Things to Know Before Dormant Seeding
Dormant seeding is an opportunity to prepare lawns in late fall or winter for germination in the spring. It has both benefits and drawbacks, which this blog post will explain. We’ll also discuss how to achieve successful dormant seeding for your customers.
Dormant seeding has many advantages. The timing means that weed, disease, and insect pressure are minimal at seeding. In shady areas, dormant seeding is helpful because it gives the seedlings a “head start” to grow before trees shade the area with their foliage in the spring.
Dormant seeding is also helpful from a labor and equipment perspective. Most crews have more availability toward the end of fall, so it’s easier to complete a seeding project then. It’s also easier on the ground, which is more firm toward the end of fall than in the spring. That means the seeding equipment will do less damage.
Dormant seeding can result in better germination than spring seeding because it allows more time for seedlings to grow before facing summer conditions. It also allows the seed to work its way into the soil more through winter freeze/thaw cycles. This process improves seed-to-soil contact and, therefore, germination. Compared to spring seeding, dormant seeding requires less (if any) irrigation.
Despite its benefits, there are some risks associated with dormant seeding. One is the need to use more seed, which is the recommended practice for dormant seeding. While the higher seeding rate is important, it does make the project more expensive.
Another risk with dormant seeding is the chance of an unusually early warm-up in the late winter or spring, followed by a cold snap. These rapid temperature changes could cause premature germination and then seedling death.
Though dormant seeding can provide better results than spring seeding, it typically doesn’t do as well as early fall seeding. Keep that in mind when planning your seeding projects and determining what is doable for your crew.
Lastly, consider the risk of erosion when planning a seeding project. If the area you’re seeding has bare soil and a slope greater than 3%, it’s probably best to avoid dormant seeding. You won’t have to worry about erosion over the winter that way.
If you decide to dormant seed any of your properties, follow these recommendations to make the project as successful as possible. First, prepare the seedbed properly, as you would for any other seeding project. Good seed distribution is important for seed-to-soil contact and eventual germination.
As mentioned, erosion is a concern with dormant seeding because of how long you need the seed to stay in place before it can germinate. Straw is a good idea to minimize erosion, especially on bare soil. Cover the soil and seed with a layer of straw for the winter.
Like other seeding projects, starter fertilizer is still helpful for dormant seeding. However, you should wait to apply it until near the time of germination next spring. As for broadleaf weed control, you can apply products such as FMC Quicksilver or SquareOne seven days after the seedlings emerge in the spring.
To determine what seed to use for your dormant seeding projects, browse our seed selection and consult your ATS rep on what’s best for the lawns you service.