Dormant Seeding in the Winter

by Wendy Mills 0 Comments

winter mowingMost winter lawn care projects include simply keeping things clean and healthy for the upcoming spring. However, there are a few things you can do to generate new growth despite the fact that much of your yard has gone dormant for the season.

While many people are familiar with the term overseeding, you may not have heard of dormant seeding. This is a type of overseeding that’s intentionally done in the winter, when your established grass bed has gone dormant.

Late summer is the best time to overseed your lawn, to address thin patches and fortify your lawn against weeds and intrusive grasses. But if you didn’t get a chance, or simply did not experience any problem areas until later in the season, then dormant seeding is your answer.

It’s an inexpensive and fairly easy way to increase your lawn’s density without the full overhaul of laying fresh sod pallets.

When to Use Dormant Seeding

Timing is important when it comes to this process, as you want to spread the seeds when there actually isn’t an opportunity for them to begin germinating just yet. That may sound counter-intuitive, but the whole idea is to plant them at a time when they can simply rest until spring.

This means the temperature needs to hang out around 50 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, as that is the point where most turf grasses decide to go down for their long winter’s nap.

If you seed too early, there is a risk that they’ll begin to germinate after a warm day, and then perish as soon as the first frost sets in. That is why January or February are ideal months for dormant seeding.

While this method is most effective in climates that experience moderate snowfall, it’s still a good option here in North Texas. A blanket of snow encourages the seeds to work their way deeper into the soil. But a nice cold layer of topsoil, along with a covering of straw, will do the job as well.

Coating your lawn with straw isn’t strictly necessary for a successful outcome with dormant seeding. But it does help discourage hungry scavengers from pecking the seeds away before they settle into the ground.

If you choose to take this extra measure, be sure you get straw rather than hay. Straw is usually a by-product of wheat, consist only of the leftover shafts. Hay, however, is a grassy plant that includes seed pods you don’t want to spread throughout your yard.

How to Use Dormant Seeding 

Your first step in preparation is to break up the bare spots in your soil where you plan to lay the seeds. This significantly increases their chances of working their way into the soil. It can simply be done with a metal rake.

broadcast spreaderUsing a broadcast spreader, which is a wheel barrow-like tool that is often used to spread both seeds and fertilizer, is the simplest and least disruptive method of spreading the seeds.

However, many people prefer to use a slit seeder. Also called a slice seeder, these machines include several small blades- usually 8 to 10 per square foot- that cut about 3/4 inch into the ground.

This tool creates small slits into which the seeds can fall, guaranteeing that they will settle into the soil effectively. Using a slit seeder is known to be about 60% more effective than broadcasters, regarding successful germination of new grass.

Many garden shops and lawn care companies can rent large equipment that isn’t used regularly, such as slit seeders and aerators. If you’re feeling like you may need some professional assistance with this or any other lawn care project, don’t hesitate to ask us for a free service quote.

You will need to pick a dry, temperate day for this adventure. However, if precipitation is in the coming days’ forecast, have no fear. Freshly laid seeds will require a single watering, so a rainstorm shortly after the job is done won’t do any harm.

As with any overseeding project, it’s important to bear in mind that the seeds will “take” most effectively to flat terrain. If you are facing a rain-heavy winter that creates a risk of washout, this may not be the time to explore dormant seeding. Winter Flowers For Your Garden has some additional info you might find helpful with keeping your landscape lively this season.

Most turf grasses will cover about 1,000 square feet for every three to four pounds of seeds. Once they’re laid, all you have left to do practice some patience as spring settles in and the seedlings begin to germinate.

Keep in mind that fresh growth will not initially be as robust as established grass turf. However, if you are still unsatisfied with your lawn’s density even as summer approaches, a second treatment of overseeding is always an option.

Summary

  1. Dormant seeding is the practice of laying seeds, either with a broadcaster or a slit seeder, in January or February, when your lawn is still dormant.
  2. This is an easy remedy for thin patches in your lawn, and far more affordable than laying new sod.
  3. Be sure you don’t seed too early, in order to avoid early germination that could die during winter freezes.
  4. A coat of straw can protect the freshly laid seeds, and snow actually helps them settle into the soil more deeply.
  5. If you’re using a broadcaster, break up any bare spots in your soil with a rake.
  6. If using a slit seeder instead, the seeds will easily settle into the soil, and will have a greater chance of germinating.
  7. Choose a dry day for this task, and water only once afterward unless a rainstorm is expected in the coming days.
  8. Be patient! New grass will still take a few months to fill in once it takes root and begins producing fresh blades.

 

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