When To Plant Grass Seed in Fall

You’ve done your research and are ready to just toss down a handful of seed and let it do its thing, right?

Not necessarily.

There are 3 schools of thought on planting cool season grass seed:

  1. any time it is needed
  2. in the spring or fall only
  3. only planting grass seed in the fall

Let’s get into the details of why planting grass seed in fall is the best option for a cool season lawn.

Competition and Weed Control

In the spring of the year, there are many more weeds and other varieties grasses that begin growing vs the fall.

If your new grass seed has less competition for water, soil space, sunlight and nutrients, it has the best chance to succeed.

It makes sense to overseed or plant new grass while the other plants are starting to die off.

If you plant your cool season grass seed in the spring, it will only have a short period of time to become established before the weeds becomes active.

Seeding in the fall helps remove competition.

Another way to help keep weeds down and provide a little more protection for your grass seedlings is by putting down a thin layer of peat moss.

Don’t put down stray or hay.

Why?  Because most of the time hay or stray has other seeds mixed in with it.  You don’t want to be planting new weeds 🙂  A thin layer of peat moss is a much better option.

Establishment Time

Why else is planting grass seed in fall a good idea?

Giving new grass seed the duration of the fall, the warm periods during the winter and most of the spring to become established creates a hardier, thicker and more mature root system when going into the summer.

The drier fall weather gives the grass opportunity to put down deeper roots, beneficial in the summer. Fall planting also makes it have an easier and faster growth spurt early in the spring, which helps the grass to shade out and strangle any unwanted weeds.

You’ll want to plant your seed at least 4-6 weeks before the first frost.  Use the Farmers Almanac to help determine your first frost date:

First and Last Frost Dates

Lower Plant Stress

The other benefit of planting grass seed in the fall is that the grass plants experience less stress going into dormancy over the winter versus going into drought and high heat over the summer.

Plants use water to cool themselves, which is not a problem in the winter when it’s cool, but can kill plants over the summer if they can’t keep up with the cooling process.

Since young plants are also going through early growth, planting in the spring makes the plant deal with both the growth stress as well as the stress of pumping water to keep it cool.

Easier Working

Have you ever worked a garden in the spring of the year?

The soil tends to be heavy or wet from frequent rains, cold or frozen as the soil is slowly warming up and can be difficult to prepare the seedbed for new seed.

In the fall, there is typically less rainfall, the soil is cooling down instead of warming up and is often easier to work with.

Now that we have explored why planting grass seed in fall is a better idea, it’s time to put it into action!

Keep in mind that this schedule works only for cool season grasses; warm season grasses typically need to be planted in late spring as they grow in different conditions.

Enjoy a lush, beautiful lawn next spring by planting grass seed in the fall.