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How to Select the Right Seeds for Fall Grass Sowing

The long, hot, grass-shriveling days of summer are finally falling behind us. And that means it's time for you to get out in front of the colder weather and give your grass a fighting chance for the winter. In particular, fall makes a great time for re-sowing those damaged and flagging parts of your lawn that may have been hit hard by summer weather. The cooler weather supports tender young shoots that aren't strong enough to survive the drought and high heat of the summer months. And unlike in the spring, the soil temperatures are warm and amiable to growing.

Sowing grass from seed is cheaper and less labor-intensive than laying down sod—but you'll get the best results if you do a little research before you purchase your seeds. 

Climate Determines Fall Sowing Success

It pays to get to know your grasses before you start any lawn care project. Cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, fine and tall fescues, and perennial ryegrasses flourish in the northern regions of the US—from Pennsylvania across to Northern California. On the other hand, warm-season grasses, like St. Augustine grass, Bermuda grass, centipede grass, and zoysia grass, range from the southern Carolinas to South California. In between is what's known as the "transition zone"—a wide stretch of the country where either cold- or warm-season grasses can grow.

Before you start buying seed mixes, you'll need to know both what kind of grass you currently have on your lawn—and which is right for your area. That's because not every species really does well with fall sowing. If you have warm-season grasses sown in your lawn, you can skip this step completely.

How Can I Tell What Kind of Grass I Have?

Premixed cold-season grass seed mixtures usually contain a variety of species, rather than a single type. Besides reviewing the types of grasses that do well in your area, you can also determine the different species using some visual cues. Pay attention to the thickness, blade density and shape, and the color and softness of the grass. Most Northern homes have a bluegrass/rye/fescue mix, which forms a dense carpet. Most exhibit a folded vernation, meaning that the new blades are folded in the shoot, rather than being rolled. They also have a keeled leaf blade, a boat-shaped leaf that dips in at the center.

How Can I Purchase Quality Seed Mixes?

You can learn a lot about a seed mixture just by reading the back of the bag. The federal government requires seed sellers to print certain information about their products there—including the predominant grasses in the mix, any organic or inert matter, like mulch or fertilizer, included with the seeds, as well as any other plant seeds that might be mixed in, both harmless crops and noxious weeds.

Look for mixtures that contain a high percentage of pure seed. This means they'll have more actual grass seeds and less stems, dust, and other material. Also review the germination rate—a higher number here means that more seeds actually sprouted during commercial testing.

Along with proper fertilization, seed selection is the number one thing you need to prepare your lawn for spring growing.

About the Writer

Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner.  She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.

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