Dormant Lawn Seeding

As lawns turn brown and winter settles in, it’s time to seed.  Really?  Time to seed when there is literally no chance of sprouting?  Absolutely!


Perhaps the best way to explain seeding in early winter is that there are 3 reasonable times to seed a cool season lawn – 1. Late summer (generally considered best), mid-April when soil temperatures reach 50 degrees and 3. Late fall/early winter.  Late summer is preferred because conditions are commonly ideal: warm soils, consistent rainfall and 8-10 weeks of a good future growing environment for establishment.

grass seed hand (2)

Each of the latter two timeframes have advantages and disadvantages.  The advantage of early winter seeding is that the soil is usually dry enough to work and late enough that the seed can be put in contact with the soil, then allowed to rest in place until the warm rays of sunshine in April coax them into germination.  April soils are often too wet to work, so thus the main disadvantage.  The disadvantage of early winter seeding is that seeds sometimes dry out and fail to be viable in spring, resulting in a waste of time and money.


The enthusiasm of the lawn care provider is often high for spring seedings, however, the up and down, cool, overly moist growing conditions often result in a thin stand.  As well, once May rolls around, the warm season annual weeds such as foxtail and crabgrass can overtake new turfgrass seedlings.


So, if you find your lawn a little thin, you might want to try seeding now.  Recent UNL research indicates that it’s just as, if not more reliable than spring seeding.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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