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dorment seeding cool season grasses, any success?

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by grassguy_, Oct 11, 2002.

  1. grassguy_

    grassguy_ LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Messages: 633

    I was wondering how many of you have done dormant seeding over the winter months with cool season grasses. Have you had good success with doing it, or is it a lost cause? There has been considerable drought damage here this past summer and I was considering doing repairs by dormant seeding in say december when soil temps and air temp won't promote germination. Any experiences would help.
  2. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Over the years, only Bluegrass has consistantly performed as expected after things get cold.
    I was once instructed by a former employer to broadcast straight BG seed over a very thin "builders lawn" with non preperation at all. I thought he was crazy & told him so.
    But we delayed the spread until the frost had just "honey combed" the soil.
    We starter fert'ed the place & walked away until spring.
    Early the following spring we returned with some 20-10-10 straight. I didn't do the app, but the guy who did commented that seed was starting to pop.
    I was sceptical that what hadn't popped by then wouldn't at all.
    We delayed the clients herbicides til the last reasonable date that year. I did do that app.

    That was about 20 years ago. I still can't help but detour past that place whenever I'm in the area.

    I'm still a beleiver too.

    It's borderline here in the northeast right now. Some folks are using straight Perennial Rye in the hopes of getting it up before it gets too cold. I feel the best bet is a Blue/Rye blend right now. If it stays warm enough, the Rye will pop. If not, most of the Rye will rot over the winter. But the Blues will still be there, waiting for the soils temps to rise next spring.

    Last fall, I did that very same thing on Oct 31. It stayed so warm in November that both the Blue & the Rye germinated. By May it looked like sod.

    In November (around here), there is little chance to get anything up most years. So park the Ryegrass & go straight Blues. That's what I'll be doing on the front lawn of my son's elementary school. Spreader, bag of Blue seed, & a bag of starter fertilizer. Most of the seed will come up just fine.


  3. Alan

    Alan Member
    Messages: 1,185

    I've had mixed results with late season seeding. There's a window that is really risky, starting about now and going until first of December. Anything that sprouts for teh next few weeks will probably get hit by hard freeze before it can harden off enough to survive.

    I've got one site that I'm going to try seeding very late, if the snow holds off. My theory is that if it's cold enough the seed is going to lie there and not pop until spring.

    As for seed rotting, that will depend a lot on what the conditions develop as later this fall. Keep in mind that, in nature, seed falls to the ground and lies there all winter. Obviously it works that way naturally, so it shold work for us, IF we get favorable conditions.

    Something that worked good last year, and which I will be trying again, is using winter rye (NOT annual rye) as a "cover crop". This is a small grain, sprouts very fast, even in cool conditions, and is commonly used in erosion control. Granted, it is NOT a lawn grass and is ugly as hell. But, if I put winter rye down now (which I did yesterday) in conjunction with a rey/fescue/blue mix, it will get up and growing. Probably 4-6" high by freeze up.

    I tell the customer to NOT mow it this fall. That way there are roots in place to reduce erosion when the spring runoff occurs. In addition the coarse winter rye will trap snow and provide insulation for the seed and whatever desireable species do sprout this fall.

    By the time of the normal first mowing next spring the winter rye will be 6" tall. Mow it around the end of April/early May and you cut it off below where it leaves out. With no leaves to feed it, and all the seed kernel used up by then it just dies out. The decomposing matter adds a little nitrogen in the process. Can't let it get much over 6" though or it shades the ground and hinders growth on the turf grasses.

    If you're up here in the real cold country give it a try. I don't think it would work anywhere there is not snow cover and cold (well below freezing) temperatures though. I think the winter rye will grow any time the temperature is above freezing and the ground is not frozen. In that case it would probably grow too much before the turf grass could get started.
  4. mowing king

    mowing king LawnSite Member
    from ct
    Messages: 85

    I seed some shade lawns in early march just by broadcasing the seed. fert 19-19-19 at a full pound each. works well on bare soil where the grass had thinned. we do it every year. The rain and any march snow works the seed in and by the end of may the lawn looks better.
  5. grassguy_

    grassguy_ LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Messages: 633

    I thought by seeding with more of a bluegrass mix, say near 80% and then adding perrenial rye only in small amounts, i would be better assured of a good germination. The Blue normally takes 21 days or so to germinate , so if it was seeded in during december it would almost assure its chances of not germinating until spring and doing better.
  6. Alan

    Alan Member
    Messages: 1,185

    You're in a bit warmer area than I am, so blues may be a better choice. In addition to be a colder climate I find that most homeowners aren't into as intensive a maintenance program as blues need to really do well.
  7. dougaustreim

    dougaustreim LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 488

    Here in SD we dormant seed many acres every year. We usually start about the last week in October and seed until we get snowed out or froze out which can come anywhere from early November until Christmas. On unirrigated sites, we consistently have our best results with dormant seeding. In fact, we seen on difference whether we get snow cover or not. As long as we get some spring rains, we always have good success with dormant seeding. We do everything the same way as the rest of the season. The same prep, the same seed mix etc.

