Too late to plant grass seed?

yjbrody(5b)May 3, 2011

Long time lurker, first time poster. Thanks in advance for any advise you can offer.

We are looking to plant grass in our backyard and originally we were told that we would seed when the ground temps got warm enough for our area (Colorado at roughly 6000'). From what I have been seeing on here though, it looks like most are spring seeding in March and April. Is it too late for us to seed?

A little background on our plot and seed:

Full sun in most of area that we will seed (minor shade to 1/4 of area once our ash leafs in but still good sun). Decided on Sheep fescue, thickspike and crested wheatgrass mix (heavier on the thickspike). Picked those because we wanted a lower water variety but still lawn like (we have KBG in our front lawn). Manured, tilled and flattened the area of about 1000 sq/f. No other grasses/plants/anything are active in our prepped site.

My wife is tired of looking at dirt in our back yard and I would really like to get something going for this summer. :(

Also, how much should I seed. I have seen lots of figures, but was thinking of around 5-7lbs (broadcast). Is there an issue with applying too much seed?

Thanks for any and all help! This is all very new to me and I want to do it right the first time.


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At 6000 feet you can probably get away with planting now.

The grasses you've chosen would probably have benefited from dormant seeding, but you should still get some germination. The sheep fescue will probably germinate first, in about 5-7 days. I think crested wheatgrass will take about 5-10 days. Thickspike wheatgrass is closely related to streambank wheatgrass, so I'll guess it will germinate in about 10-14 days (It has been a couple of years, but I think that's how long streambank took to germniate).

I would water 2-3 times a day for at least 3 weeks, then cut back to once a day for a week, then every other day for another week or so. You may need to water every week this year since you started somewhat late. Next year, the grass will be fairly well established. Once it's established, those grasses will stay alive in Colorado with no water at all, and should stay green if you water 3-4 times over the course of the summer. I have a similar mix (but streambank instead of thickspike since I have clay soil, and I also have some western wheatgrass). I water in early July, late July and mid August. If we don't get rain in September, I'll get some dormant grass, but otherwise, that's enough water for it to stay green all summer.

5-7 lbs should be enough. If it's not pre-mixed, I'd spread the three varieties separately. Thickspike wheatgrass seed is much larger than sheep fescue and crested wheatgrass seed, so it'll be tough to distribute evely if you spread them together. If I remember correctly, crested wheatgrass seed and sheep fescue seed are of a similar size.

As a warning, although sheep fescue is incredibly drought tolerant, it doesn't like the heat very much. If it gets hot enough, the sheep fescue will go dormant, but it will snap back when it cools. That may not be much of an issue at your elevation.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 10:54PM
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Thanks for the reply and advice bpgreen. I've seen your many postings on this subject and all the info that you have provided to others on this forum was very helpful to me. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

I have no prob with watering every week this year. I figured that it would take that to get the seed started, but would pay off in the long run. Compared to our KBG in the front, this will eventually be a great improvement. Based on my mix what do you think would be good watering durations? I'm guessing they should be good soaking waterings to help promote deep root growth? Our ground is on the sandy side.

Also, in regards to your sheep fescue not liking the heat, what exactly do you mean by heat? 90*+ temps? 100*+ temps? In my area we average about 15 days were temps are 90* or higher. I think last summer we just had a handful as it was pretty mild. Nights are also cool averaging somewhere in the 50s and sometimes the 60s.

My seed is not mixed so I will be spreading them separately like you suggested. That makes perfect sense.

Do I need to let the new grass get to a certain length the first time before mowing?

Sorry for all the questions. Thank you again for all the advice and help!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 10:03AM
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The amount of time to water depends on how much water you get in that amount of time. With these grasses, you want to water as deeply as you can because the roots can go down 6 feet or more. With sandy soil, you may need to water more often than I do since it doesn't hold water as well, but you'll just have to see how that goes. As the grass starts to establish, wait until it starts getting stressed, then water deeply.

If you only see 15 days above 90, the sheep fescue may not go dormant at all. Those are good conditions for it.

I'd mow the grass when it gets tall enough that it looks like it needs to be mowed. If the sheep fescue starts really fast, you'll want to wait until the others germinate and get a little growth to give them a chance. I'd mow it fairly tall (as tall as you can stand it), and stick to the 1/3 rule (don't mow more than 1/3 of the height). So if you want to mow it to 4 inches, you can actually let it grow to 6 inches before mowing. If you don't mow or water at all, it will probably grow to about 2 feet (just guessing) and go dormant for a month or so each summer. Mowing and watering will help to keep it green and will also help to encourage it to spread so it doesn't have bare patches in it. The fescue is a bunch grass, but when you mow it, it tillers, sometimes aggressively.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 9:30PM
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Thanks again.

One last question... for now at least.

Would it be beneficial in any way to delay seeding the Sheep Fescue and Crested Wheatgrass just a few days after seeding the Thickspike so they all come in roughly around the same time? Would this help, hurt or make any difference?

Many thanks for all the help and advice.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 2:55PM
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That's probably not a bad idea, but it probably isn't necessary if you're willing to water several times a day for the first three weeks. Actually, since you're watering to keep it moist, walking around to do the seeding might be a little problem.

If it's not as thick as you'd like at the end of this year, throw some seed down just before the first big snowfall. It will germinate next spring as it warms and the snow melts and you won't need to worry about watering at all.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 10:11PM
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Ah, yep. Great point. It's gonna be hard enough for me to keep our dog off of it. I don't need to be trampling on it myself.

Thanks for all the tips. I should post some before and after pics later on this summer with the results. I ran across some of your pics on some older posts and those were very nice to look at.

Take care.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 11:27AM
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I know I'm one season to late. If you are in western CO, I'd wait until summer rains. If in eastern CO, you still may get good moisture to germinate until June. However, here in northern AZ, Western Wheatgrass will stay several years until finding the "right conditions" to germinate. That is unless the birds don't eat it.
I have just seeded 10lbs of Critana Thickspike, we still have a lot of snow and wind to get still, but a lot of native grasses will sprout despite our snow due to our strong sun. Will update when I see results.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 1:13PM
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