The Best Time to Plant Grass (2024)

When your sights are set on a thick, lush lawn, planting grass seed represents an investment of time, money, labor and hope. From seeding new lawns to repairing rough spots and renewing existing turf, proper timing separates sweet success from something less. Your best time for planting grass seed depends on the type of lawn grass you grow and where you live. Understanding your options and getting timing right helps you seize every opportunity for seeding success.


WHY TIMING MATTERS

Grass grows fastest and strongest when your planting season aligns with the seeds' natural periods of active growth. Just as with other kinds of plants in your landscape, lawn grasses vary in their growth cycles and regional climate preferences.

Cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue, including Kentucky 31 tall fescue, grow most vigorously during the cool temperatures of late summer and early fall. These grasses flourish across cooler northern climates and into the challenging "transition zone" where cool and warm regions overlap.

Warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass, Bahiagrass, Zoysia grass and Centipede grasspeak in growth during the warmer temperatures of late spring and early summer. These grasses thrive in southern and western regions and up into the transition zone's southern reaches.

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Whether you grow cool- or warm-season grasses, timing your seeding to take advantage of your grass type's natural periods of peak growth helps seed germinate and establish quickly. Your seed gets off to the best possible start and gets on track for both short- and long-term success.


WHY FALL IS BEST FOR COOL-SEASON GRASSES

Several distinct advantages make fall the best time to plant cool-season grass seed. In early autumn, the soil is still warm from months of summer sun. This combination of warm soil, moderate daytime temperatures and cool evenings encourages fast germination and establishment of newly sown cool-season grass seed.

Cool-season grass seed germinates best when soil temperatures reach 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This roughly corresponds to daytime air temperatures in the 60°F to 75°F range. An inexpensive soil thermometer, available at garden stores and online retailers, can help eliminate the guesswork.

The farther north you live, the earlier cool fall temperatures and ideal planting times come. For example, Minnesotans in the Upper Midwest seed cool-season lawns from mid-August to mid-September.1 For transition-zone lawn owners in central and northern Arkansas, September and October are the best time for seeding cool-season lawns.2

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Fall seeding complements the natural growth cycles of cool-season grasses.

As a general rule, plant cool-season grass seed at least 45 days before the estimated date of your first fall frost, before soil and air temperatures drop to less favorable levels. Your grasses will enjoy a full fall season, plus a second cool growing season come spring. Your local county extension agentcan help with advice on average frost dates and optimal timing for seeding lawns in your area.

Newly planted seed needs consistent soil moisture, and fall planting offers benefits on that front, too. Fall typically brings more precipitation, which lessens the chance that cool-season seeds may dry out, and reduces the need for extra watering on your part. Using premium drought-tolerant, water-conserving grass seed products, such as Pennington Smart Seedand Pennington One Step Complete, lowers the risk of problems even more.

The second best time to seed cool-season lawn grasses is in the spring, once soil and air temperatures warm back up to their optimal range. However, late-melting snows and early spring rains can keep soil cold and overly wet, giving early weeds an advantage. Grasses also have less time to settle in before higher temperatures inhibit germination and cool-season grass growth begins to slow.


WHY SPRING IS BEST FOR WARM-SEASON GRASSES

Warm-season grasses germinate best when soil temperatures are consistently in the 65°F to 70°F range. This generally corresponds to daytime air temperatures near 80°F or more. Planting in late spring and early summer gives warm-season grasses the advantage of warm soil and early seasonal rains, which help keep soil moisture available during germination and establishment.

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Moderate spring weather helps spring-planted grass seed flourish.

As with cool-season grasses, best warm-season planting times vary by location. In California, mid-April to mid-May is prime time for seeding warm-season lawns.3 In central and southern Arkansas, lawn owners plan their warm-season grass seeding for late May through June.2 It's tempting to get out and seed at the first hint of spring, but patience pays off. Wait until all danger of frost has passed and soil warms. Cold, wet soil is a recipe for poor germination, rotting seed and disease. Your county extension agent can help with expected frost dates and timely advice when unexpected weather conditions factor in.

