How to dormant seed your lawn

Photo by elenathewise, 123RF November 22, 2021

Missed the pre-frost window to establish new grass from seed?

You still can prep your lawn for spring once the soil cools down. Overseeding your lawn is one of the best ways to prevent weeds and improve grass coverage.

Putting seed down after fall “warmth” is over gives the seed a chance to move into the soil layers, where they will rest until spring. The seed will sprout in the spring when ground temperatures are great for germination, and soil microorganisms are actively delivering nutrients to young seedlings.

Steps to overseed in late fall

Wait until the ground is cool enough to prevent germination (perhaps after Nov 1st in Maryland).If your local garden stores are not carrying seed through the late fall and winter, many will gladly order it for you.

The seeds need good contact with soil, so you’ll want to pull aside leaves, cut your dormant grass low, and scratch the soil surface, aerate, or seed slice before adding seed. This ensures grass seed can touch soil and fall deeper into the soil with freeze/thaw cycles. Any grass clippings or leaves you pulled aside to prep the soil for seeding should ideally be pulled back across the surface, and mowed into smaller pieces so they can naturally fertilize the lawn.

In spring, you’ll have a new flush of grass growth, and can fill in small areas where dormant seeding did not succeed!

By Mary Travaglini, Sustainable Landscapes Manager, DEP


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7 comments on "How to dormant seed your lawn"

  1. Barbara Kolb says:

    I have sown grass seed but it has not sprouted due to the early cold. The grass is now tall and leaves are coming down (lots of oaks). Can the lawn be cut with the mowers used by lawn companies?

    1. jjones says:

      Thanks for asking!

      When did you sow your seed? That can help us with your question a little more, but timing and weather can always be tricky. Yes, you can go ahead mow the lawn now, there will be no damage to any seed you sowed. Hopefully your grass seed will sprout for you in spring if little critters like birds have not eaten it up in their fall feeding frenzy. If you do not get fresh grass this spring, you can do a spring seeding.

      Ideally have your lawn company “mulch” the oak leaves back into the lawn by chopping them into small pieces and leaving them behind. This can be done with a mulching mower, or multiple passes across the leaves.

  2. Barbara Kolb says:

    Thank you. I think the seed was sowed 11 days ago. I don’t see any germination.

  3. Craig says:

    Is it effective to sow grass seed just before a snow fall?

    1. mary says:

      Craig, if you follow the directions for dormant seeding, it should not necessarily be a problem, but if there is going to be a very hard freeze or a lot of ice, there could be a risk of the seed being damaged from the harsh cold. Let us know if you do, and how things sprout in the spring!

  4. Jesse says:

    Does this work with species such as clover, as well?

  5. Danish says:

    Dormant seeding is a method used to sow grass seeds during the dormant period of the lawn, typically in late fall or winter when the soil temperatures are cooler. This allows the seeds to lay dormant until favourable conditions in spring promote germination. Here’s a step-by-step guide to dormant seeding your lawn:
    Dormant seeding

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