Planting Grass Seed in Indiana

by Dallas Piscopo

Selection of the best grass seed type is one of the most significant decisions to be made when creating a lawn. Because a lawn is meant to be long lasting, you have to choose a grass species adapted to your location and the expected level of management. The grass species chosen also needs to be capable of achieving the aesthetic requirements of the home owner. A lot of lawn complications are caused by the failure to deal with these matters during the grass selection process.

In Indiana, just a few types of grass are useful for home lawns. The suggested species include: Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and fine fescue.

Kentucky Bluegrass

The primary grass selected and planted in Indiana, specifically in the colder regions of the state is Kentucky Bluegrass. It is considered the best quality turfgrass and makes a fine textured lawn. It includes the ability to fill-in damaged parts without needing to reseed. Bluegrass is additionally a lot more winter-hardy compared to the remaining lawn types used in Indiana. Newer varieties will be more resistant against diseases. It performs best in full sun, but could be mixed with a fine fescue to use in shady areas. Bluegrass might need one to three months to germinate and establish, based upon site conditions. It makes an outstanding athletic field. Bluegrass could be seeded or sodded for establishment.

Good soil preparation is very important when planting Kentucky bluegrass seed.  (Visit the soil preparation and planting grass seed page for detailed instructions.)  September is the best time to plant bluegrass seed because of warm soil temperatures and low weed competition.

Plant at 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet or 1.5 pounds per 1,000 square feet for over-seeding projects. Kentucky bluegrass grows best when mowed at a height of 2 to 3 inches and for low maintenance lawns should be fertilized twice a year.  One pound nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in September and another application at the same rate in November.  One more pound of nitrogen in late April or early May is recommended.  (Click here for more information on grass fertilizer.)

Perennial Rye grass

The majority of the perennial ryegrass used in Indiana lawns is usually blended with a Kentucky Bluegrass variety. Its quick establishment time frame works well with the reduced establishment time of Bluegrass. It’s also a fine textured grass much like Bluegrass with good drought tolerance. Not necessarily as cold tolerant as Bluegrass but works for Indiana lawns.

Tall Fescue

Tall fescue has been used traditionally for a low-maintenance grass in places that a coarser texture is not a concern. Tall fescue can handle soils low in nutrients, grows well under low maintenance and features good tolerance to insects and diseases. Tall fescue seed germinates and establishes rapidly but a bit slower than perennial ryegrass. When fully established, tall fescue has outstanding wear tolerance and due to its deep rooting system, tolerates drought and will stay green for the duration of most Indiana summers without extra irrigation. Tall fescue seedlings will not be cold-tolerant and can die if planted too late in the season. However, well-established seedlings and fully developed lawns will withstand most Indiana winters.

The best time for planting tall fescue seed in Indiana is between Aug. 25 and Oct. 10.  Keep in mind that lawns seeded within a week of Labor Day are more likely to fill in completely for winter and produce a thicker, denser turf appearance for the following spring compared to lawns seeded in October.  Seed at 6 to 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet under a well prepared soil.

Tall fescue grows rapidly and needs frequent mowing, especially during the summer.  Mow frequently making sure not to cut off more than one third of the grass height which will prevent unsightly scalping of your grass.  Apply 1-1.5 lbs/1,000 sq ft of nitrogen in September and November and in May only apply one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Fine Fescue

Red, hard and chewings fescues are fine-leaved turfgrasses that are suited well for conditions of shade, low soil moisture, low fertility, and soils with unfavorable pH levels. The fine fescues will need well-drained and somewhat dry soils with minimal amounts of management. Extra applications of fertilizer, frequent irrigation or establishment on poorly drained soils can lead to a drop in quality and plant body. With ideal management, the fine fescues could make an attractive turf for your lawn. In Indiana, the fine fescues are seldom seeded by itself. Fine fescues are commonly found in mixtures with the other cool-season turfgrasses on low maintenance or shady lawns.


This grass can form an extremely fine-textured, dense and uniform high-quality turf whenever managed properly. Nonetheless, good cultural practices are really pricy and time-consuming, therefore very few homeowners can handle growing a bentgrass lawn. In general, bent grass can mostly be seen on golf courses, and isn’t suitable for home lawns. It doesn’t blend with Kentucky bluegrass and should not be part of a lawn seed mixture.

For detailed information on soil preparation and planting grass seed, click these links.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy May 3, 2014 at 1:12 pm

We’re in our 70′s, so we’re interested in an attractive, low-maintenance lawn. We don’t have the best growing conditions: we have about 1/2 acre with a lot of shade and we have clay soil. So far, all we have a lot of bare spots and some weeds. What do you recommend? And what you think of Zoysia grass? I liked what I read on other sites about its characteristics.


Sandy May 3, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I neglected to add we’re in zone 5.


Dallas Piscopo July 20, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Hey Sandy. Sorry for the REALLY late response but I had some problems with spam comments and now playing catch up. Zoysia grass is a warm season grass and may not suite your location best. I would look into planting a cool-season grass this late summer/early fall like a good fescue or even Kentucky blue grass. I hope I’m not too late providing this info but if I am what did you end up planting and how did it turn out?


Sandy July 23, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Hi, Dallas. Thank you. I really appreciate your reply. You’re not at all too late. We were waiting till August to plant. Will this Kentucky blue grass work in the sun, as well? Or should we get a mix for sun and shade?


Dallas Piscopo July 27, 2014 at 8:36 pm

No problem Sandy and glad I can help! Yes Kentucky Bluegrass will grow just fine in the sun but if it is a highly shaded area, a fescue grass would be best. August could be just a tad too early to plant bluegrass as September is usually a better time. It may be OK but make sure it is not too hot.


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