Considerations for Seeding Lawns in Late Fall
Is October too late to seed?
The best time to plant new tall fescue and bluegrass seed is in early to mid September. When it's October, people often wonder if it is too late to plant new seed. The good news is if you hurry, seed can still be planted in October with the hope that it will survive the upcoming winter.
Although September is the best time, often we can still plant grass seed up to October 15 with good results. The problem with late season seeding is that Mother Nature is working against us. Shorter days and cooler temperatures prolong the germination of the seed and its establishment.
Establishment of the tender grass is a must for it to survive the winter. Grass that is seeded late can die as a result of the cold harsh conditions, or due to drying out. Freezing and thawing of the soil, coupled with a lack of moisture, leaves the tender roots and crowns susceptible to desiccation.
Seeding late into the season still requires the same steps. Proper soil preparation is a must. This is best accomplished by either verticutting the lawn or through core aeration. These machines open the surface and allow the seed to come in contact with the soil.
Timely irrigation is also very important. Once the seed is sown the upper surface of the soil should remain damp at all times. This may require daily, light applications. It all depends on the amount of sun and wind. Be prepared to water when needed as lack of water will slow establishment.
An application of fertilizer at the time of seeding is also a good idea. This will help nourish not only the new seedlings, but will give the existing turf a much needed boost. Supplying the establishing grass with ample nutrients will also help speed up the process and increase winter hardiness.
Mow the lawn at the normal height, which is between 2 and 3 inches. Avoid the mistake of letting it grow too long as this reduces the seedling's ability to develop a nice crown. Clippings do not need to be caught as long as they do not shade out the new seed. Fallen leaves should be picked up to prevent suffocation.
Do not worry about weeds at this time. No chemical applications can be applied during this process. As a general rule of thumb, no herbicides should be applied until the new grass has been mowed at least twice. Check the product label for specific information.
Late season seeding can still be done, but do not waste time. Today is better than tomorrow. By following a few simple steps, and with the grace of nature, your lawn should be in tip-top shape come summer.