Updated Jan 13, 2023
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Getting grass seed to grow can be a battle. Depending on where you live, your reason for seeding, and the type of grass you want to plant, the seeding process can change. In our guide on when and how to plant grass seed, we provide:
Grass seed can be planted in the spring; however, it is considerably easier to plant warm season grasses in the spring. Cool season grasses struggle with germination in the spring as the soil temperatures and weather conditions are not ideal.
With warm season grasses, it is best to wait until the late spring when the average temperatures outside are moving closer to 80 degrees. With spring seeding, there are specific steps to ensure that your seeing is successful.
Before you start with your spring seeding, it is best to set some clear expectations for how this process will go. For warm season grass, you are likely going to have better results than cool season grass. Bare spots very wet and muddy from spring rain will likely not fill in all that well. The good news is that if you struggle with getting new grass to grow in the spring, you will have a chance in the early fall, and the process is considerably easier.
When you take a look at your spring lawn and realize that it needs a bit of help, it’s hard not to run out with the spreader and throw down a bunch of seeds. However, homeowners should keep these pros and cons in mind before starting the seeding process in the spring.
Now that you have a better idea of the pros and cons of spring seeding, it’s time to look into all the specifics and the best practices to get your spring lawn in great shape.
The warm season grasses are the best grass seeds to grow in the spring. If you live in an area where Bermudagrass, Zoysia Grass, Bahiagrass, and Centipede can be used, you will have the best luck with your new lawn. If you can wait until the late spring or early summer, your soil temperatures will be ideal.
For those that live in an area where only cool season grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, and Tall Fescue will grow, the cool season grass seed is the only choice. Remember that the cool season grass seed will need to be overseeded in the fall to help bulk up the new grass seed. Cool season grasses don’t do as well this time of year.
Grass seed planted in the spring will do best when the temperatures outside start hitting the 80-degree mark. The grass seedlings will have a better chance with a warmer soil temperature and more sun. The root system of the new seed will develop stronger and be less subject to health issues in the future.
Grass seed isn’t cheap. When you invest the money into seed to get your early spring lawn into top shape, it pays to follow the proper steps and ensure that your grass seed germination process is successful. Learning how to plant grass seeds in the spring is not hard, but it does take a bit of patience and attention to detail.
Depending on if you are overseeding or planting the seed in a new area, you first must prepare the area to receive the new seed. This means removing any weeds, using a tiller to turn the top layer of soil over, and potentially even aerating the spot where you expect to plant new seeds.
Completing a soil test is essential. If for some reason, there is an issue in the soil that will prevent seed from growing, the soil preparation process can help. You may need to add topsoil, mulch, and nutrients to the area before placing the new seed. At the very least, fresh topsoil is a significant benefit to improving the chances of spring seed success.
We highly recommend using a spreader to apply grass seed to your lawn. Trying to do this by hand results in areas with too much seed and bare spots where there is no grass. The seeding should be done at a rate consistent with what is recommended on the packaging. Be diligent about applying the seed so it is not wasted.
Once you have your seed down, lightly rake it in and cover the seeds with a small amount of soil. The soil surface should still be loose, and some seeds will be visible; the light layer of topsoil and raking process help prevent seeds from washing away or becoming bird food.
It may seem strange to have to protect your new grass seed, but it is a significant part of the process. Heavy rains and animals will try to destroy your chances of a lush green lawn. Some homeowners will use a roller to ensure that the seeds are a bit more compacted into the ground. In addition, you can use a light layer of straw over the seed to improve the chances of it staying protected.
New grass seed should be watered often, but it should not be soaked. Try to water about three times a day, hit it with a light setting on the hose, and just keep it moist. When the grass grows a bit and is at least one inch tall, you can stop with this process and start simply watering the grass once per day as you did in the past.
Fertilizing can be done with your new warm season grass in the late summer. For the cool season grasses, it is best to wait until the fall to start with lawn fertilizer. Although it may seem like a great idea to get your new grass some extra nutrients, it is best if the grass is first a bit more well established.
A starter fertilizer that is designed to give your new grass seed a head start is an option that can work. However, you must ensure that the starter fertilizer and the type of grass you are planting are compatible.
Mowing is always a top question from homeowners when seeding in the spring. It is best to wait until the grass is several inches high before hitting it with the mower. Three to four inches seems to be the best, and this can take several weeks or even months for this to happen. If you mow the grass too soon, you will disturb other new seeds coming up and stress your newly sprouted grass.
Now that you have the basics of spring seeding down, here are a few other things to keep in mind. Again, depending on where you live, this process may change slightly, as will all lawn care.
If you wait too long to plant your new spring seed, you may deal with heat stress. This is why knowing the best time to plant grass seed is so essential. When your new seed has heat stress, there will likely be bare areas that develop, and weed control can become an issue.
When planting spring seeds, we like to get an excellent hose nozzle with a light shower or mist setting. Keep the hose set up in the area where you have just planted. Try to set your watch to head out there three times a day and just take a few minutes to moisten the soil.
If you see water runoff and puddling, this is way too much water. Properly preparing the site for your seed will help to ensure that water drains properly into the soil.
Overseeding is used when your existing lawn needs to have some areas filled in, but you won’t need to plant a completely new lawn. Aeration in the area of the overseed can help the new seeds succeed; in addition, try to decrease foot traffic in the area.
The overseeding process is typically a bit more successful in the fall because of the warmer soil temperatures, but it can be done in the spring.
It is ok to overseed in the spring; however, the soil temperatures and weather conditions should be closely monitored. Spring overseeding requires that the soil be warm enough to promote growth instead of inhibiting it. Seeds won’t germinate until the soil temperatures are above about 55 degrees; if you can wait until it’s even a bit warmer than this, you may have more success.
Many homeowners get started in their gardens and yards in early March and are ready to start the seeding process. Unfortunately, for the most part, March will be too early. It is best to wait until the temperatures during the day are in the 70-degree range.
When air temperatures get to the 70-degree mark each day, the soil temperatures will reach that 50-60 degree range that you need for grass to start growing.
Reseeding in the spring should follow the same timing as seeding. Later spring, closer to mid-April, tends to be the best time. When reseeding, make sure to properly prepare the site before putting the seed down.
One of the problematic issues with seeding in the spring is the crabgrass. Crabgrass grows quickly, and it loves the spring temperatures to take over your lawn. The problem is when you use a crabgrass preventer and grass seed simultaneously, the crabgrass preventer will kill the seed.
Pre-emergent herbicides are the best possible way to keep crabgrass away, but you have to be careful with the timing of this product.
There are two options here for homeowners. The first is to put down your new seed in the early spring, and then after you have mowed three times, put down a crabgrass preventer. This should allow your new turfgrass enough time to strengthen before treating it.
The second option is to find a crabgrass preventer that is compatible with the grass seed you are using. In some areas, this may be easier than others as certain seed types don’t work well with herbicides.
As long as you follow the proper site and soil preparation, spring grass should start to grow in about 10-15 days. Some grass seeds can take closer to a month to show signs, but the small starts are typically seen much quicker. Keep a close eye on the area where you planted the new seed so that you can monitor it and improve the chance of the grass growing.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from the spring grass seed planting process is that this is more of a warmup for your fall grass seed planting. The spring season is tricky with weather and climate-related issues; it can be challenging to get this to work out. However, if you get a few breaks from the weather and follow our step-by-step method, the chance of starting an excellent new section of your lawn is quite good.
If you struggle with the spring seeding process and need help from a professional, TruGreen has quite a bit of experience with seeding and the thickening of your current turf.
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