Cool season lawns, such as Prairie Nursery’s No Mow Lawn, are typically best seeded in late summer and early fall (Aug. 20 to Oct. 1). This allows time for the seed to germinate and the young plants to develop good root systems prior to the onset of winter. Fall seedings, compared to spring seedings, have much lower weed densities – since most weed seeds germinate in spring and early summer rather than in fall.
Unfortunately, construction and landscaping schedules do not always allow for seeding at optimal times. When sites are not ready for planting until late fall or winter, “dormant seeding” may be an option. Dormant seeding is defined as planting seed during the dormant season when germination will not immediately occur. The seed resides in the soil over winter, and germinates the following spring. Many cool season grasses do quite well when dormant seeded, and the fine fescues in Prairie Nursery’s No Mow Lawn Mix typically perform admirably in this regard.
Dormant seeding can be done on newly graded or tilled sites, as well as on weed-free open soil that has not been worked up in advance of seeding. Seed can also be scattered on frozen ground, or on top of a light covering of snow. Applying seed on crusted snow or frozen ground in windy locations in not recommended, as the seed can blow away prior to its incorporation into the soil.
Seed that is scattered on un-tilled open ground will work its way down into the soil by means of a process called “freeze-thaw.” The soil thaws during sunny days in the autumn and early spring, and then freezes at night. This creates small fissures in the soil into which the seeds will fall. When the ground thaws again the next day, the seed is covered with a light layer of soil. Over a period of days, the seed will work its way down into the soil, where it will be well positioned to germinate in spring when the soil temperatures are optimal.
Dormant seeding is not generally recommended for slopes, temporary waterways, or other erosion prone sites. However, this problem can be overcome by installing a light duty erosion blanket over the area immediately after seeding. The soil cannot be frozen when seeding and laying down the erosion blanket, as the blanket must be secured using six inch long staples that are pushed or hammered into the ground.
As soon as the soil warms up in spring, the No Mow grasses typically germinate quickly and begin to hold the soil. They also reduce weed growth by consolidating their territory before many weed seeds germinate. By following these simple, but critical steps, you can achieve successful No Mow Lawn establishment using the dormant seeding method.