KC Gardens

Dennis Patton: If you still have bare spots in your grass, consider dormant seeding this month

By Dennis Patton

The correct rate of seeding.
The correct rate of seeding. Submitted.

The recent warm spell has many of you thinking spring. And even though spring is still officially several weeks away, many of us are waiting for green grass to appear. Thoughts of cool green grass beneath our feet bring back fond memories.

For some of us, we are just hoping that green grass will appear this spring. But if you have a few spots that may be less than green this spring you might want to try your hand at dormant seeding.

Dormant seeding is done during the winter, December through February, when it is too cold for germination to take place. As the temperature rises in the spring and conditions become favorable, the grass seed germinates. The advantage of dormant seeding over spring seeding is it allows the young seedlings to become a little more established before summer arrives.

Good seed-soil contact is vital for the success of any seeding program. Simply throwing the seed out on the ground is not sufficient. There are two ways to help develop this contact when dormant seeding.

The first option is to seed after a light snowfall up to 1 inch. This is shallow enough that bare spots can still be seen. Spread the seeds by hand on areas that need thickening up. As the snow melts, it brings the seeds into contact with the soil for spring germination.

The second option requires a moist soil surface following a rain and imminent freezing weather. As moist soil freezes and thaws, small pockets are formed on the wet, bare soil, which is ideal for holding the seed. As the soil dries, the pockets collapse and cover the seed.

No matter which method is used, the seed will set there until spring conditions can support growth.

Caution must be taken with the newly germinated seed in the spring. The use of crabgrass preventers will damage the establishment of the grass. There are a few products that can be used once the seeds germinate. Broadleaf herbicides used to control dandelions and other weeds may damage tender grass. Be sure to read and follow all label instructions before applying any herbicide to new seed and seedlings.

An application of fertilizer will help promote new growth and quicker establishment.

Dormant seeding should never be considered as a replacement for the ideal fall period. Seeding bluegrass and tall fescue is best done in early- to mid-September under favorable temperatures and moisture.

The results from seeding during the dormant period are less satisfactory than in the fall. Summer conditions, which are less favorable, will also affect the success of dormant seeding. The main advantage of dormant seeding is letting Mother Nature prepare the soil and to get a jump on the spring season.

Green grass in the spring is always a welcome sign. Unfortunately, our local conditions make retaining that green carpet a challenge.