With grass seed prices skyrocketing, you need to maximize your fall grass seed germination. Choosing the right seed and installing it at the perfect time are just two tips for grass seeding success. Find out everything you need to know to create a healthy and lush lawn.
When should I install grass seed in St. Louis?
Early September is recommended for grass seed installation in St. Louis. The warm soil, mild daytime temperatures, and cooler nights create favorable growing conditions. Warm soil helps with faster seed germination, while the cooler temperatures favor the cool-season grasses.
You also have the benefit of less weed development. And anyone who has ever tried to get seed to come up and grow vigorously enough to beat the weeds knows it’s a losing battle.
What is the difference between a blend and a mixture?
Most grass seeds planted are either blends or mixtures. Blends are a combination of two or more cultivars of the same species — think a tall fescue blend. While mixtures are a combination of two or more species of grass. These often consist of sun/shade combinations such as perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, and bluegrass.
Blends and mixtures are ideal for most lawns because they are often self-adjusting based on the environment. For example, in perennial rye and fine fescue mixtures, the fine fescue will thrive in the shade, and the ryegrass will tolerate the high-traffic areas.
Popular Grass Seed for St. Louis
Turf-Type Tall Fescue
Tall fescues originated in Europe and were introduced in the early 1800s as pasture grass. This remained its primary use until the late 1900s when variety Kentucky 31 was introduced. K31 was the variety that officially transitioned tall fescues from the pasture to the lawn.
Turf-type tall fescues are commonly planted and tend to be premium varieties. They are cool-season grasses that vigorously grow in spring and fall but are actively growing during the heat of summer as well.
These fescues are consistent performers with a rich, dark color. While they are not as coarse as the original K31, they are also not as thin as fine fescue or bluegrass – making tall fescues durable lawn grass.
They perform well from sun to shade and wet to dry. These fescues blend well with other varieties but are more heat, drought, wear, and disease tolerant than many others. Making it the top choice for most St. Louis lawns.
Kentucky may be known as the “Bluegrass State,” but this grass is actually native to Europe and northern Asia. It was brought to the U.S. to be used as pasture grass.
Kentucky Bluegrass is an attractive turf known for its emerald blue-green color and medium to fine texture. This cool-season grass prefers full sun and has a limited shade tolerance. It is self-spreading via rhizomes, forming the dense turf it’s known for. This also allows for its high wear tolerance.
As beautiful as Kentucky Bluegrass is, it is also high maintenance to keep looking its best. It’s slow to germinate, and most varieties have relatively shallow roots, which means a lower tolerance to heat and drought. It will often enter a summer dormancy leaving your luscious lawn brown.
When you read the seed label with the varieties of seeds, don’t be confused by fine fescue and fine-leaf fescues. They are not the same.
Fine leaf fescue is an older term for what is known today as the turf-type tall fescues.
Fine fescues are actually creeping red fescue, chewings fescue, hard fescue, and sheep fescue. These grasses have some of the narrowest blades of grass. This means they are not suitable for high-traffic areas or for the heat. They will often not survive sunny areas but are known instead for their shade tolerance. This is why they can typically be found mixed with turf-type tall fescues in shady lawn mixes.
Perennial ryegrass is something you’ll seldom plant on its own and is often found as part of a seed mixture. It has a fast germination rate and a high wear tolerance. It is commonly found on athletic fields along with bluegrass.
This grass withstands light shade but does best in mostly sun. It’s a shallow-rooted grass, but newer varieties have better heat and drought tolerance. Ryegrass forms a lush, fine-bladed lawn that maintains its color in winter. It is bunch forming and spreads by vertical shoots known as tillers.
Perennial ryegrass is not to be confused with annual ryegrass. Annual ryegrass is short-lived but fast to germinate. It is often found in landscape mixes to give quick cover and short-term erosion control for a single season.
Tips for Grass Seeding Success
Proper Grass Seeding Rates
Follow the recommended rates for the seed you purchased. Using too much can result in a lawn that is prone to disease and damage from stress. Using too little can result in a clumpy turf that is not aesthetically pleasing. Typical rates for newly planted areas are:
- Tall Fescues – 6 to 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet
- Kentucky Bluegrass – 2 to3 pounds per 1,000 square feet
If you are overseeding or are seeding in a shady area, use half the recommended rate.
The best way to get even dispersal is with a spreader. Adjusting your seeder to a low setting and making multiple passes in the opposite directions will help with even distribution.
Seed to Soil Contact
This is essential for excellent germination rates. Whether you use a slit seeder, seed after you core aerate, or simply use a leaf rake — the grass seed having contact with the soil is absolutely necessary.
Newly planted grass seed needs to be watered lightly, but often. Hot days may require running a sprinkler three times a day to achieve the desired germination. As the grass grows, gradually decrease watering to once a week if there is no rain.
Once your grass is actively growing, it will tell you when it needs additional water. Push down on the blades of grass. If they don’t spring back up quickly, then the grass needs water.
Mowing a New Lawn
You can begin mowing when the plants have reached 3 to 4 inches tall. Until that time, avoid all foot traffic on the newly planted grass.
Creating a luxurious lawn in St. Louis doesn’t have to be challenging. By following these simple guidelines, you will successfully achieve a lush, green lawn in no time.