Dormant seeding -- Now in the north?

zhotsterNovember 27, 2007

I was planning to do some dormant seeding here in WI. I'm on the MN/WI border, just a few hours south of the Twin Cities. Our temps are down now pretty much with highs in the 40's, and I can't imagine getting enough warm days in a row to germinate KGB.

Am I better off waiting until December or even later? The fear I have is that we'll get snow here for good and I won't have my seed down. I've got plenty of bare spots from my renovation and I'm hoping to just knock out just some of them. Next spring I'll plant and water the bigger bare areas in the back/side of my yard.

I'm particularly interested in hearing from those that have successfully domant seeded. I'm not sure I've seen anyone on this board saying it really works well, and I don't want to just toss premium seed around with just a small chance of having any survivors.

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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

You must have missed my posts. I have successfully dormant seeded. Please keep in mind that successful dormant seeding means about 50% germination. You'll achieve 80% or more germination when it's warmer.

I've seeded over snow and over frozen ground and I was successful. However, I think it's better to wait until February in Region 5.

Let me know if you have more questions.


    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 7:24PM
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garycinchicago(Z5 Chicago IL.)

However, I think it's better to wait until February in Region 5

I have to ask a question, being 100% ignorant of dormant seeding. I read your link from before, yet I'm still confused on its true benefits.

Why do you say/feel/think February? What's the advantage to February for "dormant seeding", as opposed to early spring seeding, like April 1 and getting a jump on the weeds?

Is there really something to the actual freezing of seeds, that helps? Why not store seeds in the freezer then?

For me/us, I doubt we have soil temps above 55 degrees until mid to late April. Sounds like zhotster is around Lake Pepin, in the Mississippi valley and basically experiences the same weather due to the water, so germination time frames would be about more or less equal.

Please expand, this is confusing.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 9:01PM
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Deerslayer, I guess I did miss your posts. I spent a bunch of time reading internet articles on dormant seeding and what you are saying makes sense partially.

Some articles state part of the reason of doing it now is that the snow, freezing and unfreezing will help the seed mesh into the soil. Sort of melting seed in and protecting it. Now, I know from my renovation that seed will take that is sitting on the ground, but it seems to do better if buried a little.

As far as February, I don't think I can do it over the snow, as I really want to hit spots that I couldn't see if covered. In February, we get some of our biggest snowfall - as you do in northern IL. Should I wait until the snow melts in Feb or March, or is that too late?

Thank you so much Deerslayer for replying, I really appreciate it.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 9:07PM
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The advantage of dormant seeding over early spring seeding is that you get a jump start on germination since the seeds are already there when conditions are right to germinate.

Some grass seeds do benefit from freeze/thaw cycles. Some people try to increase germination rates by sticking seeds in the freezer and taking them out repeatedly. Not all grass seeds benefit from this. A bigger benefit is that the freeze/thaw cycles help with the seed-to-soil contact.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 11:10PM
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gryd(Trumbull, CT Z6)

I need to dormant seed some sections in my backyard. I also worry that if I don't get it down then there will be too much snow to do it later. I may throw half of my seed down now (as insurance) and the rest down later this winter if I get a window of opportunity.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2007 at 6:10AM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

Gary and zhotster, I agree with BPGreen's answer. A major reason to dormant seed is because it allows the seed to germinate as soon as conditions permit. The freeze thaw cycles help to work the seed into the soil to the proper depth. Also, the seed absorbs moisture during the freeze thaw cycles so it is ready to germinate when the soil temperature reaches the germination point.

The main reason why I dormant seed is because where I'm located the seed doesn't require watering. The snow melt and early spring rains provide enough moisture for the seed to germinate. Normally, the new grass is an inch or more high before there is a need to water. This is true for many areas in the North.

