Best Practices when Seeding in the Fall

Fall is highly regarded as one of the best times of the year to plant grass seed. Taking advantage of the optimal fall growing conditions can help make establishing seed for the average do-it-yourselfer much easier. By following a few easy steps and remembering a handful of helpful guidelines, new grass will be growing in no time.

Even the best maintained lawns usually have at least one area of concern that can use seeding in some way or another. Ensuring the lawn is ready for winter is very important and this can have a major impact on how prepared it is to come back more beautiful than ever next spring.


Seed Selection

Among many things, selecting the right type of seed is an essential step in the process of successfully establishing turf. It is very important to select a seed blend that will accommodate the growing conditions and environment it is planted in. Seed selection: For the Kansas City area we like a lawn to have a 50/50 blend of bluegrass and Turf Type Tall Fescue. This blend performs well in our harsh climate. We recommend that you do not want Rye Grass or Fine Fescue in your lawn as these grass types do not hold up in our hot dry summers. Most lawns already have bluegrass in them as it naturally spreads on its own. Fescue on the other hand is slow to spread and may need to be added every few years to maintain the proper balance. So in short, if overseeding in the Kansas City area use a Turf Type Tall Fescue and if starting over from scratch with bare soil use a 90% Fescue 10% bluegrass blend. Of course, all seed should be of the highest quality. 0% weed seed and 0% Other Crop. Always check the tag/label to confirm the quality. Cheap seed has weeds and you don’t want to plant more weeds.


Timing is Everything

Fall is a great time for seeding. Soil and air temperatures are warm while natural rainfall is usually common making the establishment process optimal. Seeding beginning in late Summer (Mid August) into Mid October is a good reference point to use as a seeding window. This generally gives the new seed plenty of time to germinate and fully establish before heavy frosts and cold winter temperatures come. Missing the ideal seeding window or waiting too late before seed is put down can make it very challenging as soil and air temperatures are too cool for optimal germination. Even when the seed does germinate late in the season, often these young seedlings do not survive winter as they are too young and immature for the harsh winter conditions. Heavy frost can also be hard on new seedlings making it difficult during the establishment process


Fall Dormant Seeding

Fall dormant seeding involves putting down grass seed before the ground is frozen, but yet the soil and air temperatures are far too cold for the seed to germinate at this time. Dormant seeding is typically done in November when temperatures are too low for germination. The grass seed will lie dormant until next spring when the soil temperatures warm and germination begins. Covering the seed you still need good seed to soil contact just like in the fall.  Verticutting the seeded areas and even covering with a very thin layer of compost or topsoil will improve success. will greatly increase the success of the dormant seeding.

Seed that is left fully exposed to the harsh elements has far less chance of germinating and establishing itself come spring.


Water Requirements

The most important rule to follow when establishing grass seed is “If the seed dries, it dies.” Water is essential and without it the seed cannot germinate. Maintaining a light frequent watering schedule multiple times a day until the grass fully establishes is vital. This ensures the seed always stays moist and doesn’t dry out. Watering heavy for long periods of time poses a risk of washing the seed away before it can establish itself or worse yet drowning the seed. Remember damp not soggy.


The speed at which seed germinates and establishes itself can be determined by several factors. Aside from weather conditions, grass species has the biggest influence. Each species germinates at a different speed, some quicker and some slower than others. Assuming optimal weather and growing conditions, germination for Fescue and Bluegrass occurs 14-21 days after seeding and will continue for another 10 days after you see the first leaf emerge. Not all seed will germinate at the same time.


Establishment and Aftercare

Depending on the grass species, it can take several weeks or months to fully establish new seedlings. As seedlings mature they develop their independent root system they require to grow healthy and withstand the natural stresses of its environment. Special aftercare is involved as it relates to mowing during establishment. New seedlings are tender and can be easily damaged if mowing frequency and mowing height are not adjusted to favor the seedlings.

Mow new grass as soon as it’s 4 inches tall to a heigh of 3”. You may have to stop watering for a day to allow the ground to firm up so you don’t leave ruts. You can then resume your tapered off watering schedule. By the time you mow first you will probably be down to watering just 1x per day. Watering practices can also be after you have full germination, 10 days after you first see seedlings you can reduce your watering and allow things to start drying down a bit. Reduce to watering 1x per day for the next 3 weeks and then return to your normal water pattern Balanced fertility is recommended to maintain and provide the essential plant nutrients the seedlings require to promote healthy establishment and growth.


If you’re ready for a healthy lawn, give us a call. We offer lawn care, irrigation, seeding, aerating, sprinkler repair and lawn Fertilization program programs for Olathe, Lenexa, Overland Park, Shawnee, Leawood, KS, and the Kansas City, MO metro area.

  Seeding season will be over in a blink, now is the time to seed your lawn.