Whether you’re filling in bare spots or reseeding an entire yard, timing is everything when it comes to planting grass seed.
But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you’ve waited too long or are trying to start your project too early.
Yes, cool season grasses are best seeded in late summer and early fall while warm season grasses do best when planted in late spring. But with a little extra work, you can get decent results when planting grass seed just about any time of year.
Whether you’re right on time or not even close, keep reading to find out how to reseed your lawn for optimal results in any season.
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Things to Consider When Timing Your Planting
If you have the option to time your planting, it’s certainly worth breaking out the calendar. Exactly when to throw down new grass seed will depend on the type of grass you’re planting, your local climate, current weather conditions, and your access to water.
Type of Grass
As we mentioned above, the type of grass you’re planting plays a big role in determining the optimal time to lay down the seed.
Grass seed grows fastest and produces the best results when you time the seed with the grass types’ natural growing periods.
Cool season grasses grow most actively when soil temperatures hover around 50 degrees. In most climates, the best time to plant cool season varieties is in the late summer to early fall. Cool season grass includes:
On the other hand, warm season grasses grow fastest when temperatures are between 70 and 90 degrees. In most climates, you’ll want to plant warm season grasses in late spring to early summer. Warm season grasses are:
Note: Keep in mind that the best type of grass for you will depend mainly on your climate.
Of course, the optimal time for planting both warm season and cool season grass will vary based on your local climate.
Pennington recommends timing the planting of cool season grass for about 45 days before the first frost in your region. On the other hand, late plantings for warm season grass should be done at least 90 days before the first frost.
Note: For spring plantings of warm season grass, keep an eye on the average outdoor temperature during the day. In warm regions like California, you’ll want to plant about mid-spring. For areas that take longer to warm up, like Arkansas, wait until May or June.
Rainfall patterns typical for your climate will also play a role in determining when to put down seed. For both warm and cool season grasses, you’ll want to target the end of rainy periods when the ground is saturated but the temperature is ripe for growth.
The “local” climate of your yard should also be taken into account. For instance, sandy soil tends to heat up faster than dark soil meaning warm season grasses can be planted earlier and cool season grasses need to be planted later.
Note: If your soil or lawn isn’t optimal for growing grass of any kind, it’s worth taking time to condition it before spreading new seed. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to do this is to invest in a subscription lawn care service like Sunday Lawn Care.
Once you’ve nailed down an approximate date to spread your seed, keep an eye on the weather.
New grass needs a lot of water, not just to germinate but to establish roots and begin growing. Timing your new seed for after rainy weather will increase your chances of success.
Note: Be mindful of wind in the forecast, as even moderately windy conditions can quickly pick up and disperse grass seed after you’ve laid it down.
If your region frequently gets late-season snow storms, it’s worth timing the planting of your grass right before a big dump. The snow will delay sprouting some, but it will help hold the seed in place and provide moisture as it melts. As long as sunny days are forecasted after the storm, your grass should have no problem establishing and growing quickly as the weather warms.
Keep in mind that your regional weather conditions are likely changing due to the effects of climate change.
Note: Extreme weather, including storms, droughts, and late and early frosts are more common today than they were ten years ago. These changes can make timing the seeding of your lawn that much more difficult.
Climate change has also caused water to be a more valued resource in many areas. If your region is prone to drought or struggling with fresh water availability, avoid seeding your lawn in summer or any time rain isn’t common. This will cut down on how much supplemental watering you’ll need to do.
Access to Water
Of course, rain and snow aren’t the only ways to water a lawn.
If you have an irrigation system or are willing to spend some time in the yard manually watering, then there’s no need to wait for rainy weather. Just be sure you’re up for the task. Establishing new lawn requires a lot of water, especially during the summer months.
On the other hand, if you don’t have the time or means to water your seed, then you must wait until the ground is saturated by rainfall. This means restricting your planting time to spring or fall, or, if you live in a temperate climate, winter.
