Seed rate comparison

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by RigglePLC, Oct 9, 2018.

  1. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,364

    How much seed is enough? How much seed is too much?
    Several different seed rates were compared.
    A teaspoon per sqft was sown. This was calculated to be about 10 pounds per thousand sqft. This was compared to about 20, 30 and 40 pounds per thousand.
    Seed was perennial rye, creeping red fescue, tall fescue and bluegrass.
    Results expected by about October 25th, 2018.
    Plot is in heavy shade so the soil was mostly bare. There was no preparation. The seed was not raked-in.
    There is no irrigation. Rains have been frequent.
    Temperature was about 82 F to start. This is unseasonably warm--frost is expected within a week. Leaves will begin to fall.
    Do birds actually eat much seed?
    As an example, the photo shows creeping red fescue on the day of seeding. The numbers show the number of teaspoons of seed applied to that square foot.

    View attachment 369175

    Delmarva Keith likes this.
  2. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,216

    That’s a mad amount of seed
    4-5 lbs per sq ft is normal

    Proper mulching is essential to proper germination
    Yes birds eat a lot
    They have super powered eye sight
    To them the seeds look like basket balls with the words “free food” written on them.

    Plus without mulch the wind and rain can move the seed and cause uneven germination.

    You can use hydro mulch, weed free straw (which you have to rake up later, topdress compost or penn mulch applied by hand and then water in... this is essentially hydro mulch

    Also mulch is essential for maintaining a more constant soil temp and moisture level during germination.

    4 lbs of seed can cost .03 per square foot
    40 lbs of seed would cost .30 per square foot
    Over a thousand square feet that’s the difference between $30 and $300

    But for example hydro mulch is going to cost .01 per square foot same with fertilizer
    Labor say .08
    So you have
    .01 and you got to pay for water whatever that costs you but let’s say .01

    So total of .14 per square foot
    A thousand square feet is $140
    But by the time you mix this load and apply it you’re losing money
    Need a minimum of $300

    So for arguments sake that makes 1,000 ft seeded $300
    Or .30 per square foot (to the customer)

    However if they wanted to do 5000 square feet (.14/sf) it’s only $700 (not $1500)

    But if you used 40 pounds of seed per thousand that’s $300 your cost then you have labor to apply it.

    Image if you had to do 5000 square feet?
    That’s $1500 your cost! No labor
    No profit
    Just to feed birds

    This is how instrumental (and cost effective) proper mulch cover is
    4 lbs per thousand at 5000 sf
    Cost is $150.00
    Mulch is $50.00
    If you hand applied both
    Let’s say it took you... 4 man hours
    At $70 an hour ... that’s $280
    $200 worth of material with a 20% markup
    $600 cost to the customer
    Now I don’t know how fast you could hand spread penn mulch or straw because it’s been literally 18 years since I’ve done it that way, but you can see even if you doubled your man hours, you will be considerably less costly than trying to use 40 lbs of seed per square foot.

    I wouldn’t even bother seeding without mulch cover, in my professional opinion... it’s that vital.

    Now how do I prefer to do it?

    After seed bed prep I would hand spread/broad cast 3 lbs per thousand
    Then hydroseed with 3 lbs per thousand using a 50/50 mix of paper and wood fiber mulch and tupersan (weed preventer than wont kill new grass seed germination) and starter fertilizer.

    If you don’t have a hydroseeder it’s really worth subbing it out (IMO)
    I think the best lawns come out the way I laid out above
    Yes I’m using 2lbs per thousand more than recommended and extra labor by hand spreading
    So my real cost might be .15-.16 per sq ft... but the results are golden

    The only other step you might take is throwing down 2 lbs of annual rye in northern climates
    It germinates really fast which means it chockes our weeds and dies in the first winter.
    So by the time your lawn fully establishes the bright lime green color of annual rye is gone.
  3. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,364

    I figure at about 2 dollars per pound for seed. At 4 pounds per thousand, about 8 dollars. At 10 pounds about $20.
    A teaspoon was used to measure. Small amounts were difficult to measure.
    So true, 40 pounds would be super costly.
    High seed rates are more suited to small spots and less than ideal conditions. We will see.
    71 degrees here, but a cold front is coming--frost likely later this week.
    Yes, annual rye would be quick, resulting in greater customer satisfaction--and the permanent grass would take over later. Hopefully there would not be a crowding effect. How could I prove that?

