Dormant Seeding Dos and Don’ts

lawn that needs dormant seeding

If you live in the south, dormant seeding is not something you can do to help your existing lawn. Seeding for warm season grasses is generally completed in the early summer. Although seed is available for many warm season grasses, getting it to germinate can be a real challenge. Most repair work is done using sprigs or by resodding bare areas. If you live farther north, where cool season grasses like bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fescue make up the majority of lawns, you can still lay dormant seeds at this time of year. The one consideration is that you have to live in an area where the winter is normally cold and damp. It is important that the new dormant seeds do not have the chance to germinate and then be exposed to freezing temperatures that can damage the seedlings.

You have to wait until the chance for warm weather to return is minimal. In northern Illinois, late October is about the earliest you want to dormant seed a lawn. Personally, I have dormant seeded a lawn in the Chicago area as late as early December and had fairly good results. Dormant grass seeding is pretty straight forward. You follow the same procedures as you would for seeding in the late summer or early fall. Dormant seeding works best in areas where the grass has thinned out due to adverse weather conditions, excessive traffic or from disease or insect damage.

Thick, dense lawns will have to be core aerated first to make sure that there is a place for good soil to seed contact. Thin lawns also require some prep work prior to seeding. If the area is not too large, using a good hand raking to loosen the soil at the surface is the best approach. If the area is larger, it is best to core aerate it in several directions to provide areas for the seed to germinate. Most rental companies, home improvement centers and hardware stores have core aeration machines for rent. Lawn care companies, like Spring-Green, offer core aeration as an optional service. This may be the best way to go as a core aerator will not fit in most cars or even SUVs.

Once the site preparation is completed, spread the dormant seed across the areas that need to be seeded. For a bluegrass/ryegrass blend, spread about 4 to 5 pounds of seed per 1,000 sq. ft. For Turf Type Tall Fescue, you will want to use about 6 pounds of seed per 1,000 sq. ft. One thing to keep in mind is the number of seeds per pound.

  • Bluegrass: 1,500,000 seeds per pound
  • Ryegrass and Turf Type Tall Fescue: 250,000 to 400,000 seeds per pound

If you purchase a 10-pound bag of seed that is 50% bluegrass and 50% ryegrass, you are getting about 7,500,000 bluegrass seeds and about 1,250,000 ryegrass seeds. If you want more bluegrass than ryegrass, this blend would work fine.

Once you have finished dormant grass seeding, you will have to wait until spring to see the results. The dormant seed will not germinate until soil temperatures reach about 55 degrees. You do not want to apply any crabgrass preventer to the areas in the spring since that material will also prevent your new seed from germinating. If you do get crabgrass, you may have to hand-pull it next summer. The same is true with broadleaf weed control. Hopefully, your lawn will fill in enough that these weeds will not be a problem.

Along with core aeration services, Spring-Green can also treat your lawn for crabgrass and broadleaf weed control. Click here to contact your neighborhood Spring-Green Lawn Care professional.