when to plant grass seed

ozarkgirl(6-7)January 4, 2009

Newbies here with a quest to improve our lawn. We live in zone 6-7 in central arkansas. Yesterday we had 70+ weather today its in the 40's with freezing each night.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

The best time to plant grass seed is when the summer heat breaks and the night time temps start to fall in the fall. The reason is that this timing gives the plants all winter to develop roots that will resist the heat stress of summer. A second reason is that crabgrass dies out in the fall and winter and allows other grasses time to fill in where the crabgrass was. Once you have a dense stand of turf, then the crabgrass cannot return.

Keep that in mind because you are about to seed at the second best time of year, spring. Unfortunately spring is a distant second in this case. The reason again is timing. First is the crabgrass is waiting to sprout and if you are seeding into bare soil, you WILL get crabgrass, too. The second reason is that grass seeded in spring has trouble making it through the summer heat. Sad but true. The roots just don't have time. And then the crabgrass comes in even more.

Once you do seed, you need to take care of the grass. Here are the 1-2-3s of taking care of grass.

  1. Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means at least an hour in every zone, all at once. Infrequently means monthly during the cool months and no more than weekly during the hottest part of summer. If your grass looks dry before the month/week is up, water longer next time. Deep watering grows deep, drought resistant roots. Infrequent watering allows the top layer of soil to dry completely which kills off many shallow rooted weeds.

  1. Mulch mow at the highest setting on your mower. Most grasses are the most dense when mowed tall. Bermuda, centipede, and bent grasses are the most dense when mowed at the lowest setting on your mower. Dense grass shades out weeds and uses less water when tall. Dense grass feeds the deep roots you're developing in 1 above. By mulching you help return fertility to the soil.
  1. Fertilize regularly. I fertilize 4 times per year using organic fertilizer. Which fertilizer you use is much less important than numbers 1 and 2 above.
    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 12:19PM
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wrager(Z5 OH)

What if the OP wants a southern type grass? Would you be more inclned to advise an early summer planting (soil temps above 60)?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 8:08PM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

Not sure if warm-season grass will grow well in the higher elevations of the ozarks. dschall above has a pretty good plan if you want to grow cool-season grass (fescue/bluegrass/etc), and if you're trying to cover bare spots I'd say to prepare the soil well and seed in March/April if it's cool season grass seed. You're gonna lose some over summer, but some will also remain if you get enought rain or keep it wet during the hot months.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 6:51AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

The only warm season grass that you can buy seed for is common bermuda. It has different names but they are the same(ish). Those are seeded in the heat of summer - after May. The rest of the warm season grasses are propagated from sod.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 6:18PM
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wrager(Z5 OH)

Not true Dave. Zoysia http://www.zoysias.com/seeding/index.html
can be grown from seed. I planted seashore paspalum from seed this past fall.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 6:23PM
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More to the point is whether the warm season grass type seed can be purchased locally. If not, that might be taken as a cue that such grasses do not do well in your locale.
Many areas of central America stretching across the mid-range...The Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky....etc, often can choose which way to go...warm season, cool season.
In higher elevations it does suggest though that cool season grass type be the norm.

What of your neighbors; what have they done, tried, been successful with. Take advice from the people who have had good fortune to plant what grows.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 7:39PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Thanks wrager. I didn't know that. Do you have pix of your seashore paspalum (in a new thread)?

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 12:18AM
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Ozark, get out of your head what time is best to grow grass seed. Its not a matter of "time", its a matter of temperature. And not air temperature; its the ground-temperature that matters to the seed.
Too cold, it wont germinate; too hot, it wont germinate.

You'll know in the spring; when the snow is all gone, the first flush of early bulbs are starting to pop up, when you can walk on the grass without leaving a lasting imprint.

You can plant grass seed anytime....and it will sit and wait for the most opportune time to germinate. Plant it in the fall and if doesn't take, it will sit until the right time arrives and then go to work. But if you throw seed down in the fall, and it doesn't take, it may sit and be damaged by freeze/thaw cycles and never germinate.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 12:09PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

That is good advice from jeannie7. When the plants start to wake up from the winter is the time to seed cool season grass, if you are going to do it in spring.

I wish I'd thought of that.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 3:18PM
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