The Best Time to Plant Grass Seed

Fall is the Best Time to Plant Grass Seed
When your sights are set on a thick, lush lawn, planting grass seed represents an investment of time, money, labor and hope. From seeding new lawns to repairing rough spots and renewing existing turf through overseeding, proper timing separates sweet success from something less. For most of the country — except those southern and western regions where warm-season, summer-loving grasses such as Bermudagrass or Zoysia prevail — fall is the best time to plant grass seed. Timing your seeding project properly helps you seize the opportunity for success.

Why Fall Planting Suits Grass Seed Best

Grass seeds grow fastest and strongest when your planting season aligns with the seeds' natural cycle of active growth. Just as with other kinds of plants in your landscape, grasses vary in their climate preferences. Cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, fine and tall fescues, and perennial ryegrasses, earn the classification because their most active growth happens during the cool temperatures of late summer and early fall. These grasses flourish across cooler northern climates and into the challenging “transition zone," where cool and warm regions overlap.

While spring planting works well for cool-season grasses, too, several distinct advantages make fall the best time to plant seed. In early autumn, the soil is still warm from months of summer sun. While cool soils hinder quick, thorough grass seed germination, warm soil temperatures enhance the process. The combination of warm soil and fall air temperatures — cool evenings paired with moderate days — encourages fast germination and establishment of newly sown grass seed.
Fall seeding complements the natural growth cycles of cool-season grasses.
Fall seeding complements the natural growth cycles of cool-season grasses.
Fall normally signals an increase in natural precipitation and less fluctuation in soil moisture as a result. Consistent soil moisture is critical for newly planted seed. Fall planting lessens the chance of seed drying out, and reduces the need for supplemental watering on your part. Planting premium drought-tolerant, water-conserving grass seed products, such as Pennington® Smart Seed® and Pennington® One Step Complete™, lower the risk of problems even more. Fall planting gets your seed off to the best possible start and on track for both short- and long-term success.

What to Expect From Fall-Planted Seed

Late summer through early fall seeding allows your new grass seedlings time to root well and get established before winter hits. What that actually looks like in your lawn will vary depending on the types of grass you grow and your growing region. As a general rule, plant your seed at least 45 days before the estimated date of your first fall frost, before soil and air temperatures drop to less favorable levels. If you're unsure when the fall frost date traditionally falls in your area, your local county extension agent can provide that information.

Conditions affect seed growth, but grass types and varieties also vary in their natural germination speeds. For example, Kentucky bluegrass germination can take two to three times as long as tall fescue varieties, plus seed products may include different types of seed. Whether you're repairing bare spots, overseeding an existing lawn or starting from scratch, you can generally expect seedlings to emerge within seven to 21 days. It will take another three to four weeks of growth before grass is long enough to mow. Depending on your planting date and the length of new growth, you may need to wait until spring for your first mowing.
Time fall planting so that new seedlings become established before winter.
Time fall planting so that new seedlings become established before winter.
Most of the fall growth of your new grass seedlings happens underground, where you can't see it. New fall roots get grass firmly established, prepared for winter, and positioned for strong, rapid growth come spring. Many lawn diseases and pests, including warm-season weeds such as crabgrass, slow down in fall, so new grass seedlings compete less for light, water and nutrients. Your fall-established grass also enjoys a second, full, cool growing season in spring — before the heat, water and pest stresses of summer return.

How to Maximize the Autumn Advantage

Even though fall is the best time to plant seed, you still need to do your part to help your lawn thrive. Whether this is your first lawn or you're the neighborhood expert, take some advice from turf professionals and get to know your grasses and your soil before you start seeding. Follow through on best practices for preparing and planting, and don't neglect traditional fall lawn care tasks that help keep your grass and soil healthy, well-nourished and ready to support new seedlings.
Include seeding and overseeding on your checklist for fall lawn care.
Include seeding and overseeding on your checklist for fall lawn care.
Do your research and learn to understand what's in a bag of grass seed and the company behind the seed inside. Pennington is committed to producing the finest grass seed products possible and providing you with educational resources to help your seed project succeed. By timing your tasks for fall — the best time to plant grass seed — you can maximize your advantage and seed your way to the lawn of your dreams.

Pennington, Smart Seed and One Step Complete are trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc.

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