Seeding Cool-Season Grasses in the Spring is Difficult

Krista Harding
District Extension Agent, Horticulture
Southwind Extension District
111 S. Butler
Erie, KS 66733
Office: 620-244-3826
Cell: 620-496-8786

 

It makes me happy to say that spring has arrived, on the calendar at least! After a seemingly endless winter, I think everyone is excited to know that spring is near. The frogs have been singing at my house and this is one of my favorite signs of spring! The other, I like to catch a whiff of smoke on the air from the burning that takes place in the spring. I know not everyone is a fan of this, but it is a necessary and useful tool that agricultural producers use.

It won’t be long and the lawn mowers will be pulled out of the garage preparing for the season ahead. As you survey your lawn in the next few weeks, you may be thinking to yourself that it looks a bit ragged. You might even consider buying some seed and throwing it out in the lawn in hopes of thickening it up. Before you do that, I would like to give a little advice….wait!

It is not recommended to seed cool-season grasses such as tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass in the spring. I know this seems strange because it would seem that spring would be the best time for seeding because the entire growing season is available for the grass to grow and establish. But there are a number of reasons why you should wait until fall to seed.

  • Summer is the hardest time of year for cool-season grasses – not the winter. Summertime is difficult because our cool-season grasses do not have the heat or moisture stress tolerance that our warm-season grasses such as buffalo, zoysia and Bermuda have. Therefore, they tend to become weakened in the summer which makes them more susceptible to disease and other stresses – especially heat. Young, newly planted seedlings struggle even more to survive the summer.
  • Soils are warmer in the fall. Warm soils mean less time required for germination and growth, so the grass becomes established more quickly.
  • In the spring, our major weed problems are annual grasses such as crabgrass. Since spring seeded turf is slow to mature, there are often thin areas that are easily invaded by these grassy weeds. If this happens, weeds are better adapted to our summer conditions than our cool-season grasses and so the weeds take over! Plus, the chemicals that can be used on young turf is limited.
  • Weeds are less of a problem in the fall. The major weed problems in the fall tend to be chickweed, henbit or dandelions. Turf seeded in early September is usually thick enough by the time these weeds germinate that often there is not much weed invasion

Spring seeding of cool-season grasses can be done, but it is more difficult to pull off than fall seeding. So my advice is to just tough it out this spring and summer if your yard is less than desirable. Come late July and August, get a game plan together for fall seeding. If your lawn needs a complete renovation, late summer is the time to do a complete kill-out of grass and work to get a good seed bed prepared.

If you have questions about lawn fertility, weed control or seeding, please don’t hesitate to contact me. A reminder, I am in Fort Scott every Thursday. Feel free to stop by the office and visit.

Krista Harding is a K-State Research and Extension Agricultural agent assigned to Southwind District.  She may be reached at 620-244-3826 or kharding@ksu.edu.

K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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