Fix-It Chick: Is it time yet? A guide to spring lawn seeding

Planting grass seed in the spring can be a tricky venture.

Soil temperature, moisture and sowing technique all play a part in successful lawn generation. A little planning and a lot of due diligence can result in a beautiful summer time lawn.

  • It would seem that it is never too early to sow grass seed in the spring. Throwing seed down before the snow has melted or seeding before the last snow is often recommended. Early seeding proponents contend that as the soil warms up during the day, grass seed will sink down into the soft soil. Then, during the nighttime frost, the seed will get pulled deeper into the ground. After a few weeks of this freeze, thaw cycle, seed should be at the perfect depth for germination.
  • Planting grass seed after the last frost is a more common course of action. Cool season grasses, such as fescue, need soil temperatures to be above 50 degrees for germination to occur. In early spring, soil temperatures remain 10 degrees to 15 degrees below ambient air temperature. Grass seed will not germinate until daytime temperatures begin to average 60 to 65 degrees.
  • Forsythia bushes bloom when soil temperatures rise above 40 degrees. It used to be thought that forsythia blooms foretold of three more snow falls. Current warming trends most likely have rendered this gardening lore less than accurate, but the blooms do foretell of a judicious rise in soil temperature. Planting grass seed following the blooming of forsythias is a realistic course of action.
  • Fescue seed will germinate 10 to 14 days after soil temperatures remain consistently above 50 degrees, providing that there is enough moisture in the ground to facilitate growth. Melting snow and light spring rains play a big part in seed germination. If Mother Nature does not cooperate, use an oscillating sprinkler to maintain a damp, but not soaking, growing environment.
  • Grass seed can be hand sowed, spread with a broadcast or drop spreader, or planted using a mechanical overseeder/verticutter. Fescue grass seed will not germinate if left lying atop the soil. After sowing seed, lightly rake the ground or make a quick pass with a gas powered verticutter to plant the seed.

When it comes to spring planting, plant now or plant later, but maintain a consistent soil moisture level to assure optimal germination.