In my opinion, late winter is better than early winter for dormant seeding. I believe this because all of the benefits of dormant seeding can be realized in late winter. On the other hand, dormant seeding in early winter allows more time for things to go wrong. This is just an opinion. I haven't read any studies comparing early to late winter dormant seeding.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2007 at 10:12PM
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Where I am, the early vs late winter seeding is a tough call. If I wait, I could end up with several feet of snow on the ground. If I don't wait, I may get some warm weather that starts the germination, but has a frost follow too soon and kills the tender seedlings. I'm going to be overseeding with some native grasses and will either do a late dormant seeding or a very early spring seeding. The main determining factor for me will be the amount of snow on the lawn.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2007 at 11:03PM
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deerslayer and bpgreen, thank you very much for the explanation. I live fairly close to deerslayer, so I'm probably going to wait for my larger areas until February and try to spot in some smaller areas now. It's obviously a gamble either way, so I'll create my own little test bed.

I appreicate the direction very much!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 6:36AM
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The only trouble with laying down seed when germination is not possible is how much of the seed actually makes it into spring to take advantage of the exact time the seed will begin to germinate....and not waste time.

But, in suggesting seed can come along when conditions are exactly right for that particular seed, there's always the chance--especially in the north---that the weather can change...practically overnight and then what happens if the seed has come to something....not much....just the beginnings, then is hit with a frost. Good-bye grass.
True, there is moisture in the ground to take advantage of.
But, a decent soil will retain that moisture and if not, spring rains can be counted on.
Its all well and dandy to have tried to get some seed to germinate in the fall and if the weather doesn't much for it, it will wait until spring.

But I have suggested many times, in good soil, buy the best seed you can afford; in lousy soil, buy the best seed you can afford.

It does not pay to use lousy seed in any soil.

So going by that rule, purchasing a good seed...maybe an expensive seed in the fall and just throwing it down in hopes it can grow something between fall and when winter loses its grip, is I think foolish.

When we can give proper care to such a lawn, is, I think, will obtain a better result. Who cares if a few blades pop up in April. It will grow that much stronger, better, if we wait until the best time.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 9:48AM
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deerslayer(Z5 NE IL KBG)

I agree that germination rates are lower when dormant seeding. Also, a total failure may have a higher probability than normal seeding. However, I've had grass planted in the Spring get completely washed away by a heavy rain. Success isn't guaranteed regardless of the approach.

I dormant seed when overseeding or patching. I don't recommend dormant seeding for establishing a new lawn.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 12:46PM
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I will be doing some dormant seeding in late winter as well. For some reason, when reading a post on dormant seeding, I almost always see such a difference of opinions..however what I do know, is that I have only seen good comments from people who have actually tried dormant seeding and negative comments from people who have never tried it. I read an article (of course, I can't find it now) that did a study on dormant seeding. Essentially the study indicated that Feb dormant seeding will yield better results than December seeding. I think it said something like Feb seeding will get you about 80% coverage by summer. It is also my understanding that dormant seeding is only a good idea when you are seeding a grass seed that takes up to or more than 21 days to germinate. An example is KBG will germinate at around 21 days in perfect soil temps, so it is sort of a protection against any possible cold snaps after a week or two of warm weather, as KBG will still not germinate after two weeks of nice weather. At least for me in south central Ohio, if I get three to four weeks of nice weather, there is a good bet that I will not get anymore hard frosts for the year. So I say go for it and enjoy!!! Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2007 at 10:31PM
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Certently, get those seeds out there. They are definately not going to germinate in your bucket/bag.

Be sure to set your expectations accordingly.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 12:01AM
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I was thinking of putting the seed down this weekend when I started this thread. My decision has been made for me since I now have snow cover and we're expecting another 6 inches today.

I'm going with Deerslayer's plan to put down seed in February, as soon as I can see the ground. I may take a venture out in the cold this morning to do a few spots that the snow hasn't covered yet, but will do the majority of it in Feb.

