Dormant seeding improves spring lawn

Now that the snow has melted and frozen ground has thawed to create a muddy mess, we are faced with ailing lawns in need of attention.

Although it’s too soon for watering, fertilizing and mowing, it is time to be thinking about overseeding. If you have a less-than-perfect lawn and would like to do something about it, here are some tips:

Dormant seeding is best completed between November and February. Grass seeds are inactive and will remain that way until the ground warms later this spring. However, recent research has shown that grass seeds sown in February germinate faster than seeds planted in other dormant months. One study found seeds sown in February grew to cover 73 percent of bare soil by the middle of April. December-sown seeds covered 47 percent of the soil, January 53 percent and March 50 percent. However, a month later, both the February and March seedings had 80 percent coverage. Likewise, in all cases the dormant seeded grasses had stored energy, established root systems and were better able to handle the tough, dry growing conditions of summer.

Dormant seeding is a simple process. To ensure success, there has to be good seed to soil contact. Simply rake small bare areas or work the ground with a verticutter, core aerator or rototiller. Next, spread the correct amount of seed. Generally, fescue and bluegrass should be planted no more than 6 to 8 pounds per thousand square feet and slightly less if there is already some healthy existing grass. Once planted, rake or pack the area lightly to encourage good seed-to-soil contact. Finally, be patient and let Mother Nature do the rest.

Keep in mind, that the use of pre-emergent herbicide is not recommended for areas where seed has been sown. Although crabgrass is a rather invasive weed when allowed to grow, having healthy grass can choke it out. If you do find crabgrass beginning to grow in the seeded areas, apply post-emergent herbicides after you have mowed the seedlings at least three times.

Although the grass may always seem greener on the other side of the fence, it does not have to stay that way. A lush, green lawn begins with good seed establishment. If you have areas in the lawn that appear less than full, now is a great time to sow dormant seed.

Remember to prepare the seed bed well and use the correct seeding rate, then let nature finish the job.