    It is raining hard right now. I do not see much chance the rain will move the seed, as the area is level soil. Not a windy spot.
    I have not seen any birds--but the area is near a creek--we sometimes have a few ducks and squirrels.
    KerbDMK likes this.
  4. walkinonwater27

    walkinonwater27 LawnSite Senior Member
    from ct
    Messages: 363

    If I’m aerating overseeding I like to use 2-2 1/2 lbs per thousand on thick lawns and 3-4 on a thinner lawn. Two weeks ago I had a 25 thousand sq feet lawn sign up with virtually nothing but crabgrass that was dying from colder nights, so I didn’t spray it before hand. I aerated over the property multiple times and used 7-8 lbs per thousand with pretty decent results. If I am topdressing and seeding I like around 10 lbs per thousand and on my own lawn I use 15-20 lbs to start new areas but I can’t expect anyone to agree to my quote if I was putting down that much seed but it comes in like a carpet.
  5. Delmarva Keith

    Delmarva Keith LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 536

    Good experiment. I’ve had seedling failure in the past in spots I seeded way too heavily — all germinated, grew and then croaked from fungus. Could just have been coincidence too.

    I’m also experimenting wih a somewhat different approach this year. Seeded on 9/30 at roughly 5 lb / k (TTTF). Germination has been good. I have a couple of bags of leftover seed from last year that I don’t want to store over yet another Winter. I’m planning on spreading that at about 2 lb / k this Sunday (heavy rains forecast for tonight and next two weeks are loaded so Sunday is the day — I’m hoping the ground is dry enough by then). If I don’t spread it I might end up having to throw it away. I’m hoping it’s still viable and helps fill in any thin spots. If not, at least I don’t have it kicking around for another year.

    This year was also the first time I used a roller. Birds seem to have left the seed alone.
  6. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,364

    Might be a good time to test whether or not an overnight soaking in water, (pre-germinate) would be useful. Of course, you have to plan to strain out the water, and then dry it enough to be able to spread it.
    I am not sure if there is a way to spread wet seed without the seed drying step. I guess you could scoop it out of a bucket with a coffee cup.
    Maybe someone can think of a way to spread pre-germinated seed, without the extra step of straining out the water.

    Roller was a good idea--did it increase germination? Scare away the birds?

    Also, what is your best guess? If starter fertilizer is applied, will it stimulate the old grass too much and crowd out the new grass? Is one bag of Milorganite per thousand (as the label suggests), too much? Does it really matter?
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
    Delmarva Keith likes this.
  7. Delmarva Keith

    Delmarva Keith LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 536

    Roller definitely provided better embedment of the seed and I can only guess discouraged the birds from casually just eating it up. In past years without rolling, I could definitely always see seeds hung up on existing blades of grass with some never making it through the canopy. Rolling it and taking a look afterward showed no seeds hung up in the existing canopy. I don’t plan to roll this second round but I won’t be back to see it for a couple weeks at least, so I won’t be able to watch what the birds are doing.

    Rain situation here is getting worse by the hour with more rain expected tonight, so plan is to let it sit Friday and Saturday, broadcast seed and then immediately cut to normal length Sunday, set clock to skip a number of days as yet to be decided based on how soupy the ground is, then leave it in God’s hands for a couple of weeks.

    I’m not ready for needing pre-germination — yet. Soil here is still quite warm and fescue is germinating in less than a week. Thumbs Up

    I don’t care much about stimulating existing grass and sometimes I think some folks just overthink the whole thing. I’m in the “mow it when it needs to be mowed” camp. I’ve cut lawns super short in prep for overseed and the results weren’t any better than just taking off more than usual without being ridiculous. Baby grass needs light but I don’t think it needs not to be mowed over to trim the existing grass. Never noticed any harm anyway.

    I’m not a fan of Milorganite — no potassium. Just personal preference. At seed down I go with a starter with something like a 2-3-1 ratio and then apps are 2-0-1 ratio until it’s too cold to keep feeding it. I’ve heard potassium before winter risks snow mold but never had that issue here.
    RigglePLC and KerbDMK like this.
  8. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,364

    The seed is sown in a grid of 1 foot squares. Upper right 10 lbs, upper left 20, lower right 30 and lower left 40.
    Complications have developed. Darn. Leaves have fallen on the plots, and now they are matted and wet. Many of the leaves are cottonwood. No sign of birds or squirrels, so far.
    Delmarva Keith likes this.
  9. Delmarva Keith

    Delmarva Keith LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 536

    I think as long as the little roots can get oxygen, they will germinate fine without light. Once the blades start to emerge, maybe then keep the leaves off?

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