The best time to seed is the early fall (August 15th to September 15th). The weather is warm enough to encourage good seed germination, yet it is cool enough for grass to grow at its best, and the grass doesn’t have to face the hot sun and the weed competition that accompanies it until it is fairly mature. It is also the best time to get a beautiful grass crop with the least amount of effort. The grass will germinate and grow in the fall, lay dormant under the snow, and develop a healthy, vigorous root system in the spring. The grass is then prepared to compete with next season’s weeds, crabgrass, and hot summer sun.
In most cases we recommend a perennial rye/ bluegrass mixture. The perennial rye germinates in 7 to 10 days, should look great in 30 days, but doesn’t add new plants. The bluegrass germinates in 20 to 30 days, and will slowly fill in over the next few years as plants send out runners which produce new plants.
We discourage the use of bluegrass until the date August 15th. It is too slow growing to survive the hot summer sun. Fine fescue is an excellent shade grass, but it tends to go dormant with hot weather or draught (in the summer we want to enjoy the lawn). So try to keep the percentage of fine fescue low in the sunnier areas of the lawn.
Few years ago we started seeding with a new grass variety, Dwarf Tall Fescue. It has a wider blade then the bluegrass and perennial Rye, but it has a very deep root system which allows it to stay green with a lower abundance of water. Also it’s deep root system helps the survival from grub damage then other species. It is usually seeded with 90 Percent Dwarf Tall Fescue, and accompanied with 10 Percent Bluegrass in bare soil conditions, or when over seeding tall fescue. It doesn’t do well when over seeding the bluegrass, or perinal rye, and fine fescue.
Grass comes in light, medium, and dark greens. They come with high and low resistance, to diseases and shade as well. You’ll be happiest with the best possible seed, with the objective of satisfying what the customer paid for. Seeding is too much work to save a few dollars on poor seed.
Heavy Shade Areas- Consider planting Pachysandra or other shade perennials. If planting grass, consider eliminating low and downward pointing branches in trees and over seeding in spring and late summer.
Annual rye grass is annual, it isn’t a good choice. Also seed boxes make extravagant claims about how large an area will cover. We recommend 8-10 pounds of perennial rye per 1,000 square feet, and 4-6 pounds for bluegrass per 1,000 sq. feet. Seed is sold by weight; a 50-50 mix rye/bluegrass would require 6 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Avoid seed mix especially for sandy soil, or your local area. Usually this is a marketing gimmick and is often a poorer quality of seed. Also avoid contractor’s blends and landscaping blends. These are usually much lower quality seeds.
The second toughest part, the soil is best loosened to a depth of one inch, the better you do this, the greater chance the seed has of germinating. We use a garden rake, power rake, or a garden weasel. It may be a good idea to mix peat moss into the soil to provide organic matter (sandy soils) or to relieve compaction (compacted soils).
Divide the area to be seeded into smaller equal areas, divide the seed into the same number of equal parts according to the area being covered. This will help devise a better uniform coverage.
The seed can be sown by spreader or by hand. If by hand try to throw the seed away from you, it will spread out and fall uniformly. Try to avoid too much seed in an area. The grass plants will compete with one another, and not be as healthy (too few grass plants and the sun will over heat the soil and cause a vast array of conflicts).
Perennial Rye goes down to 15 seeds per square inch. Bluegrass goes down 20 to 30 seeds per square inch. Once your eyes see the approximate number of seeds per area you’ll be able to judge the proper seed density. (If seeding an area with 2 different seed mixes, sow the smaller seed first, then the larger seed. This order will allow you to judge seed densities for both seed sizes.)
If seeding bare spots be sure to cover a larger area with the seed. This will allow the color change to be gradual. If you just seed the spots, the results will resemble a patchwork quilt as the shift from one green to another is quite distinct.
Ideally one wants a 16th inch to 8th inch of soil covering the seed. (this is a very thin layer of soil) There are three methods we recommend to do this.
The seed-soil contact along with moisture is what actually starts germination. If you use the step and twist method of covering the seed, you have done this. If not, you may want to borrow or rent a roller (larger areas) or step and twist with the ball of your shoe on the seed.
This is a very high phosphorous fertilizer (the middle number, 24 in an 18-24-12 fertilizer refers to the percentage of phosphorous also 5-10-5 or 19-19-19). For large areas call us. For small areas, use miracle grown or similar plant fertilizer. Do not use regular fertilizer. Use only recommended amounts.
Mulch is used to help retain moisture. We recommend a thin layer of peat moss. It retains moisture very well and unlike straw does not have to be removed later. For small areas, cheese cloth also works well. We tend to discourage the use of straw and especially hay because they have a lot of weed/grass seeds which are almost impossible to get rid of later and usually has to be removed after the grass is up (we do use straw on steep hills to keep seed in place).
The hardest part. The perennial rye seed will start to germinate in 10-15 days. Dwarf tall fescue in 10-14 days. The bluegrass seed in 20-30 days. The goal is to keep moisture in the top ½ inch of soil. This may take watering up to 3 times per day. Watch out for breezy conditions with dry air which pulls the moisture out of the ground. If the seed dries out after it has started to germinate, the seed dies.
Water slowly, do not allow the water to form puddles. Misting frequently is best. We strongly recommend a battery operated value on your water faucet. Buy a unit that will allow you to program it to water at least 4 times per day. Gilmour model 9400GF ($50 at Lowes) or similar should work. The units that will water at 6am, noon, 6pm, and midnight and the units that water once or twice a day are not suitable for new grass.