Q: Why is fall the best time to seed Kentucky-31 type grasses? I thought spring was best for seeds.
A: There are plants with seeds that germinate best in autumn and others whose seeds germinate best in spring. The tall fescues -- Kentucky-31 seed is just a named variety -- are "cool season" grasses. Their seeds prefer cool soil and even moisture to stimulate their germination. If you allowed your fescue to grow unmown, it would produce, ripen and disperse its seed in the fall.
You may notice that the large ornamental grasses have huge plumes right now. Those plumes, which everyone appreciates for their decorative value, are the seeds for those grasses.
Many grasses naturally produce seed in the fall. If you want a lush fescue lawn, sowing seed in fall is the best way to get one. If you are starting a new evergreen fescue lawn from seed, fall is optimum.
Make sure your soil is soft or well tilled. Add enough fertilizer for the area you plan to seed. All fertilizer packages have square foot measurements, so measure and buy the correct amount. Don't overdo fertilizer, it can burn the juvenile seedlings.
The same measurements apply to the amount of seed you need. Have your nursery supplier help, but don't overdo seed, either. Thick lumps of seeds may rot.
Buy an inexpensive hand spreader for small areas or a larger one to apply the seed properly to the ground. Use a thin layer of wheat straw to protect the soil and the seed and keep the entire area watered for at least 2 to 3 weeks.
If you want to overseed your existing lawn now, you should scratch up any bare spots, remove any weeds and sprinkle some seed, fertilizer and, perhaps if you need it, some granulated lime. Our soil tends to grow acid over time as rain leaches out nutrients, so adding lime -- do a soil test first -- can be done every few years.
Annual weeds are dying now, and your new seedlings should produce good growth through the mild fall weather.
Contact Pat Lea at firstname.lastname@example.org.