With Labor Day upon us, you might be starting to think about getting your lawn ready for fall, such planting seed.  While according to the University of Nebraska’s Turgrass Program 

The optimum time to seed cool-season turfgrasses in Nebraska is between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15, a week or two earlier as you move north to the Dakotas and a week or two later as you move south

This recommendation is based on the normal temperatures. However the weather pattern has not completely cooperated this fall, especially for the Central and Northern Plain States.  According to Fescue.com  

“ Cool season grass such as Fescue, germinate best when the soil temperatures are between 50° and 65° degrees F. These soil temperatures usually occur when the daytime air temperatures are between 60° and 75° degrees.

The High temperatures on Friday we well into the 80’s and 90’s with a few location around 100 for most areas east of the Rocky Mountains.

High Temperatures across the US on Friday, September 4 , 2015

                               High Temperatures across the US on Friday, September 4 , 2015

Even Saturday evening at 8 pm ET/7 PM CT, temperatures were in the 70’s and 80’s across the eastern two thirds of the country.

Evening Temperatures - Saturday September 5, 2015

                                             Evening Temperatures – Saturday September 5, 2015

However changes are coming as a system progresses out of the Inter-Mountain west and pushes a cold front well into the southern Plain States. This will bring rain and cooler temperatures that will be more favorable for cool grass seed planting in the northern Plain States Monday and Tuesday.

Afternoon High Temperatures on Tuesday September 8, 2015.

                                                          Afternoon High Temperatures on Tuesday September 8, 2015.

By Friday, much of the northern Tier of the US will be in the 60’s and 70’s for Highs.

Afternoon High Temperatures Friday, September 11, 2015.

                                                            Afternoon High Temperatures Friday, September 11, 2015.

So this weekend is a great time to choose your seed. There are several types of cool season grasses with two of the more popular being Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescue.

Comparison of Fescue to Kentucky Bluegrass

              Comparison of Fescue to Kentucky Bluegrass

There are pro’s and con’s to each. The University of Minnesota has some information to help make a good choice depending on your soil and personal preferences.  If you are planting seed, especially if you are establishing a lawn, extra care must be giving to ensure growth of your seed.

Some tips from the University of Nebraska’s Turfgrass program includes 

  • Water frequently enough to keep the top 0.5 to 1.0 inch moist, but avoid over-watering and saturating the area
  • Mowing should begin when the first few seedlings are tall enough to mow. Most wait too long to mow a newly-seeded turf, but it is better to mow early and often after germination. For lawn height turf, initially mow at 1.5 to 2.0 inches.  After three to four mowings, adjust the mower to the permanent mowing height of 3.0 – 3.5 inches.
  • Fertilize frequently after seeding, with the same starter fertilizer used prior to seeding, to encourage establishment. Apply the starter fertilizer at 1.0 lbs P2O5/1000 sq ft at four to six weeks after germination and again eight to ten weeks after germination
  • Weed control – In seedlings made very late in fall where the lawn is not fully established by winter, avoid applying a preemergent herbicide in early spring because it may damage late-developing seedlings.

But not everyone should plant a cool season grass. If you live in the south, cool season grasses will not survive the summer heat. Even those in the transition zone should carefully consider where planting cool season grasses. Plant Cool season grasses in areas that receive less direct sunlight, especially in the afternoon. Warm season grass which include St. Augustine, zoysiagrass, bermuda and buffalo grass have an optimum growth at temperatures between 80 and 95°F (27 to 35°C) (TheLawnInstitute.org

If you are in the warm season zones, the University of Florida Extension has some tips of how to Establish Warm season lawns.

Below is a map that highlights what areas  should plant cool and warm season grasses.

transition map


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The team at WxIntegrations will continue to provide relevant information and resources to help you better understand and prepare by incorporating weather impacts into your planning activities.

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