A few years ago (before the Internet), I heard that overseeding a lawn here
in the DC area in January was a good thing to do. The idea was that the
seed would work itself into the soil during the daily freeze/thaw cycles,
and by spring it would germinate and thicken the lawn.
I can't find any references to this practice. Did I dream this, or is this
still practiced? Thanks.
Considering how far north you live, I/d say you/d be throwing your money
away by seeding in January. Even if freeze/thaw cycles allowed the seed to
work its way into the soil...the seed would probably rot before it
germinated. Not sure what the min temperature is for germination but I/d
guess it/s in the L50s.
Heard this discussed on a gardening radio show this week for here in
Will work but seed will not germinate until ground is warm (they said
70 deg. F). If not snowed over, you're mostly feeding the birds. A
later seeding before a late snow, maybe March, said to be better.
I understood (from my county extension agent father) that it works for
bluegrass, but not so much for fescue
( fwiw, fescue came out fine for the spots where I have winter-planted
However, you are supposed to seed just before the snow, not after, so it is
under the snow blanket. (No need to add any annual grasses, btw.)
Apparently most bluegrass needs 10-14 days of cool damp weather to
germinate, and it will definitely germinate under the snow, where it is cool
and damp. (maybe not germinate in 5-10 days, but who cares if it takes three
months when your lawn is under a foot of snow all that time?)
I have used that trick on several problem areas of a 10-acre-complex
grounds, and at home, in places where they have tried to grow grass (in
Minnesota) using "classic" methods with no multi-season success (till/scarf,
straw/hay/burlap, deep watering, etc.).
The "seed as the first snow flakes of the big snow storm are falling"
method worked first time, every time - better yet, those tough spots are
still covered with grass after many years.(Especially successful in "sanded
FWIW, the winter-planted bluegrass and fescue seems to have developed its
long roots better than the spring/summer method.
Depends on the species of grasses involved (you probably don't want to do this
with warm season grasses, the ones that stay green in summer), but it's ok
for cool season species -- they germinate after cold treatment, preferably in
a warm/cool cycle (that's actually how they test the seed for germination) --
several weeks in a cool refrigerator on a germination medium, then onto a
lighted germination chamber for diurnal cycling.
January strikes me a bit early for overseeding in the DC area... you may lose
significant amounts to birds and erosion before the soil temps are up to
Best bet is to call one of the local cooperative extension service agencies in
the DC area and ask when they suggest overseeding. I usually overseed in
February in the Portland, OR, area.
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