Well, I have been told a billion times that autumn is the time to plant
and feed, so having bought a home with about 3 patches of grass, I
rented a tiller and tilled up about 6" of soil, fed it, seeded it,
tamped it, fed it and seeded it again, covered it with hay and started
After about 3 weeks, nothing has come up. I noticed a few sprouts
yesterday, but it just doesn't look good.
Now, is it possible that this is just an autumn dormancy thing and come
spring I'll have a beautiful, deep-green lawn sprouting up, or have I
done something wrong? I've got the lawn covered with hay, but of course
I won't be able to leave it there all winter...
Well, I'm in southern Connecticut, and I planted Rebel Elite.
It's my first time planting a new lawn, so I'm completely working in
the dark here. There were about 3 tufts of grass left when we bought
the place, so I was over-eager to get rolling on it.
I see a few sprouts now, but i'm not hopeful.
It's a tiny little yard, at this point I'lm thinking sod :]
That's a brand name, and what's sold under that brand name could change
from year to year, or even geographic market to geographic market. There
should be a lable on the back of the bag that tells you what the mix in
that bag is.
In general, the first grass you see sprouting will be the annual
varieties. The perenial varieties will usually take longer. Grass seed
companies have an incentive to market mixes with lots of fast
germinating annual varieties. People want instant gratification. Once
the annual grass germinates, if the perenial grass doesn't germinate,
most people will blame themselves for not caring for the lawn.
Get your recomondations for the best mix of seed from your county
extension office. Not brand names. The mix. Then go out and find a brand
that has the closest mix to what you want. Keep in mind that the best
mix may be different in various places on your lawn, but you also need
to have some commonality in what you use, too. You don't want a
dark-blue lawn, with a sharp line where the mix changes to a
yellow-green mix. The compromises you make may not be the same as what
any specific brand name has made in their mix.
Well, with sod you bypass the germination issues you have with seeding,
but if you're laying sod over soil that won't support grass, or in an
area that is otherwise unsuited for grass, the eventual result will be
Some of the ideas behind (early) fall seeding are:
-Soil temperature is often warmer than in spring
-Mother Nature will assist with the watering
-The turf has time to establish a hearty root system before the
If you wait too long, the soil won't be warm enough for germination. If
you don't have germination, the game is over.
Also, if you over-fertilize, you'll reduce germination, and essentially
compost the seed. If you do fertilize, make sure you use a fertilizer
that has a low nitrogen level (the first of the three numbers).
Time-released granules would be best, too. Personally, I don't fertilize
when over-seeding in early fall. (I do use a "winterizer" fertilizer in
late fall, but only at about 1/2 the manufacturer's recommended
As for your "hay", hopefully it is not full of seed. I never can
remember the difference between hay and straw, but hopefully you got the
right thing -- the one without seed in it. Assuming it doesn't have any
seed in it. leave it in place for the winter. It'll help prevent
erosion, and will add some organic material to the soil as it breaks
When spring comes, watch to see if you get any germination as the soil
warms up. That's going to be quite late in spring. The air temperature
will be warm long before the soil warms up enough for germination. If
you jump the gun in spring, you won't see anything happen even if you
And of course the downside is that once the soil gets warm enough,
Mother Nature isn't as inclined to help with the watering. But if you
hit the window right, you can have a reasonably established lawn by the
time the real heat comes in summer. Either way, I'd make plans to
over-seed again in *early* fall next year.
That's a turf-type tall fescue. Wouldn't be my first choice from what I
know of your climate, but it's not a bad one. Personally, I'd overseed
with some Kentucky bluegrass (several cultivars) and several other
cultivars of tall fescue, so you don't have all your eggs in one genetic
basket when the inevitable diseases and other stressors show up.
If you seeded three weeks ago and you're in Connecticut, you've left it a
bit late in the season. I assume you're zone 6 - even in my very mild zone 8
climate, it is not suggested one seed a new lawn (or overseed an existing
one) after the middle of October - you will just not get very good
germination. It is quite possible that much of the seed will remain dormant
over the winter and sprout in spring but it is just as possible that much
will rot or otherwise fail to germinate and you will need to go through this
FWIW, it IS recommended one use a starter fertilizer with laying new lawn
seed, but they too will not be very effective in colder weather. And for
future reference, the "fall" they refer to when advising on seeding a new
lawn is generally September and early October in the majority of this
pam - gardengal
You may have overdone it on the fertilizer (did you use a starter fertilizer
according to instructions?), and my guess is that you left it a bit late
to plant, but I wouldn't be surprised that next spring you'll find you've
got a fairly decent stand of grass. Three weeks is about the minimal time
before you see much in the way of seedlings for Ky Bluegrass, etc.
I'm assuming you've used a seed mix that probably has a fair percentage
of Kentucky bluegrass in it... if the soil temp is below about 55, you're
probably pretty much done for bluegrass germination this season... but the
seedlings you have will continue to grow next spring (barring some
catastrophe). And yes, newly germinating lawngrasses look terribly scruffy
and bare, but fill in well if well cared for.
I'm a little more concerned you used "hay" for covering... hay includes
seeds, so you may have some really interesting spots next year... and some
interesting weeding next year. I would have sooner see you use straw
(stems only) or compost for cover over the seedbed, rather than introducing
seeds of unwanted species in the hay.
About five years ago, I wound up having to redo my mom's back lawn in Iowa
in late fall, after the trenching company had been through. It was mid
October, but soil temps were still in the 60's, so we planted a bluegrass
fescue mix and covered it with municipal compost. I tossed some annual
ryegrass seed over the top for quick germination and winter cover before I
left for my home. A friend who was mowing kept me apprised of the
progress (he was sure I was crazy planting that late) -- looked pretty
awful up till about December, when the seedlings were big enough that
you could see a green haze over that dark compost from a distance.
Snow came in mid December, and lasted pretty much through February. Still
pretty scruffy in appearance in March, and then when it warmed up in
April, everything took off nicely. When I saw it again in June, it was
a little thin, but definitely the species we'd planted, except for
one spot where one of the neighbors dogs had decided to dig. Replanted
that, and it was a good solid stand by early July (except for the replanted
spot -- that took coddling till October).
Hang in there... lawn takes time to grow properly. Keep things moist,
but don't overdo it with fertilizer and mowing until the seedlings
are growing nicely for you.
Kay Lancaster firstname.lastname@example.org
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