How and when to plant grass seed based on where you live

Someone holding a handful of grass seed.
Planting new grass seed can help liven up a lawn, and is simple to do by yourself. Laura Yurs/Getty Images
  • Choosing the right grass seed depends on the climate where you live.
  • Plant in the fall if you’re in the north, late spring for the south, and either season in middle America.
  • Watering your planted seeds about four times per day is the key to helping your grass grow.
  • Visit Insider’s Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories.

Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a new home owner just learning about lawn care, planting new grass seed is a simple way to get the lawn you’ve been hoping for. Although sowing grass seed is fairly straightforward, there are some tips you should follow in order to have the lawn of your dreams.

Finding the best grass seed for you

Pile of grass seed.
It’s important to choose a grass seed that works with your climate and yard type. Imagesbybarbara/Getty Images

Before you start planting grass seed, you need to identify the type of grass that fits with your climate. You might be tempted to match the grass you already have, but that process is tricky, according to George Bernardon, vice president of grounds management at SSC Services for Education, which provides landscaping services to schools.

“Instead, choose a grass variety or blend of grasses that work for your region and stick with it,” Bernardon says. “Even if it does not match the variety of your current grass, you can transition in a couple of years with consistent seeding.”

There are two categories of grass seed, and you should choose based on where you live:

Region Category Grass types
North of the mid-Atlantic Cool-season grasses Bentgrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Fine Fescue
Southernmost states (Georgia through Arizona) Warm-season grasses Bahia, Bermuda, Centipede, St. Augustine, and Zoysia

In the transition zone, which stretches through the middle of the country from the Appalachian states through California, you can plant either cool-season and warm-season varieties of grass. Bermuda and buffalo grass are warm-season grasses that grow well in the transition zone, while Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass are cool-season varieties that do well there.

Once you’ve identified your climate, consider the following characteristics of your yard:

Shady or sunny: If you have a shady yard, try creeping fescue seed for a cool-season zone or zoysia in a warm-season zone.

Wet or dry: Use tall fescue mix in dry or drought-prone areas of the North, and Fine Fescue for wetter areas. In the south, opt for buffalograss seed to stand up to drought and centipede grass seed for a hearty year-round plant that can handle moisture.

Lots of foot traffic: If you plan to be on your grass often, choose a variety that can stand up to wear-and-tear. Ryegrass is a great hardy grass for cooler climates, while Bermuda grass will hold up to lots of use in the south.

When to plant grass seed

A person using a seed spreader to plant grass seed
Using a seed spreader can ensure seed is spread evenly. Robin Gentry/Getty Images

The ideal time to plant grass seed also depends on your location. Bernardon recommends inserting a meat thermometer about one inch into the soil. When the temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to plant.

Cool-season grasses are planted in the fall, when the soil temperature dips below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, says Craig Elworthy, founder of Lawnbright, a lawn care subscription service. If you’re in the northern US, aim to plant your grass around Labor Day.

If you’re in the transition zone, the best time to plant grass depends on what variety of seed you’re planting. Plant warm-season grasses in the early summer when the soil temperature reaches 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and cool-season grasses in September and October when the soil temperature has dipped below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you miss your ideal planting window, your grass may or may not still take, Bernardon says. If you want to be sure of good growth, you might opt to wait until next year.

How to care for grass seed after you’ve planted it

Seeds sowed amid green grass.
The most important part of caring for grass seed after its planted is to water it frequently. Faba-Photograhpy/Getty Images

Once your seed is on the ground, the most important thing to do is water it regularly, says ​​Elworthy. He recommends watering grass seed four times a day: in the morning, around noon, and twice in the afternoon. Water for eight to 10 minutes at a time, and avoid watering at night, he says.

Other than that, the key to growing grass is to stay patient, according to Elworthy. Some seeds take up to three weeks to sprout. While you wait for your seed to take hold, don’t mow or walk on it for the first month.

Insider’s takeaway

Although planting grass seed is relatively simple, timing is everything. Before you plant your grass seed, test your soil and add any needed fertilizers and nutrients. About two weeks after that is done, you’re ready to start planting. Before you scatter seed, take a few minutes to loosen the soil so that the seeds will come into direct contact with loose dirt. Once you’ve planted the seed – using a hand spreader tool to get an even spread – the most important thing you can do is water your grass seed four times each day. From there, it’s just a matter of time until your grass grows.

“As long as you’re watering on schedule and you’ve seeded at the right time, you’ll get results,” Elworthy says.

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