Planting your grass seed at the right time of year is just as important as how you plant it. If you don’t plant grass seed at the right time of year, you won’t get the best results. In fact, you might end up with seed that doesn’t germinate, grass that doesn’t survive, and (more to the point) wasted money. Today, I’ll explain when to plant grass seed in every state and growing region in the USA.
I’ll also give you tips about soil temperature, frost, and other environmental conditions you need to be aware of to get a good result when planting grass seed. Let’s dive in!
The Basics of When to Plant Grass Seed in Your Yard
Keep in mind that most states have a variety of different USDA zones within them.
You need to know your precise zone and whether you live in the northern or southern part of your state when deciding on which grass to use (and when to plant it). Some states may have both cool-season and warm-season grass areas.
Once you find out the precise USDA Plant Hardiness Zone for the part of your state where you live, decide on which grass would best suit your needs.
After you decide on your grass seed, find out when that particular type of grass seed should be planted in your region.
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Below is a general reference chart that you can use for figuring out when you should plant your grass seed. Keep in mind that this may vary, though.
When to Plant Grass Seed in Every State (chart)
|STATE||POPULAR TYPES OF GRASS||WHEN TO PLANT||USDA PLANT HARDINESS ZONE|
|Alabama||Zoysia, Bermuda, Ryegrass, Fescue||Between the middle of spring and summer||7a-9a|
|Alaska||Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrass, Creeping Red Fescue||Between late spring and summer||2a-3b|
|Arizona||Zoysia, Bermudagrass, St. Augustine||Spring or summer||5a-10b|
|Arkansas||Bermuda, Zoysia, Centipede||Between late spring and summer||6b, 7a, 7b, 8a|
|California||St. Augustine, Bermuda, Fine Fescue||Early spring or early fall||4b, 5a-b, 6a-b, 7a-b, 8a-b, 9a-b, 10a-b|
|Colorado||Kentucky Bluegrass, Ryegrass, Fescue||Early spring or early fall||3-7|
|Connecticut||Fescue, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||5b-7a|
|Delaware||Zoysia, Fescue, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||6, 7, 7b|
|Florida||St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Bermuda||Late spring or summer||8, 10, 10b, 11|
|Georgia||Fescue, St. Augustine, Zoysia, Bermuda, Centipede||Early spring or early fall||6-9|
|Hawaii||Zoysia, Bermuda, Centipede, St. Augustine||Early spring or early fall||10a, 10b, 11|
|Idaho||Kentucky Bluegrass, Buffalograss, Zoysia, Fescue||Early spring or early fall||3-7|
|Illinois||Fescue, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescue||Early spring or early fall||5a-7a|
|Indiana||Fescue, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||5, 5b, 6a, 6b|
|Iowa||Kentucky Bluegrass, Bentgrass, Fescue, Ryegrass,||Early spring or early fall||4, 5|
|Kansas||Fine Fescue, Tall Fescue||Early spring or early fall||5b, 6a, 6b|
|Kentucky||Kentucky Bluegrass, Bermuda, Tall Fescue||Early spring or early fall||6a, 6b, 7a|
|Louisiana||Bermuda, Centipede||Spring or summer||8, 9|
|Maine||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||3-6|
|Maryland||Tall Fescue||Early spring or early fall||5b-8a|
|Massachusetts||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||5a-7a|
|Michigan||Fescue, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||4a-6b|
|Minnesota||Fescue, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a|
|Mississippi||Zoysia, Bermuda||Between middle of spring and summer||7-9|
|Missouri||Fine Fescue, Tall Fescue||Early spring or early fall||5b, 6a, 6b, 7a|
|Montana||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a|
|Nebraska||Fine Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||4, 5|
|Nevada||Bermuda, Fine Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||4a-10a|
|New Hampshire||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||3-6|
|New Jersey||Fescue, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||6a, 6b, 7a, 7b|
|New Mexico||Bermuda||Middle of spring to summer||6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a|
|New York||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||5a, 5b, 6a, 7a|
|North Carolina||Bermuda, Fine Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a|
|North Dakota||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||2b-6a|
|Ohio||Fescue, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||5a, 5b, 6a|
|Oklahoma||Bermuda, Fine Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||6, 7, 6a, 7b|
|Oregon||Fescue, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||4b-9b|
|Pennsylvania||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||5b-7a|
|Rhode Island||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||5b-7a|
|South Carolina||Bermuda, Fine Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||7a, 7b, 8a, 8b|
|South Dakota||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||3-5|
|Tennessee||Fescue, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a|
|Texas||Tall Fescue, St. Augustine, Bermuda||Early spring, mid-spring, or early fall||6, 7, 8, 9A, 9B|
|Utah||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||4a, 4b, 5b, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a|
|Vermont||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||3b, 4a, 4b, 5a|
|Virginia||Fescue, Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||6a, 7a, 7b|
|Washington||Fine Fescue, Bentgrass, Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||4a-9a|
|Wisconsin||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||3, 4, 5|
|Wyoming||Kentucky Bluegrass||Early spring or early fall||3-6|
What are Cool-Season and Warm-Season Grasses?
