warm soil, moderate daytime temperatures and cool evenings encourages fast germination and establishment of newly sown cool-season grass seed.
Cool-season grass seed germinates best when soil temperatures reach 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This roughly corresponds to daytime air temperatures in the 60°F to 75°F range. An inexpensive soil thermometer, available at garden stores and online retailers, can help eliminate the guesswork.
The farther north you live, the earlier cool fall temperatures and ideal planting times come. For example, Minnesotans in the Upper Midwest seed cool-season lawns from mid-August to mid-September. 1 For transition-zone lawn owners in central and northern Arkansas, September and October are the best time for seeding cool-season lawns. 2
As a general rule, plant cool-season grass seed at least 45 days before the estimated date of your first fall frost, before soil and air temperatures drop to less favorable levels. Your grasses will enjoy a full fall season, plus a second cool growing season come spring. Your local county extension agent can help with advice on average frost dates and optimal timing for seeding lawns in your area.
Newly planted seed needs consistent soil moisture, and fall planting offers benefits on that front, too. Fall typically brings more precipitation, which lessens the chance that cool-season seeds may dry out, and reduces the need for extra watering on your part. Using premium drought-tolerant, water-conserving grass seed products, such as Pennington Smart Seed and Pennington One Step Complete, lowers the risk of problems even more.
The second best time to seed cool-season lawn grasses is in the spring, once soil and air temperatures warm back up to their optimal range. However, late-melting snows and early spring rains can keep soil cold and overly wet, giving early weeds an advantage. Grasses also have less time to settle in before higher temperatures inhibit germination and cool-season grass growth begins to slow.
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. Overseeding for green winter grass is always done in fall, once temperatures drop and warm-season lawns begin to go dormant and lose color.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM NEWLY PLANTED GRASS 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.
HOW TO MAXIMIZE THE TIMING ADVANTAGE
Even when you plant your grass seed at the best possible time, your lawn still needs help to thrive. Whether this is your first lawn or you’re the neighborhood expert, take some advice from turf professionals and get to know your grasses and your soil before you start seeding. Follow through on best practices for preparing and planting and don’t neglect traditional tasks, such as fall lawn care, that help keep your grass and soil healthy, well-nourished and ready to support new growth.
Do your research to understand what’s in a bag of grass seed and the company behind the seed. Pennington is committed to producing the finest grass seed products possible and providing you with educational resources to help your seed project succeed. By timing your lawn tasks properly, you can maximize your advantage and seed your way to the lawn of your dreams.
Pennington, Smart Seed and One Step Complete are trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc.
1. Mugaas, R. and Pedersen, B., “Seeding and Sodding Home Lawns,” University of Minnesota Extension.
2. Patton, A. and Boyd, J., “Seeding a Lawn in Arkansas,” University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
3. UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, “Planting Times and Rates for Grasses That Can Be Established From Seed,” University of California.