    I've been doing this for 30 years and become a greater beleiver in dormant seeding every year.

    Austreim Landscaping
  8. tremor

    tremor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,476

    Doug brings up a valid point that I omitted. The unusual success story that made me a convert, involved a very thin lawn with zero thatch. And a homeowner with very limitted resources. We timed our efforts to coincide with the light frost heaves that result in the "checkered honey combed" look to the soil surface. That condition rarely presents itself in established turf because the roots & thatch hold the soil together & insulate the ground.

    If such ideal conditions do not present themselves, then normal soil prep. rules to insure seed/soil contact still apply. Whether verticutting, star-aerating, (core-aerating is poor prep by itself in my book unless it is extreme), or even agressive dethatching; the ground should be broken. Even the lowly "Garden Weasel" is adequate prep in small areas.

    Timing & local weather conditions will rule the day on this one.

    I like the old 80/20 Blue/Rye standard too. When you have time to pop the blues and the client is sold on this expectation.

    If we used a 50/50 Blue/Rye right now around here, it is because we MIGHT see the Ryes pop. And the client would be happy & pay their bill. If the Ryes all winter killed (or failed to germinate due to cold), then sufficient Bluegrass seed should remain viable until spring. And if the business owner/sales person sold the work properly, this too would be OK. This is sound logic for THIS agronomic zone RIGHT NOW. Two or three weeks will change all this.

    We're not talking about ideal timing here though.
    We are talking about establishing turf to the expectations of customers who may not be capable or willing to expend the effort required "by the book". And they might not concern themselve with "growing turf by the book" when they're deciding when to give us the go ahead on seeding. Indeed some consumers are just waiting to see if that job promotion is going to come through. Or will the wifes aunt come up for the holidays & require hotel accomodations? Or will she be staying with her brother? Or will junior need braces? Or will their oldest daughter be commuting to school or staying in the dorm?.....it goes on.

    So in the eyes of the consumer, good value is turning brown into green only after they've decided to spend some money. With YOU. And it's our job to deliver the desired results by whatever means possible with the intent of getting paid or keeping ones job. This isn't an "amateurs gardening forum". It's a commercial forum. We are supposedly concerned with the financial solvency of a business (or career) that will flourish only if the client's (or employer) are satisfied with the results that are delivered. If we can deliver them based on timing & budget.

    If the area the reader is in is already cutting it too close with respect to the first freeze, it will do little good to germinate some Ryes now, only to have them winter kill. This would justify the all-Blue dormant effort for THEIR area. Sell the work with the expectation of turf next spring.

    Other folks who have commented in this thread are in areas that still have ample time left to get picky about blends & species selection. So they should. Sell the work & execute it with that result in mind.

    We should always remember though that this forum covers a huge geographic area which makes it very interesting. But what works in Montreal is probably not what I'm recommending here in Metro New York. Likewise the Floridians who chime in aren't terribly impressed by the North Carolina Burmuda vs Tall Fescue debates.

    So local experience should still rule the day. Talk with local veterans, university folks from the area you're in, & local vendors to get the slant that pertains to the area you're in.

    agronomy; the science & economics of crop prodcution.
    (And in our cases, with the intent of getting paid by often irrational & nearly always ignorant people who usually have limited financial resources & quite possibly, unrealistic expectations)

    Those who learn to circumvent "the rules" & deliver the desired results (read "consumer value"), are often the most financially solvent.

    Did I miss anything this time?

  9. grassguy_

    grassguy_ LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Messages: 633

    Tremor, I think your area is quite similar to where I am in NE Ohio. I'm currently finishing up the 50/50 blu/Rye seed mixes and will then change to an 80/20 or all Blue seed blend for November. I have had some good germination to this point with the Rye mix but temps and time are getting shorter.
    I'm using a Lesco renovator 20 to get the proper seed/soil contact , this should assure a good germination come spring. I'm just looking at saving all the seeding hassles from spring when we're busy with everything else, even though i know there will be more to do come spring.

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