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Still time for dormant seeding

Bare spot in lawn

As the calendar flips to November, most people are thinking about hunting, ice fishing, or the upcoming holiday season and not about their lawn. However, there is one more lawn chore that can be completed before the snow begins to fly. That chore is dormant seeding.

The best time to seed cool season turfgrass in our area is between August 1 and September 1. However, if that window of opportunity was missed, you may want to try dormant seeding. Dormant seeding involves putting down seed while the ground is not frozen, yet cold enough so germination of the grass seed will not occur (soil temperature below 50 OF) until next spring. Seeds that germinate late in the season often do not survive the winter because the young, immature seedlings have a difficult time surviving those harsh conditions. With that said, timing is extremely important. Looking at the long-range forecast, seeding should probably occur early to mid-November. Of course, actual timing is dependent on local weather conditions. Other than the time of year, the process of preparing the area for dormant seeding is identical to establishing grass from seed at other times of the year.

Select grass seed mixes that are well adapted to both your site conditions and the amount of maintenance you expect to provide during the growing season. For average lawn conditions, mixes containing some Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue and small amounts of perennial ryegrass can be used.

The initial step in preparing the area is to loosen the soil surface so the seed can easily be incorporated into the surface ½ inch or so of loose soil. Small areas of bare soil or even a thin turfgrass stand can easily be prepared using a hand rake. Larger areas of sparse turfgrass can be prepared by 'lightly' going over the surface with a power rake or vertical mower available from most rental agencies. Set the blades deep enough to penetrate the top ¼ inch of soil.

Rake up the grass plant debris so it will not interfere with sowing the grass seed. After seeding, lightly incorporate into the existing soil, water the area thoroughly, and leave until next spring. If the weather turns a little warmer and drier and the area starts to dry out, it may be necessary to lightly water the area just to keep it damp and prevent it from becoming too dry. However, in most cases it will be unnecessary to do this.

The degree of success from your dormant seeding efforts will depend on the overwintering conditions. In most cases, the seed is best protected when we receive snowfall that will cover and protect it during fluctuating weather conditions often experienced during winter. Some seed may be lost to birds, mice, or erosion. It may be necessary to do some overseeding in the spring in areas where little grass emerges. Be sure to allow enough time for the seeds to come up the following spring before tearing the area up for reseeding. Source: Bob Mugaas, UMN Extension Educator, Emeritus.



Randy Nelson
Extension Educator, Home Hort & Ag Production Systems
(218) 299-5020
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