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Cool Season Lawns - Seeding and Not Seeding

by Allyn Hane 02 Oct 2019

With the crazy weather around the country this week, for some of you, it may be time to call “no joy” and look for a different strategy.

For others, you may just need to hold the line for a few more days until relief comes.

Is It Time To Call No Joy?

From military aviation. A pilot reports "no joy" when an attempt to establish visual or radio contact with another aircraft is unsuccessful; or when an attempt to acquire a target - either visually or on tactical radar - is unsuccessful. (source)

I’m looking at you folks who have been hammered with heat and dried out like the desert the last month or so.

Now I’m seeing record highs set this week yet again.

From this report:
On Tuesday, all-time October record highs were set or tied in more than a dozen U.S. cities. This included Cleveland; Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Indianapolis and Evansville, Indiana; Syracuse, New York; New Orleans; Montgomery, Alabama; Paducah, Kentucky; Blacksburg, Virginia; and Tallahassee, Florida.

Let’s start with you folks up into the midwest, east, and north who have cool-season turf.

I’ve Seeded Weeks Ago and Can’t Keep Up With Watering

This is a tough one, I know. You aerated and overseeded in early September, following along with historic temps based on the Greenecast Tool.

However, this heatwave has been more than we expected and life happens (back to school, work trips, busy schedules) and your watering has tapered off to the point where now you are wondering if your seeding efforts are completely wasted.

And listen, I totally get it, this has been more than any of us expected.

Sure, you were ready to go all firehose on that lawn for a couple of weeks - waiting for fall time cooler temps and rain to come in and give you some backup.

I’ve been saying “just wait y’all, keep watering, because at some point, you will get 2-3 days of good rain and all of the sudden ‘BAM!!!’ all of your seed will come up overnight.”

Guess what? I stick by that.

If you will remember back a few weeks ago, I wrote a Lawn Care article that I thought was pretty poetic personifying grass seed and the process of DIYers like us trying to grow it.

I mentioned that the seed is cautious in that even if you hit it with what you think is “a lot of water” early on, it doesn’t believe you at first.

Instead, it waits to germinate. It wants to make sure that the moisture it’s feeling is going to be a little longer-term and not fleeting or temporary. The grass is patient, unlike you and me!

Do You Imbibe?

Scientifically speaking, the term for this is “imbibition.”

Definition: a special type of diffusion when water is absorbed by solids-colloids causing an enormous increase in volume. Examples include the absorption of water by seeds.

Basically, your dry grass seed has to get wet enough, long enough for it to imbibe on enough water to literally make it blow out that hard shell or what we call “germination.”

If you are as old as me, I’m sure that you personally, may have experienced a few blowouts from overindulging or from too much “imbibition” on a Friday night out with friends.

Back to our grass seed, I can promise you, it doesn’t over-imbibe all the time. In fact, grass seed has had thousands of years to perfect its growth habit and even in years like the one we are experiencing, it is patient and doesn’t always over-imbibe early on.

Did you know that grass seed “in the wild” can remain in the ground for years before conditions are just right, and it imbibes just enough that it finally germinates and grows?

Key being: your job is to still just keep watering as much as you can - keep that soil moist. At this point, it’s not about the grass seed that hasn’t germinated, yet.

It’s more about keeping the soil moist enough (and soft enough) so that when you do get rain next week, and a good amount of your seed comes up from the rain and cooler temps, it has the best chance of rooting in to survive what lies ahead.

Yes, I still believe a good amount of your grass seed is going to come up once these temps and the rain they bring hit you guys over the weekend and early next week:


First Frost Predicted?

The good news here is that if your seed didn’t germinate yet, that frost or freeze probably won’t affect and when temps get back to a more “normal” pattern late next week, you should be able to rest a little easier and reap some of the rewards of your hard work aerating and seeding.

Time will tell and we will continue hoping for the best but just to summarize: if you seeded already, just keep watering, help from rain and cooler temps are on the way!

In other words, hold the line.