Planting Grass Seed In Spring
Spring is the optimal time to plant warm season grass and can work as a good time to seed cool season varieties as well. The varied temperatures through these months along with increased precipitation make the process of establishing various types of grass fairly easy.
Type of Grass to Plant in Spring
There are a few heat tolerant varieties of cool season grasses that can be planted in spring. All varieties of warm season grasses can be seeded this time of year.
Plant cool season grasses early in the spring when outside temperatures are around 60 to 70 degrees.
The best cool season grasses to plant in spring include:
- Rye grass
- Rough bluegrass
- Tall fescue
These varieties mature quickly and are most likely to be well established by the time hot temperatures slow their growth rate.
Plant warm season grasses later in the spring when the outdoor temperatures are consistently between 70 and 90 degrees.
Most varieties of warm season grass are good candidates for spring seeding. Some of our favorites include:
- St. Augustine
- Scutch grass
Planting Grass Seed In Summer
In many climates, summer can also work for seeding warm grass varieties as long as you’re able to provide plenty of moisture during those first few weeks.
Even with a lot of watering, the grass will take longer to establish, especially if temperatures remain above 90 degrees during the day.
If possible, aim for early summer or late summer to seed grass. However, if you live in a more temperate zone, your options are more limited. You may even be able to get away with seeding cool season grass so long as summer temperatures don’t get too high most days.
Type of Grass to Plant in Summer
Plant warm season grasses as early in the summer as possible or wait until the heat begins to die down in late August.
Warm season grasses that will fare the best when seeded in the heat of summer include:
These grasses are highly heat tolerant and are least likely to be overcome by sunny weather even if planted later into the summer months.
Only seed cool season grass in summer if your local temperatures stay below 75 during this time.
If your temps stray a little higher than this, you may still be able to get away with planting tall fescue, as it’s the most heat tolerant of the cool season varieties.
Planting Grass Seed In Fall
Fall is the best time to seed cool season grass and the second-best option for warm season varieties.
Planting cool season varieties in fall allows them extra time to establish in spring before the weather heats up again.
Warm season varieties also fare well so long as they have enough time to establish before the average temperature dips below freezing.
Type of Grass to Plant in Fall
Plant warm season grass at the beginning of fall or at least 90 days before the first freeze.
The most cold-tolerant warm season grass is zoysia. If you’re already well into fall but still determined to lay down seed, this is your best bet.
Cool season grass should be planted when temperatures drop to around 60 degrees during the day or approximately 45 days before the first frost.
All cool season grasses will do well when seeded in fall. Some of our favorites include:
- Creeping red fescue
- Chewings fescue
- Perennial ryegrass
- Hard fescue
Planting Grass Seed In Winter
Planting grass in winter after temperatures have dropped below freezing is known as dormant seeding. This grass doesn’t actively grow or establish during the winter but will begin to grow as soon as temperatures are high enough the following spring.
While both warm and cool season grasses can be spread in winter, this practice is most effective for cool season varieties.
Type of Grass to Plant in Winter
Cool season grasses should be spread once temperatures have dropped below 40 through the last month of winter.
Spreading the seed when temperatures are still well above freezing may risk the seeds germinating and then freezing and dying before the grass can establish.
All cool season grasses can be seeded in winter, but Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue are the most cold-hardy varieties.
Warm season grass can be seeded anytime in winter but is likely to experience much seed loss before growth begins in late spring.
For all warm season types you are better off waiting until the weather warms up in spring to throw down your seed.
Timing Is Everything
As you can see, there are better times than others to throw down grass seed. But, so long as you take the type, local temperatures, and weather into account, it is possible to seed your lawn throughout the year.
Once you have your seed down, don’t forget to check out Sunday Lawn Care service to help keep your new lawn looking great.
Have more questions on when to plant seed or what seed to plant? Post your questions in the comment selection below and we’ll help you find the answers.