Options for Seeding Late in the Year – Turfgrass Science at Purdue University

Options for Seeding Late in the Year

It is now too late to seed a turf area to expect a good stand going into winter. Seeding turfgrasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, or tall fescue during early November may still allow time for germination, but the seedlings are likely to die from winterkill. You currently have 2 viable options:
1. On non-erodable areas, wait until after Thanksgiving to dormant seed Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue or perennial ryegrass. Turfgrass seeded at this time will not germinate until soil temperatures warm up next spring. This technique has been successful on relatively flat areas, but should be avoided on sloped areas prone to erosion. To help reduce erosion on moderately sloped sights, use straw with a tackifier, or other commercially available erosion control nets or blankets. Dormant seeding can be done anytime from Thanksgiving through March or April as long as the soil is dry enough to prepare a seedbed. As with seeding at other times of the year, a starter fertilizer is important, but it should be applied in the spring shortly after germination when the seedlings can use the fertilizer. More information on dormant seeding can be found in “AY-20: Seeding a Turf Area in the Spring”, available on our web site.
2. Sod can be used successfully during almost any time of the year and is the best way to minimize erosion. Sod laid during the winter will not root significantly until spring, so plan on irrigating the area in spring. Another risk with sod is that it might dessicate during the winter with prolonged cold temperatures and dry winds. Be sure to water the sod thoroughly immediately after laying and occasionally during the winter if there is an open, windy winter.
More information on sod can be found in “AY-28: Establishing a Lawn from Sod” available on our web site. 
A third, much less desirable, option is to immediately seed winter rye at 3-4 lbs seed/1000 sq ft. as a cover crop (the cereal rye, not the turf-type annual rye). This might be worth the effort on erodable sites but certainly not worth the effort on non-erodable areas. It will germinate and cover best if seeded before the third week of October, so it is already very late to try this. You can then kill it with Roundup or tilling next spring and reseed with a desirable turfgrass.


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