Maybe you’ve heard the terms “cool-season grass” and “warm-season grass” and you’re not quite sure what they mean.
The answer is quite simple, and the grass growing zone map below will help guide you.
A cool-season grass is a grass meant for cooler and temperate climates. They are appropriate for northern states and some of the middle range of the United States.
If you have a cool-season grass, it will do most of its growing in the spring and fall months. It may go into dormancy during the dog days of summer, and when the snow flies it will be just fine as it waits for the weather to warm up again next spring.
If you want to plant a cool-season grass, you should usually do so in the early spring or early fall. That is because there is more moisture during those times of year, and the temperatures are ideal for the growth of these types of grass.
A warm-season grass is appropriate for southern parts of the United States.
Most warm-season grasses should be planted between the middle of spring and summer. The soil temperature will need to be at a certain level for the grass seed to thrive, and these tropical grass types grow best during the summer’s heat.
If you find that you live in the transitional zone, your unique micro-climate will dictate the best type of grass for you.
If most lawns in your neighborhood look best in spring and fall, you probably want a cool season seed, and if most lawns in your neighborhood look best during the summer (and you get really mild winters), go for a warm season grass that can handle some cool temperatures like Zoysia.
Examples of Cool-Season Grasses
There are many different kinds of cool-season grasses for you to choose from if you live in an appropriate region.
And the best grass seed for you to use may be a blend of different cool season grasses rather than a single type of grass.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular cool-season grasses used in the United States.
Kentucky Bluegrass is one of the best known cool-season grasses. You can use it in all northern states, including on the coasts.
One great feature of Kentucky Bluegrass is how well it deals with cold winter weather. Be aware, though, that certain kinds of Kentucky Bluegrass won’t withstand drought well, and they might start having trouble when there are stressors (such as too much foot traffic).
This turfgrass is known for its striking bluish-green, or emerald green, color. It can create an outstandingly beautiful lawn, as long as you give it the appropriate care.
One thing to keep in mind with Kentucky Bluegrass is that the traditional type has quite shallow roots, especially when compared to grasses like tall fescue.
When grass has shallower roots, it means it won’t withstand drought and hot weather as well as another kind of grass would. If you’re in the transition zone (in between the cool-weather and warm-weather zones), you may have trouble using Kentucky Bluegrass.
That is because of Kentucky Bluegrass’s relatively low tolerance to the heat and humidity you have in your region. You should plant Kentucky Bluegrass in the fall months.
There are both perennial ryegrass and annual ryegrass varieties. As implied by the name, perennial ryegrass comes back year after year. Annual ryegrass, on the other hand, only lasts one year.
Perennial ryegrass is a cool-season grass known for quick germination, as well as rapid seedling development. This kind of grass is hardy even in cold weather.
It can deal with light shade is necessary, but it prefers full sunlight. As this is a cool-season grass, it does most of its growth in the cool weather of fall and spring.
If you use perennial ryegrass, be aware it doesn’t have quite the same hardiness in cold weather as Kentucky Bluegrass.
Fall months such as October and November are ideal for planting perineal ryegrass on your lawn.
There are several different fescue varieties for lawns. Examples include tall fescue, fine fescue, hard fescue, and creeping red fescue.
Tall fescue blades are coarser and tend to clump more than other kinds of grass. If your lawn has a lot of shade, tall fescue should be able to deal with it. Fine fescue, on the other hand, has finer and shorter blades.
