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Fall and Winter Seeding for Cool-Season Lawns

by Gabby Hyman, All About Lawns Columnist

Residents of the lower Midwest, West Coast, and Southern-tier states work hard keep their lawns green all year, while homeowners in states that get freezing temperatures and snow worry every fall about getting seed into the soil in time for winter. If you have cool-season grasses and live where the winter is cold, late October may be your last chance to over-seed damaged lawns to help them recover from stress or disease come spring.
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Here are some time-tested steps to follow in bedding down a northern lawn for the winter:
  • Mow until the lawn ceases growing altogether.
  • Aerate the lawn if you haven't done so in two years or more.
  • Scoop the last trimmings and fall leaves from the surface of the lawn.
  • Test your soil and add lime if the soil has been leached and now has a pH lower than 6.0.
  • Apply dormant seed so it makes direct contact with the soil or existing grass.

Do you need to cover the seed? If it's about to snow, you don't. Some homeowners like to cover the over-seeded lawn with straw to keep the birds off. Perhaps the most important step to follow is to water down the seed as soon as you're done. As your lawn settles into winter, you want the seeds moist and the soil damp -- but not soaked.

If you decide to add lime, bring the soil back up to a healthy balance at a pH of 6.5. By using lime in the fall, it allows the soil conditioning to occur through the dormant season. However, if you apply a winterizing fertilizer, don't use lime treatment for at least three weeks thereafter as it can neutralize the beneficial effects of the nitrogen food.

About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys,, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.

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