Not everybody loves a lawn, but for those of us who do, sometimes our grass needs some filling in. So when the snow melts and the growing season inches towards us, many of us find ourselves asking the question: when is the best time to plant grass seed in spring? And how do you proceed with the planting process?
Here are the basics you’ll need to know before you go about adding more green space to your property this year.
When To Plant Grass Seed
Timing is one of the most important aspects of planting anything, and grass is no exception. The time of year your grass seed is planted will have a large impact on the success of your lawn. Proper germination, growth, and establishment of seedlings is all directly affected by good timing. So when exactly is the best time to get out there? Well, planting times for grass seed vary depending on where you are.
The best time to plant grass seed depends on your grass growing region and exactly what kind of variety you are trying to establish. Typically, the popular lawn choices vary by region and are designed to be compatible with those climates.
North and Midwest
Cool-season and frost resistant grasses reign supreme in the northern section of the US. Midwesterners will be familiar with bluegrass and fescue. If this is your, then it makes the most sense to plant in fall and spring, to line up with the most active growth periods for these varieties.
However, other areas of the country will require different timing. In New England, fall is preferred over spring to plant grass seed. They experience slightly longer, warmer falls, and are less prone to early freeze. This means that the ground will remain warm enough to sustain good germination, sunny enough to feed them properly, and semi-regular rain means moisture to keep your plants damp.
For our southern friendly, warm season grasses are king. Varieties such as Bermudagrass, Centipede grass, and Zoysia grass are preferred over blue or fescue types. Like other grass, it’s important to wait for these varieties’ optimal growth periods, which is different to other regions of the country. Instead of planting in fall or spring, grass should be planted in late spring or early summer when weather is warm enough (near 80 degrees) to support best growth conditions.
How To Plant Grass Seed
Now that you know when to plant your grass seed, let’s talk about some of the basics behind how to plant your grass seed. At its core, this process is less complicated than growing tomatoes, or cultivating summer crops. Still, there are some basic steps to keep in mind for first timers.
Choose The Right Variety
As we discussed, different kinds of grass are appropriate for different areas of the country. An easy way to understand more about what plants will thrive in your area is to look up your growing zone. It’s easy to check your exact location on USDA.gov.
If you’re still confused, we promise that the friendly folks at your location garden center can help. Lawns are one of the most commonly planted annual crops. If you aren’t sure what you need, any basic garden center will know. Additionally, it’s likely that your region will only stock the grass seed varieties that thrive in your area. Still, it’s important to make sure you know what seed you are spreading before you get to work.
Planting grass seed isn’t like planting a vegetable garden. Instead of a few seeds spread in a line, you will be aiming to cover a much larger surface area. This is hard to do without the right equipment. Depending on your property, you will likely need either a drop spreader, or a rotary (broadcast) spreader.
A drop spreader sends seeds straight down into a path that is equal to the width of your spreader. This is good to ensure ample coverage in tight spaces or small lawns where precision is important. A rotary spread fans seed out in all directions as you wall, giving broader coverage, albeit with slightly less precision.
Rake & Roll
After you have completed the process of spreading your seed, you will need to rake. Raking after planting works the seed into the ground, effectively burying them. Most seeds are comfortable at a depth of about ¼ inch. This gives them access to enough light to ensure germination. After you rake, roll the area to compact soil.
Grass seeds and seedlings need the right amount of water to survive. The key is to maintain constantly damp soil without drowning your crops. For optimum moisture, water newly seeded spaces lightly two to three times a day, ceasing water when puddles begin to form. After germination, watering can be tapered to a few times a week, with more thorough soakings.
Keep An Eye On Things
They say a watched pot never boils, but keeping an eye on your grass will actually help to ensure its success. After planting, keep an eye out for signs of germination. Keep foot traffic away from the area, and block off the space from any family pets. Once seedlings are established, search for any bare spots, and immediately reseed.
Maintenance and Mowing
Once your lawn is established, this is when the real fun can begin. Anyone who has a lawn knows that the work doesn’t end once planting stops. Instead, this is where you can begin to consider your mowing schedule.
To an extent, mowing height can be a matter of personal preference, but don’t forget that your grass has feelings, too. Most lawns can withstand cuts of about ⅓ of their total height. More drastic cuts can harm your lawn, shock it, or contribute to grass disease.
Depending on your region’s rainfall, lawns need regular watering and annual fertilization. For more on how to prepare your lawn for winter, check out our article here.