When to Seed and Fertilize Cool-Season Lawns

Cool-Season Grass Characteristics:

Map of Cool-Season Grasses, Transitional Grasses and Warm-Season Grasses.

In addition to performing well in the northern part of the US, many cool-season grasses are well-suited to the transition zone in the middle of the country. They grow during the spring and fall, but turn brown and go dormant during dry, hot periods. Most cool-season grasses are bunching varieties, meaning they grow outward from the crown of the grass plant. These grasses have a finer texture than warm-season varieties.

Testing Your Soil

Before you plant new grass, perform a soil test. You can purchase a home test kit or send a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension office for testing. The results will tell you what to add to the soil to make it ideal for the grass you plan to grow. Adding the necessary amendments based on the soil test is important to create and maintain a successful lawn.

Seeding and Fertilizing Cool-Season Grasses

Whether starting a lawn from bare ground, overseeding an existing lawn or maintaining what you have, know when to start and feed the grass. You may have multiple grass types that require care at different times. If you buy a mixture or have a lawn with several grass varieties, know the types of grass that make up the blend.  To learn about the characteristics of different grass types, see Choose the Right Grass for Your Lawn.

Use the information below to learn when to plant and feed common cool-season grasses. The times listed are general and may vary by location and altitude. If you don’t find your grass type below, you may have a warm-season grass.

Bluegrass

  • Seed in early spring or early fall.
  • Fertilize in early spring (after a mild winter) or late spring (after a cold winter), late summer and fall.
  • Tip: Add small amounts of a shade-tolerant grass (such as fine fescue) or a wear-resistant grass (such as perennial ryegrass) to enhance a bluegrass lawn.

Fine Fescue

  • Seed in early spring, late summer or fall (spring plantings are at risk from hot and dry conditions over the summer).
  • Fertilize in early spring (after a mild winter), late spring or early summer (after a cold winter), late summer and fall.
  • Tip: Fine fescue can improve shady lawn areas or lawns that face very cold winters.

Tall Fescue

  • Seed in early spring or early fall (spring plantings are at risk from hot and dry conditions over the summer).
  • Fertilize in early spring, late spring or early summer, late summer and fall.
  • Tip: Tall fescue tolerates hot, dry conditions better than other cool-season grasses.

Perennial Ryegrass

  • Seed in spring, late summer or early fall.
  • Fertilize in early spring, late spring or early summer, late summer and fall.
  • Tip: Perennial ryegrass seed provides quick green – germinating in as little as five day

Warm-Season Grass Characteristics

Map of Cool-Season Grasses, Transitional Grasses and Warm-Season Grasses.

While warm-season grasses are suited for the southern part of the country, the transition zone in the middle of the country sometimes requires a mix of warm- and cool-season varieties. Warm-season grasses grow during spring and summer, but turn brown and go dormant during fall and winter. These varieties tolerate dry conditions. They have wide, coarse blades. Most warm-season grasses are creeping varieties, spreading by above- or below-ground runners.

Testing Your Soil

Before you plant new grass, perform a soil test. You can purchase a home test kit or send a soil sample to a local Cooperative Extension office for testing. The results will tell you what to add to the soil to make it ideal for the grass you plan to grow. Adding the necessary amendments based on the soil test is important to create and maintain a successful lawn.

Seeding and Fertilizing Warm-Season Grasses

Whether starting a lawn from bare ground, overseeding an existing lawn or maintaining what you have, know when to start and feed the grass. You may have multiple grass types that require care at different times. If you buy a mixture or have a lawn with several grass varieties, know the types of grass that make up the blend.

Use the information below to learn when to plant and feed common warm-season grasses. The times listed are general and may vary by location and altitude. If you don’t see your grass type below, you may have a cool-season lawn.

Bahia

  • Seed in spring or early summer (fall planting is possible in southern locations that don’t face cold temperatures).
  • Fertilize in early spring, late spring or early summer and fall.
  • Tip: Bahia has woody stems that look ragged if cut. Set your mower high enough to cut the grass blades rather than the stems.

Common Bermuda

  • Seed in spring or summer.
  • Fertilize in late spring or early summer and late summer or early fall.
  • Tip: Overseeding with perennial ryegrass in the fall can keep a common Bermuda lawn looking good over the winter.

Hybrid Bermuda

  • Seed in spring or summer.
  • Fertilize in early spring, late spring or early summer, late summer and fall.
  • Tip: Mow often in the summer to encourage new stems to develop. The stems weave together and will help your lawn resist weeds.

Centipede

  • Seed in mid-spring to mid-summer.
  • Fertilize in spring and summer.
  • Tip: Centipede is a relatively low-maintenance grass. You won’t need to mow or fertilize it as often as other types of grass.

Zoysia

  • Plant in mid- to late spring or early summer.
  • Fertilize in early spring, late spring or early summer, late summer and fall.
  • Tip: A reel-type mower will give the stiff blades of zoysia grass a clean, even cut. If you use a power mower, make sure to keep the blade sharp.