Thanks to everyone that provided input, I really appreciate it. If I can get some spots handled and concentrate on a few areas by dormant seeding, I'll have a much easier time in the spring hitting some larger areas with traditional seeding/watering.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 8:33AM
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Hi. Newbie here with no experience whatsoever. I live in central NJ. My landscaper missed the boat and didn't seed in the fall. He told me he can do "dormant seeding" and would like to do it in a week or two. I found this forum and thread when researching dormant seeding (wanted to educate myself). Does anyone have any thoughts on when it would be best to dormant seed in NJ? Over the past 10 years or so we've only been hammered by heavy snow a few times a year (at most). We do get snowfall but nothing like what you all. It seems like there is some (small) consensus that it's best to wait longer (Feb.) to dormant seed. I want to put my lawn in the best position possible to catch up for the landscaper's mess up. Thoughts would be GREATLY appreciated!!!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 8:45AM
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Wow, this is so informative. I plan on overseeding/dormant seeding now - it's snowed lightly a few times already, but it melts within 24 hours. I don't mind feeding some of the birds between light snows, but I want to get a few patches covered to (hopefully) sprout up in spring and decrease mud/muck presence before dogs start tracking it in. (The more grass I have in back yard, the cleaner my house stays, longer, due to the dogs). But I have this really dumb, embarrassing question: how *does* one overseed? Once I buy the blend from the hardware store (and any suggestions for zone 5 would be great), do you just toss it down? Just a spreader? Do I need to dig up any soil? Water after planting? Thanks for whatever help you can provide this embarrassed novice!

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 4:15PM
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Just spread it around with a spreader. No need to do any digging. The seed should work its way into the soil with the snow melting and with the freeze/thaw cycles.

There's also no need to water. The seeds will get the water they need from the melted snow and spring rain (in my case, it's almost all from the snow, since I can't always count on spring rain).

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 4:46PM
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Hi-I live south of most of the people who posted questions on this thread but still in region five due to the elevation which is about 5700 feet. I live just southeast of Denver Colorado.

My question is this how much seed to buy. The seed I wish to try is only available on the Internet this is the description of it
Wheatland West.
The best choice for alternative turf in the Intermountain West is "Cabin Mix".

Cabin Mix is a blend of three grasses, MX-86 Sheep Fescue, Roadcrest Crested Wheatgrass and Sodar Streambank Wheatgrass. These three grasses are very deep rooted and can survive years of drought. They are naturally a green color fall through spring. If watered and mowed once or twice a month, they will stay green all summer. Left without watering or mowing Cabin Mix will grow to about 18 inches tall and will go dormant and brown in the hot summer months, at high elevations it stays green all summer.

Call us today for planting rates and pricing on Cabin Mix.

It looks like I am going have to make a grass patch before I do this dormant seeding. I have already patched grass with grass that does not look exactly like the other grass on my lawn and it satisfied the homeowners association which is my main concern. Most of my lawn is rather thin and consisting of whatever grasses was in the previous owners grass mix which does not require much water since I haven't been watering it, so the thing grass that remains on most of my lawn of the survivors. So I would like to buy is much grass seed as I need for this patch plus have enough left over to dormant seed perhaps as early as November. So with the possibility of birds eating the grass seed and not expecting 100% rate of germination as already has been said on some of the posts here how many times a normal grace purchase would one expect to buy if you are dormant seeding. I think the area I am interested over seeding using this dormant seeding method is approximately 1100 ft.². And this seed is set to use 1 or 2 pounds per 1000 ft.². So the use twice as much as you would expect if you use it in a more regular way. Or even more than that for applying it repeatedly. What amount you think all come to for the dormant seeding part of my grass seed purchased. I have not read all the articles most of you have read on dormant seeding so I'm also wondering do you use fertilizer.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 4:48AM
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I think the 1-2 lbs per 1000 sq ft they list is for a cabin setting more than a home lawn setting. 2 lbs is probably close to enough for good coverage, so you might want to bump it up a hair to get enough for a fall seeding followed by dormant seeding.

I think if I were in your shoes, I'd go with 4 or 5 lbs total and split half for the earlier seeding and half for the later seeding.

The grasses in that mix are very low maintenance types of grass and if you fertilize much, you're likely to kill them. I wouldn't use more than 1 lb of actual N per 1000 sq ft per year. I'd apply half in the spring and half in the fall. For each 1000 sq ft of lawn, I'd use no more than 2-3 lbs of 21-0-0 in the spring and again in the fall.

You could probably get away with using no fertilizer at all, but it will probably respond to light fertilization.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 12:21PM
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