As a general rule, warm-season grasses planted at least 90 days before the first fall frost have time to establish well before winter. These summer-loving grasses go dormant once temperatures drop near 55°F, so late-planted seedlings can't prepare for what's ahead. With proper timing, warm-season grass seed gets a natural boost from summer's warmth and a full season of active growth and development before cooling temperatures bring on winter dormancy.

One exception to the spring seeding rule for warm-season lawns is when overseeding with a cool-season grass, such as perennial ryegrass, for temporary winter color. Overseeding for green winter grassis always done in fall, once temperatures drop and warm-season lawns begin to go dormant and lose color.

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WHAT TO EXPECT FROM NEWLY PLANTED GRASS SEED

Proper timing allows all types of grass seedlings to root well and get established before natural stresses hit. What that looks like in your lawn can vary depending on your grass type, your growing region and the conditions in any given year.

Grass types and varieties vary in their natural germination speeds. For example, cool-season Kentucky bluegrass germination can take two to three times as long as tall fescue varieties. Similarly, warm-season Zoysia grass may take two to three times longer than Bermudagrass. In addition, many seed products include a mix of seed types that germinate at different speeds.

Whether you're repairing bare spots, overseedingan existing lawn or starting from scratch, you can generally expect grass seedlings to emerge within seven to 21 days when grown under proper conditions. It may take another three to four weeks of growth before grass is long enough to mow. For fall-planted seed, this can mean waiting until spring for your first mowing. Some grasses, such as Zoysia grass, may need several months of growth to fully establish.

Much of the initial growth of new grass seedlings happens underground, where you can't see it. New roots get grass firmly established, prepared for the seasons ahead and positioned for strong, rapid growth when their peak season arrives. With proper timing, new grass seedlings compete well for light, water and nutrients and fight off lawn diseasesand pests, including lawn weeds.

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Time your planting so that new seedlings become established before stressful seasons.


HOW TO MAXIMIZE THE TIMING ADVANTAGE

Even when you plant your grass seed at the best possible time, your lawn still needs help to thrive. Whether this is your first lawnor you're the neighborhood expert, take some advice from turf professionals and get to know your grassesand your soilbefore you start seeding. Follow through on best practices for preparing and planting and don't neglect traditional tasks, such as fall lawn care, that help keep your grass and soil healthy, well-nourished and ready to support new growth.

Do your research to understand what's in a bag of grass seedand the company behind the seed. Pennington is committed to producing the finest grass seed productspossible and providing you with educational resources to help your seed project succeed. By timing your lawn tasks properly, you can maximize your advantage and seed your way to the lawn of your dreams.

Pennington, Smart Seed and One Step Complete are trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc.

Sources:

1. Mugaas, R. and Pedersen, B., "Seeding and Sodding Home Lawns," University of Minnesota Extension.

2. Patton, A. and Boyd, J., "Seeding a Lawn in Arkansas," University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

3. UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, "Planting Times and Rates for Grasses That Can Be Established From Seed," University of California.

The Best Time to Plant Grass (2024)

FAQs

The Best Time to Plant Grass? ›

The last five weeks of summer to early autumn, pending the weather, is the best time of year to plant grass seed. At this time, day and nighttime temperatures are cooling, dew is more present on lawns, and annual broadleaf weeds and crabgrass are dying.

What is the best month to plant grass? ›

The best time to plant cool-season grasses is late summer or early fall when the soil temperature is around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit air temperature).

Can I just throw grass seed down on an existing lawn? ›

When you just sprinkle grass seed on an existing lawn, it ends up just sitting atop of the soil and a lot of it may never germinate. Then homeowners end up asking the question, why can't I get my grass to grow? In reality, the best practice is to have lawn aeration performed followed by overseeding the lawn.

Is it better to plant grass in the spring or fall? ›

Fall is the best time. The autumn season comes with a mix of warm soil and cool air, perfect for planting grass seed and allowing time for new grass roots to develop before winter sets in. It is also a good time to fertilize to build stronger, deeper roots for winter, resulting in a thicker, greener lawn next spring.

