Ohio State University Extension Bulletin

Lawn Establishment

Bulletin 546


Time: The best time to seed a lawn in northern Ohio is between August 15 and September 15. In central and southern Ohio, the entire month of September is acceptable. Lawns seeded later in the fall may fail because the seedling turf has insufficient growth to survive the winter.

If seeding cannot be done by October 15 in northern Ohio or before October 30 in southern Ohio, postpone the job until spring. The earlier in the spring a seeding can be made (preferably March) the better the chances for success. Winter seedings (dormant seeding) made after November 15 in northern Ohio and after December 1 in southern Ohio will not germinate until the following spring.

Unfortunately, all lawns cannot be seeded during the recommended late summer/early fall period. Besides the summer survival risks associated with spring and winter seedings, these seedings also will be susceptible to heavy infestations of summer annual weeds including crabgrass, foxtail, barnyardgrass, pigweed and many others. Infestations of these summer annual weeds are greatly reduced in successful early fall seedings, since a good density develops before the weed seeds germinate the following spring.

Rate: Most people sow much more seed than is needed. The lower rate suggested in Table 1 is adequate if the seeds are distributed evenly. The higher rate will provide a more dense turf during the establishment period but does not substitute for other recommended practices in establishing the lawn. Normally, 15 to 20 seeds/square inch is adequate.

Table 1. Selected Lawn Grasses
Grass Blend
or Mixture
% by
of Lawn
Sun or
Amount of
Care & Cost
of Upkeep
Seeding Rate
(lbs/1000sq ft)
Improved Kentucky
Bluegrass Blends1
100%ExcellentSun Average to Above Average1-2
Improved Kentucky Bluegrass-
Improved Perennial
Good to Excellent Sun Average to Above Average 2-3
Improved Kentucky Bluegrass-
Fine Fescue2
Good to Excellent Shade Average2-4
Common Kentucky Bluegrass
Fine Fescue3
Fair Sun or Shade Below Average 2-4
Improved Kentucky Bluegrass
Improved Tall Fescue
Fair to Good Sun or Shade Average to Below Average 6-8
Improved Tall Fescue4100% Fair to Good Sun or Shade Average to Below Average 6-8
Bentgrass5 100% Excellent Sun High 0.5-1
1 A blend is a combination of 2 or more cultivars/varieties.
2 Where improved grasses are used in mixtures (a combination of 2 species like bluegrass and fine fescue), it is recommended that at least 2 varieties of each species be used. Use shade-tolerant bluegrass varieties if available.
3 Used for low maintenance lawns.
4 Use only improved tall fescue cultivars/varieties. Do not use "Kentucky 31" tall fescue.
5 Not recommended for home lawns because of high maintenance level.

Procedure: Sow seed evenly with a spreader. Plan to go over the area to be seeded twice, preferably in a different direction each time. With a low seeding rate, it is easier to get good distribution if something is added to the seed to make more bulk. Several materials such as sand or corn meal may be used. Starter fertilizer should be applied just prior to or after seeding.

The soil should be raked lightly to cover the seed with 0.1 to 0.3 inches of soil. If some seed can still be seen after raking, they have not been covered too deeply.

Apply a mulch after seeding to ensure optimum moisture conditions and reduce erosion. Straw applied in a thin layer is a very satisfactory mulch. Straw spread uniformly at 50 to 80 pounds (1-2 bales) over 1,000 square feet of seeded area is about the proper rate. When the job is finished there should be half soil and half straw when looking directly down on it. Most people apply straw too heavily than too lightly. If straw is applied at a rate higher than that recommended, one-half of the straw mulch should be removed when the grass is 1.0 to 2.0 inches tall. Piles of mulch caused by wind should be respread or removed to prevent smothering the young seedlings.

Rake in fertilizer as stones and trash are removed. Apply straw mulch.

On terrace slopes where erosion may be a problem, stake down burlap, cheesecloth, special netting, or other very thin cloth through which the grass can sprout. After establishment you do not need to remove this cloth.

A light lawn roller should be used to roll the mulch after it is applied, providing the soil is not too wet. The lawn should be irrigated and the surface kept moist. This usually means sprinkling the new seeding lightly at least twice a day, sometimes more often, depending on how hot the weather is and how often it rains. After the seedlings emerge and begin to establish, the interval between waterings can be lengthened provided adequate moisture is available for seedling growth.

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