You may think that by November, there are no more lawn-related chores to be done. But, there is one activity that can still be done this time of year to help repair or thicken your lawn for next year. This task is known as dormant seeding.
The idea is that when you put down grass seed this late in the year, the seed will remain “dormant” due to the cold soil conditions and will germinate in the spring when soils start to warm up. Dormant seeding has the advantage of allowing you to avoid preparing the soil when it is still wet and cold in the spring. This can give you a head start of several weeks in getting your lawn established.
Dormant seeding works best when you want to reseed bare soil areas or help thicken thin lawns. It is not as effective where lawns are thick and dense because good seed-to-soil contact is necessary for the grass seeds to germinate and grow next spring. Other than the time of year for dormant seeding, the actual process of preparing the area to be seeded is virtually identical to establishing grass from seed at other times of the year.
Timing dormant seeding correctly is important. If done too early, some seed will germinate late in the season and those immature seedlings often won’t survive the winter. Put down your seed while the ground is not frozen, but is still cold enough so germination of the grass seed will not occur until next spring. Usually this is sometime from late October to mid-November in Minnesota.
When choosing your seed, be sure to select seed mixes that are well adapted to both your site conditions and the amount of maintenance you expect to provide during the growing season. For average lawn conditions, mixes containing some Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue and small amounts of perennial ryegrass can be seeded at about three to four pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Practically any grass seed mixture can be utilized for a dormant seeding.
The success your dormant seeding will depend largely on the winter conditions. The seed is best protected when we receive snowfall that will cover and protect those areas. “Open” winters with extended warm periods followed by extremely cold periods can negatively affect spring germination of dormant seeded lawns. You should be able to see germinated seedlings by late April or early May in most years.
If the newly seeded areas appear to be a little sparse, you shouldn’t feel your fall efforts were a failure, because it is common to have to do a little additional reseeding in the spring. However, do allow enough time for the seeds to come up. Don’t be too hasty to get in and start tearing things up; you may destroy the good work done the previous fall.
For more information, contact Claire LaCanne, your local Ag Extension Educator for Rice and Steele Counties. You can reach Claire at 507-330-0447 or [email protected]