Hard fescue is an especially hardy variety of fescue. If you’re thinking about creeping red fescue grass, know that it has special stems that grow underground in a slanted direction.
Creeping red fescue is a great choice if you want a variety especially tolerant of shade.
The best time of year to plant fescue grasses is in the early part of the fall. In some cases, you can even plant it in late summer.
Examples of Warm-Season Grasses
If you live in a warm-season grass region of the United States, one or more of the warm-season grasses should be appropriate for your property.
Below are several popular warm-season grass varieties.
Zoysia grass is a popular warm-season grass that also grows well in some areas of the transitional zone. If you live in a warm-season region and want to use this grass, you should plant it sometime between mid and late spring.
Make certain that there is no chance of any other frost before you plant the grass seed.
In some locations, you can plant zoysia grass in the fall. You should ensure, however, that there will be at least two months until the first frost.
Zoysia grass is a versatile grass that has reasonable shade tolerance. This deep green grass has medium blade texture.
Another advantage of zoysia is its good disease resistance.
This type of grass also holds up extremely well to foot traffic. As a warm-season grass, zoysia grass has outstanding sun tolerance.
Centipede grass is another popular warm-season grass. If you want to have centipede grass on your lawn, you should plant it between late spring and early summer.
Remember that the soil will have to be a minimum of 70 degrees Fahrenheit before you plant this warm-season grass seed. If the soil isn’t warm enough, the seeds won’t germinate and you’ll have wasted money.
If you plant centipede grass seed, be ready to wait a bit longer than you might expect for germination and sprouting to happen. This is a slower growing variety of grass.
St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine is another well-known grass in the warm-season regions of the United States. It’s especially well-known in the Gulf region and Florida, as it does so well with humidity and heat.
If you want St. Augustine grass, be aware that you’ll either have to plant plugs, or install sod as you really can’t grow it from seed. But even from sod plugs, it will spread and establish quickly.
You should plant St. Augustine in the spring or summer. St. Augustine grass blades have a coarse texture.
This grass isn’t the right species for you if you want a warm-season grass with reasonable cold-tolerance. It does especially poorly in cool weather.
If you live in a warm-season region of the United States, you know how common Bermuda grass is and how quickly it spreads. If you want Bermuda grass on your lawn, you should plant it in the late spring.
Make sure there’s no chance of any more frost for the year. Wait until the daily temperature is in the 80s when you plant Bermudagrass.
It’s easy to plant Bermuda grass from seed, and this type of grass will establish quickly.
Tips for Planting Grass Seed
Of course, you must choose a grass seed that is appropriate for your region, and the light and soil conditions of your property.
You’ll also want to make sure you order and spread the right amount of seed for your job so you get good coverage.
I have a grass seed calculator you can use to make sure you have a successful lawn seeding project.
Once you have decided on that and you have reached the right time of year for your region for planting that type of seed, you need to get your lawn ready for planting your grass seed.
Use the Right Equipment to Prep Your Soil for Seed
If the space is large, you will probably want to use equipment like a rototiller to loosen up the top few inches (or even up to five inches) of the soil.
An iron garden rake, hoe or shovel might be enough if you’re dealing with a smaller space.
And another popular option is to get a good lawn dethatcher, which will loosen your lawn’s turf and remove dead organic matter without killing your existing lawn.
After you’re done, use a rake to get the soil smooth again. Get rid of any and all clumps and clods in the soil, using a rake.
Water the Soil
Once that is finished, lightly water the whole area. I always find that having damp (but not wet) soil helps with seed-to-soil contact and ensures more even distribution of seed.
This seed-to-soil contact will help you get quick germination at the best rate possible.
If you have a large property, you’ll probably need equipment for distributing the grass seed. For example, you might want to utilize a high-quality walk-behind broadcast spreader.
Use a Quality Starter Fertilizer
I also recommend spreading a good starter fertilizer for grass lawns with the ideal NPK ratio and a quick-release formulation to help your grass seedlings develop a strong root system right away.
A good starter fertilizer will help make sure that every single seed that germinates has a good chance of survival, which will get you excellent results.
This was a fall overseeding project, and the after photo was taken about three and a half weeks after seeding, just before our first mow.
