Friday, January 24, 2014

Dormant Seed Now for Lush Lawn

A snowy, cold January is the perfect time to renew your worn out lawn. Now I realize that the sub-zero wind chills are not calling me outside this weekend. But I'm going to dormant seed bare spots and fill in the grass when I can get out in the next few weeks.   What is dormant seeding?  And why should I do it now?  Let me explain.

Dormant seeding takes place when the ground is frozen.  Put down seed on frozen soil, and even on top of snow. Then allow the freezing and thawing that will happen in the next few months to put the seed down in cracks and crevices in the soil.  This timing is ideal for the seeds to germinate later when the soil is just starting to warm up.
Seed scattered on snow

Dormant seeding in winter is ideal for the busy gardener.  Many chores become urgent in the spring, and winter offers a reprieve from the schedules of that more hectic time. Here in my Ohio garden, Zone 6, we can dormant seed from December 1 - March 14 with cool season grasses like Tall Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass.(Check your area for timing of over seeding warm season grasses as they are different from cool season grasses.)

Seeding over a snow cover is acceptable as the melting snow will work the seed into contact with the soil. And spring rains will help keep seedlings moist. Likewise, cool spring temperatures are ideal for growing new grass.
Stressed Lawn from Drought and Weeds
Tools to seed are a typical drop spreader or a broadcast spreader to distribute seed.  I would use caution on using a Broadcast spreader since seed landing in flower beds and borders will grow!

Drop spreader

Broadcast spreader
A weak lawn is literally asking for weed seeds to take off.  By dormant seeding with a quality grass seed, the lawn will thicken and keep weed seeds from germinating.

Many lawn experts recommend that the quantity of seed needed for an area be applied at 25% more than labels say.  This will ensure good coverage and the lawn will fill in all the bare and thin areas.

Enjoying a Healthy Lawn

The downside to dormant seeding is if the seed starts to germinate when a cold spell occurs.  Tiny seedlings can be killed and the grass will not fill in as well.  Also, if early spring rains pool in the lower sections of the lawn, the seeds will be too soaked to germinate.

Grass with healthy roots
The weed issues of any lawn are common.  However, when dormant seeding, do not use a pre-emergent weed barrier.  Normally a pre-emergent is applied in early spring.  This creates a barrier in the soil that keeps weed seeds - or grass seeds - from taking hold. Wait until the lawn has grown and been mowed a couple of times before any weed treatments are applied.  This will allow the grass blades to grow, extend roots, and be established before any herbicide is used.

As many of you know, I resist the use of chemicals on my lawn and gardens.  So this weed issue is more of a manual removal for me in my yard.
Weed Controls
I have posted more on Organic Lawn care here. Many benefits to dormant seeding, and the time is right for doing this step in lawn care.

Do you plan to do any dormant seeding?  Let us know.

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