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How to Plant Grass in the Fall

grass image by RUZANNA ARUTYUNYAN from

Intermediate and cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye grass and fescues can be planted in spring or fall but do best when started in fall. They germinate best as the soil temperature cools toward 60 degrees F; this coincides with the period when cool season grasses “perk up” in fall. Although warm season grass sod will be successful when laid when soil temperatures cool in fall, seeding coincides with the beginning of their dormant season and is not advised.

Cultivate the area to be planted with shovel and cultivator or a rotary tiller to a depth of about 6 inches. Break the soil into pebble-size pieces. Add 2 inches of well-rotted compost or manure and work it into the topsoil for a loamy, well-drained base.

Rake out the soil and pick out rocks and weeds. Level the soil with the back of the garden rake. Make sure that the soil drains away from buildings and toward drainage swales or storm drainage. Water well and let the soil settle for a few days.

Clear away any weeds that sprout while the soil rested and re-level the soil with your rake.

Cast the seed over the area with a hand or push spreader at the rate given in the directions; this will depend on the size of the seeds and may range between .25 and 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet of lawn.

Rake lightly over the seed with a broom rake or the back of your garden rake just to mix the seed with the soil a bit. Mulch the seeded lawn with a 1/4-inch mulch of straw, sifted compost or Canadian sphagnum peat to retain soil warmth and moisture against chilly nights.


Compost or manure amendments add all the nitrogen your new grass will need; begin regular fertilization next spring.

Sow cool season grasses beginning in early September. Seed sown after the first frosts of October may not germinate completely until the following spring.

Always use mixtures of cool season grasses because they are all “specialists.” Kentucky bluegrass prospers in sun but needs creeping fescue and perennial rye grasses to fill shady spots.

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