How late can I put down grass seed in eastern Mass.

shekieOctober 24, 2012

Just joined the forum, new home owner, we are finally down to dirt after battling bittersweet vine since we moved in May, and would like to put down grass seed. I live in Burlington, MA and I've gotten contradictory advice from local garden centers as to whether it's too late in the season to put down seed. Of course the garden centers still carrying seed recommend putting it down now, those without anymore seed are urging me to wait until spring.

Please chime in as to whether it is too late or if I can still seed last week of October and not waste my time and money. Thanks.

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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

I seeded mid-October last year. It was slower to come up, but it did eventually, and, with the mild winter, it had time to get a foothold. Now it's lush and green. Having said that, however, it might be a bit late to be sure of good results now. If the weather stays mild it may have time. It's a tough call but overall I'd say wait until April if you can.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:07AM
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molie(z6 CT)

Shekie--- welcome to the NE forum and congratulations on your new home! I know it's a real battle to fight and then win against bittersweet. Definitely there are many folks with much more landscaping experience, but here's my 2-cents worth. I'm guessing it's too late to plant grass. You could put down seed, hoping it will stay in place for next spring, but it may wash or blow away--- especially if that storm I'm hearing about does hit New England!

We live along the coast in southern CT and had to plant a small grass area in the back yard where it's very sunny. My DH put seed in at the end of September, and it took a long time sprout because temps were cooling down. He expects to reseed in the spring.

I'm wondering if there's a cover crop you could put down now--- something that will enrich the soil and can be tilled in next spring before you actually plant the grass. One of my former neighbors planted something (?) like that and then turned it over. His grass was magnificent and thick when it came up. Maybe another member of the forum has a better answer for you.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 12:18PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Shekie: As far as I know Burlington, MA is Zone 5 and inland. I agree with the first two posters that you're better off waiting until spring, and all three of us are Zone 6 in coastal locations, i.e., warmer than Burlington with longer fall seasons.

Hopefully some Zone 5 people will respond.

Can you mulch the exposed soil with something to keep it from washing away? Leaves are always good and the trees are generous now.

"Dormant seeding" is probably what you'd end up with if you seed now - grass seed that sits and waits until spring and then sprouts. This works fine if the birds don't get it and the rain/snow melt doesn't wash it off. For dormant seeding, though, you want to wait until it's colder so the seed doesn't sprout and immediately get frozen to death.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 4:42PM
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You might consider planting a fast-growing cover crop now and turning it under in spring... although spring-planted seeds always have to compete with crabgrass, which is one reason fall planting is so much easier.

I very recently planted some small patches - about 3 x 3 feet each. I covered the seed with a thin layer of paper weighed down with bricks. I'm hoping this will keep just a bit more warmth in the soil at night, and keep the moisture constant. It does stay warm here much longer than in zone 5, though.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 9:12PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I would say it is late to plant grass seed, but do you have a lawn size area that is bare ground? I am wondering about soil erosion over the winter.

When they recommend sowing grass seed in the fall, they are thinking that if you sow the seed in early September, then you have some nice cool weather for the seed to germinate and the grass to start to grow, and potentially more rain then at other times. Right now, we could get lingering fall like weather, but you would be taking a chance that winter starts on time and you would waste your seed and have to do it over in the spring.

Congratulations on taking care of bittersweet, that is a big job. And welcome to the forum!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 3:19AM
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