Can you put too much grass seed down? ›

Quality grass seed labels include guidance on optimal seeding rates to maximize your results. Don't overdo or cut corners. Too much grass seed causes undue competition for resources such as light, water and nutrients, and grass seedlings struggle as a result. Too little seed leaves lawns thin or bare.

Can I just throw grass seed on bare spots? ›

Can I Just Throw Grass Seed on Bare Spots? Throwing grass seed onto bare spots will result in little-to-no germination and will not help to repair lawn spots. If you want to fix patches on grass, you need to properly prepare the bare spots before laying down the seed.

What temperature kills grass seed? ›

If you're wondering how cold is too cold for grass seed germination use our rule of thumb and check the weather reports. If the daytime temperature is below 60°F then soil temperature is below 50°F, making it too cold; if there is frost or still a danger of frost, then it's too cold.

Should grass seed be raked into soil? ›

A healthy lawn starts with ensure the seed is securely in the soil. Use the back of a plastic rake or a hoe to gently work the seeds into the soil. “You're not pushing the seeds in,” Angelov explains. “You're just distributing them evenly and getting them just a little more nestled.”

Will grass seed grow on top of dirt? ›

Grass seed is surface sown, meaning it lays and roots on top of the soil, so it does not need to be buried. It's usually broadcast over the ground with a hand or rotary spreader. For that seed to sprout, it needs good soil contact, which makes soil quality a major factor in growing a healthy, uniform lawn.

Is it OK to plant grass in the summer? ›

It's possible to grow some types of grasses in summer, but they'll need extra TLC. Not all grass varieties are suited for planting during the hot, humid summer months. However, it is possible to grow some types of grasses successfully in summer, they'll just need some extra care.

What is the easiest grass to grow? ›

Based on our discussion, we would recommend Zoysia grass as the best option for those who want an easy-to-maintain lawn. The pros at the Turfgrass Group have worked with universities and experts to develop some outstanding Zoysia grass options. The two that would be best for any homeowner: are Zeon and JaMur.

How do you prepare soil for grass seed? ›

Use a spade and garden rake to scratch the soil 1 to 2 inches at the surface, then dig about 6 inches deep to remove roots and rocks. Add new soil to the top of your existing soil and smooth with the rake. If you are not using additonal soil, add starter grass fertilizer on top of the existing soil with a spreader.

What happens if you don't rake in grass seed? ›

If you simply toss the grass seed onto the soil, you will end up with poor germination. Thoroughly rake the area to remove any loose debris and to create grooves in the soil. These grooves will help increase the seed-to-soil contact that is imperative for germination.

Will grass grow if I just throw down seed? ›

Basically the grass will not grow if no grass maintenance has been completing prior to planting and it is just thrown on the ground. It will be a waste of time and investment over time.

Does grass seed need to be buried? ›

No, grass seed does not have to be buried to grow. However, it should be lightly covered with soil or mulch so that it's in contact with the ground and can access water and nutrients.

What month is best to lay a lawn? ›

When to lay turf. Turf is best laid in mid-autumn, but can be laid any time between mid-autumn and early spring, whenever the soil isn't too wet or frosty. In spring and autumn little mowing is needed, so newly laid turf can be left relatively undisturbed for several weeks, which will help it get rooted in.

Can you just sprinkle grass seed on lawn? ›

If you simply toss the grass seed onto the soil, you will end up with poor germination. Thoroughly rake the area to remove any loose debris and to create grooves in the soil. These grooves will help increase the seed-to-soil contact that is imperative for germination.

Which month does grass grow fastest? ›

Peak grass growing season varies by grass type: Warm-season grasses grow most actively in late spring and early summer, when the warm weather temperatures are above 75 F but below 90 F. Cool-season grasses grow most actively in spring and fall, when temperatures are above 60 F but below 75°F.

Should I put topsoil over grass seed? ›

Will grass seed germinate on top of the soil? Yes; in fact, germination will suffer if too much soil is placed on top of the seeds. The experts at Jonathan Green recommend placing a thin layer of mulch or topsoil over them to help keep them moist and warm and promote growth.

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