There are many reasons a homeowner may need to get an early start on seeding their lawn. Maybe there was severe turf damage over the winter. Maybe they did some work that disturbed areas of the lawn. Whatever the case, getting seeds in the ground before the spring rains is a great advantage to getting a fully established, thick lawn.
When done correctly, early seeding can yield fast-growing grass seedlings that easily crowd out weeds as the weather gets better. If all goes according to plan by late spring, the soil temperature will continue to rise, and new grass will be shooting out of the ground.
But what happens if it isn’t done correctly and it doesn’t go according to plans? Will snow kill fresh grass seed?
Planting in the Winter
We know that most plants do not enjoy being in the snow, but many can tolerate it. The right types of grass can go dormant to survive the winter. But what happens with the grass seed? Will one day of snow kill grass seed?
If we think about when grass typically goes to seed, we can quickly answer our own questions. Grass drops its seed in fall and sprouts in the spring therefore, grass seed must be able to survive the snow. But that is the natural seed dropped from plants, does that also apply to freshly sown grass seed?
The time of the season and the way the grass drops its seed can have a big impact on whether to expect new grass next spring. There is also a lot to consider when choosing the type of grass seed to sow in your yard. If you have a harsh or unpredictable winter, you will want to select carefully between winter and summer grasses.
Types of Grasses
When you need to sowing grass seed, it can be a great time to reevaluate the type of turf you have and make improvements and adjustments as needed. Perhaps you have had patches of grass that don’t seem to handle the cold, as well as other areas. Maybe it’s time to look into warm-season and cool-season grasses to add and upgrade your lawn.
The types of grass you choose will be determined by your harshest summer and winter conditions, as well as your yard’s natural soil type. If you have blistering summers and mild winters, you will want to favor the warm-season grasses.
If you have hot, wet summers and frigid winters, then you will want to find some cool-season grasses that will work for you. In some cases, you may have terrible summers and freezing winters, and then you can look into hybrid or the more versatile turfs.
These grasses deal well with hot, dry summers and moist, mild winters. Warm-season grasses handle drought well and deal better with poor soil conditions. This means they use less fertilization and pH adjustments.
Some common warm-season grasses are:
- St. Augustinegrass
These grasses are cold and shade resistant. They become green much earlier in the year, usually mid-spring, and can stay active all the way through late fall. Cool-season grasses can deal with much colder temperatures but tend to go dormant and can brown in prolonged hot and dry seasons.
Some common cool-season grasses are:
- Chewings fescue
- Creeping red fescue
- Fine fescue
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Perennial ryegrass
- Tall fescue
What Can Go Wrong?
When sowing seed in the winter or too early in the spring, a number of things can occur. Early snowfall that builds up too much moisture on seeds that haven’t been properly covered can cause snow mold. This causes the seeds to rot instead of remaining dry and dormant until the warmer soil temperatures of spring.
LIkewise, frost can make the ground too hard for the seeds to penetrate. This may leave them susceptible to birds and insects. If a heavy layer of snow cover comes in direct contact with exposed grass seeds, then that can cause problems as well. It is best to sow seeds when snow is highly unlikely.
Although the snow will not directly kill grass seed, there are still ways it can adversely affect your reseeding goals. Proper attention and timing must be applied to make sure your grass seedlings have the best chance of surviving to become tough turf.
How To Care for Grass Seed
If you want to ensure that your grass seed survives the winter and any early spring storms, you can take these steps to start caring for them. Doing your best to rake and prepare the ground before it has frosted or become frozen will allow the grass seed to fall into the earth’s channels and adds protection for the seeds.
Covering grass seed with straw will protect it from birds and pests and allow a higher number of seeds to germinate in the spring. If you are planting cool-season grasses, you can even plant right before snowfall and use the natural melting patterns to bury your seeds effectively.
While snow will usually cause grass seed to stay dormant if the seed is exposed to a period of warm conditions and then harsh winter temperatures, it could die. If the weather has been warm enough for grass seeds to germinate, you may need to do more to protect them.
If a winter storm is coming after your seeds have germinated, you can lay thin black plastic, clothes, or tarps over the seedlings to prevent frost. Make sure to remove it when the temperature warms up so they can get the sunlight they need to grow.