What If I Did Not Seed Yet But Plan To?

If you have cool-season turf and have not seeded yet, you have a couple of options and this can get tricky for sure.

I’ll continue to talk through this in this newsletter here, as well as on my podcast, but you have the exact opposite problem as the scenario we just went through.

That being: many of you are now running up to the time when it’s too late to seed.

Remember, you need a good 45-day seeding window in order to have confidence that your seed can get down, watered, germinated, rooted, and hardened off before winter. 


If you saw the heat coming and waited, that is a good thing. However, it has lasted quite a bit longer than expected and now you have to consider your options.

  1. Now that we see mild temps coming in late next week, go ahead and aerate, overseed and run the Fall Lawn Care Strategy.
  2. Hold off and not seed at all.
  3. Hold off until just before winter and perform a “dormant lawn seeding.” (I’ll talk more about this on an upcoming podcast but the linked article gives you some good info to chew on)

It will be up to you to check on the weather window and decide if you have enough time to get a successful seeding in now, or maybe just decide to call “no joy.”

One tip that may help you: if your window is shortened, consider using a grass seed that is much heavier in perennial rye.

By far, ryegrass germinates quicker and establishes faster than Turf Type Tall fescue and much much faster than Kentucky Bluegrass.

I’ve seen perennial rye show itself in as little as 3 days which can really shorten your window when KBG still takes up to 21 just to show signs of life.

What If I am Not Seeding?

If you are calling “no joy” and have decided not to seed this fall in your cool-season lawn, then the extended summer-like temps have afforded you an extended invitation to apply fall pre-emergent application(s) to stop pesky weeds like poa-annua (annual bluegrass).

Remember above how I talked about seeds that can sit in the soil dormant for years?

Annual bluegrass is one of those, and these record-breaking heat spells followed now by a cooling trend and lots of rain to come - may just awaken some nasty beasts that have been lying dormant.

One thing is for sure, when we have extreme weather events (record-breaking heat late, hurricanes, deep deep freezes) it changes the natural course of things and allows sleeping giants to awaken.

I’m predicting a pretty bad poa-annua outbreak next season in early spring.


If you have not gotten your fall pre-emergent yet, it’s definitely not too late.

Apply 4 lbs/1,000 sq ft right away and water it in. The added potash will also help your lawn with heat stress recovery. Full video instructions here.

What If I Seeded and Was Successful?

I know I tend to concentrate on just the folks having trouble and I do that too often.

I know that many of you have had a great go of it this year and are sitting back basking in the success!

I salute you and hope that your stories of winning the war will inspire others to keep going!

Speaking of success, I threw down some 8-1-8 XGReeN yesterday on one part of my lawn, and some CarbonX on another.

Can’t wait to share those vids with you since it’s been over 4 months since I last applied any kind of Nitrogen fert to my lawn. (Florida fert blackouts)

That said, those are two awesome ferts to consider if you want something funky-fresh that is packed with bio-char infused chicken manure that delivers micros in a slow-release fashion, naturally.

Here is a video where I explain why I like the Carbon Earth products so much.

If you have cool-season turf and it’s been mowed at least twice or about 35 days since it sprouted, you can begin regular feedings now.

XGReeN is great for a slow, sustained feed. Small prills so be sure to start on a VERY low setting so you don’t waste it.

CarbonX has much larger prills and is easier to see but is tougher to spread out of cheap spreaders, just an FYI.

You also have the option of the 18-0-1 Greene Punch if you like liquid and I’m hosing down my Zoysia with that and a shot of 7-0-0 Greene Effect today right after I finish this email.

Lots of fun stuff coming up on the channel here as we bring in the fall time and get ready for Halloween Lawn Domination 2019.

With that, I hope that you have a great week and trust me, things are going to be all good with your lawn.

This has been a rough season here lately but the one thing I know above all else is that grass is very resilient and can grow just about anywhere.

The good news for your grass is that it has you to care for it and help it along, even during these periods of heat and drought.

I’ll see you in the lawn!

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