Ideal time to plant grass: mid-August to mid-September

Now is the ideal time to plant grass, and it’s a good time to think about what constitutes a good lawn. What do you see here? A weedy lawn or a pretty groundcover? (Those yellow flowers, whether weed or groundcover, are trefoil.) Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


bee on trefoil flower
I think the trefoil flowers in my lawn are pretty, plus they attract pollinators. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

The best time to plant grass is from mid-August to mid-September, said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.

By the time the seeds sprout, the cooler, wetter autumn weather will be here and you won’t have to water as much.

Don’t plant grass seed in late September or in October because the seed will sprout, but then die in cold winter temperatures. If you miss the late summer/early fall window of opportunity, wait until November and use the dormant seeding method.

You can also wait until very early spring. You can plant grass in the first half of April– even earlier if the weather is mild, Farfaglia said. However, you have to wait until the ground isn’t wet and muddy. It’s not good for the soil to rototill it or even rake it when it is wet. So even if the air and ground is warm enough to plant grass in April, you may not be able to do it because the soil is too wet.

The worst time to plant grass seed is in summer, he said. Grass needs moisture, and it’s difficult to keep the grass seed and sprouts moist enough during the summer. (Heck, I couldn’t even keep my containers watered enough this summer!) In addition, the grass gets stiff competition from weeds during the summer.

So if you want to plant grass, now is the ideal time to do it.

Whether you need information on starting a lawn from scratch or maintaining your lawn, you’ll find everything you need at Cornell University’s Turfgrass site. Find the section on lawns here.

Browse through the articles and videos there and you’ll find many that discuss how to prevent weeds as well as how to manage weeds.

They also encourage something you may have never considered: tolerating some weeds.

I define a weed as a plant I don’t want. Some people yearn for a “perfect” lawn with nothing but grass, but other people actually enjoy wildflowers in their lawns. Cornell suggests deciding which plants you can tolerate and which ones you want to get rid of, and learn how to deal with weeds without using pesticides.

At our house, my husband methodically pulls up every dandelion in our front yard because they spread so rapidly. If you catch dandelions early, they don’t get out of hand, plus digging them up gives him a chance to be out in the spring sunshine.

But we both enjoy the yellow flowers of trefoil. Not only are the flowers pretty, the foliage looks greener than much of the grass in our lawn right now. The flowers attract pollinators, too.

However, don’t be fooled by a pretty yellow spring flower called lesser celandine. It’s bad for your lawn and bad for our wild areas.

What do you think? Should a lawn contain grass only, or do you allow other plants? Which plants can you tolerate and which do you want to eliminate?

Please leave a comment.

4 Comments on “Ideal time to plant grass: mid-August to mid-September

  1. The most optimal grass planting season for warm season grasses can be done in late Spring, specifically mid-March through April. Cool-season grasses for seeding a lawn in fall require ambient soil temperatures (60-70°F) to be able to germinate.

  2. Linda, I like that rule! Yes, a lot of gardeners are moving to creating garden beds in the space that used to be “lawn,” and there are a lot of good reasons for that.

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