The Starter Fertilizer I Use & Recommend
With a N-P-K ratio of 12-18-8 combined with humates to improve the availability of nutrients already in your soil, I use and recommend Jonathan Green’s Lawn Food for Seeding and Sodding.
It works really well and will help your grass seed to quickly establish itself with vigorous root growth.
Know Your Grass Seed
Read the instructions on the label of your grass seed bag to find out how much grass seed you need to apply for each square foot. You don’t want to put down too little or too much seed, though in my experience, going a little heavy will get you better results.
Again – if you’re not sure of your seeding rate, use my free grass seed calculator to dial in your seed order and save some money while getting good results.
Make the grass seeds as evenly distributed as possible. After you plant your grass seeds, you need to protect them and cover them up.
If you don’t, they will probably be eaten by birds. If there is heavy rain, they will also be swept away. Protecting them will also maintain moisture for the seeds.
Use a Light Layer of Top-Dressing or Mulch
You can use mulch to protect the seeds.
There are a variety of mulch types available. Some examples are peat moss, topsoil, compost, or straw mulch.
There are advantages and disadvantages with every one of these seed mulches.
My Thoughts About Different Seed Mulch Options
- Straw Mulch – It’s cheap, easy to find locally, and easy to spread. It works well to keep your seed protected and moist, but if you get the wrong type of straw there will be straw seeds in there and you’re basically adding some weeds to your lawn when you use it.
- Peat Moss – is excellent, but it’s messy to apply, and harvesting peat moss is pretty much universally known to be not-so-great for the environment.
- Screened Compost – is my favorite (and what I use), which is available to me for free (unless you count taxes) at my town brush dump and recycling facility. We’re lucky to have a great local composting program, and we can get as much of this black gold to use on our lawns and in our gardens as we want. You’re feeding the soil while keeping your seeds moist. Win-win!
- Topsoil – If you have a large space see if your local garden center will deliver a 50-50 blend of topsoil and compost. This will improve your soil quality and structure and is much better than the bagged topsoil you’ll find at your local box store. It can be difficult to move and spread, and it can be tough to keep the layer thin so some of your seed may get buried too deeply if you aren’t careful.
Some homeowners choose use biodegradable erosion mats, and these can work really well if you have the budget for it.
Whatever you use, I recommend that you only have a layer about a quarter of an inch thick covering your grass seed as protection. Bury your seed too deep and you’ll have problems with germination.
Be Patient and Follow-Through!
When waiting for your grass seed to germinate, remember what kind of grass seed you used. Many homeowners apply grass seed mixtures, so consult the label on the bags to find out how long germination will take, and be patient.
Some of the best grass types for lawns take the longest to germinate.
You need to consistently water your grass seeds after planting. Remember to do this several times a day at first. You want your seed to stay moist but not so wet that it rots or that water washes it into low areas of your lawn.
Once your lawn is established, give it the correct care for the type of grass you have. For many of us, this means 1-2″ of water weekly (some or all of which may come from mother nature).
You should also fertilize and aerate your lawn at the proper times of year to ensure good results.
Aeration is the process of putting holes in the soil to improve the structure of your soil, and allow water, light, and nutrients to penetrate your yard’s turf.
It’s one of the keys to a healthy lawn for most of us, and tackling this project annually or bi-annually is one of the easiest ways to improve your lawn.
The good news is that if you’re overseeding your lawn, running a core-aerator over it prior to seeding is ideal. The holes you’re punching in the soil will catch most of your seed, allowing your lawn to quickly thicken up naturally.
You use certain kinds of equipment for this process, such as a core aerator or spike aerator. You can rent one of these from the Home Depot or a local equipment rental store.
Different kinds of grass have different recommended mowing heights, so keep that in mind when setting your lawn mower. If you keep your grass too short or too long, it may lead to problems.
When you give your lawn the care it needs, you have the best chance of a beautiful outdoor space. You will be less likely to have problems with weeds, disease, or pests.
When to Plant Grass Seed (final thoughts)
While there are certain tips you can use for planting any kind of grass seed, you need to know the specific kind of seed you’re using.
That’s because each grass species has its own characteristics and needs. Make sure you know about those before you put down your seed of choice.
Use the chart I included earlier to find out when you should plant your chosen grass seed.
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