Planting Grass Seed in Kansas

by Dallas Piscopo

Cool season grasses like tall fescues, and some Kentucky bluegrasses are the most common grasses found throughout Kansas with the exception of the southern and western regions of the state, where bermuda grass, zoysia grass, and native grasses like Buffalo grass are most common.

Tall Fescue

Tall fescue is the most popular grass that you will find throughout Kansas lawns.  It is a cool season grass that greens up in the early spring and stays green until late fall.  Tall fescue is shade and drought tolerant and does not submit easily to disease pressure making it an attractive lawn in Kansas when seeded at the correct rate, mowed, watered and fertilized correctly.  Fine fescue varieties are more shade and cold tolerant and may be a better fit for colder areas of the state.

The best time for planting tall fescue seed in Kansas 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.  You want to seed in the late summer because the warmer temperatures accompanied with adequate water will promote good grass seed germination.  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.

Kentucky Bluegrass

This grass spreads by underground rhizomes and comes in many various forms with varieties that differ in color, texture, density, disease resistance and mowing heights.  Kentucky bluegrass grows best in well-drained, moist, fertile soils, and in full sun but will tolerate some shade.  With proper management, bluegrass can produce and lush, green beautiful lawn and that is why it is widely used in the northern half of the United States.  However, bluegrass is not as drought and heat tolerant as your tall fescues and warm season grasses and therefore does not grow as well during Kansas summers.

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.)

Bermuda Grass

This is a fine-bladed grass that grows aggressively and strongly bonds to the soil surface via surface runners with stolons and underground rhizomes.  All varieties require sun and should be cut as low as possible (Some hybrid Bermudas can be mowed at very low heights).  Bermuda grass looks best when thatch growth is managed well.  Because of its vigorous growth, bermuda grass is extremely drought, heat, salt, and traffic tolerant.  There are many seeded varieties of bermuda but all hybrid varieties must be established from vegetative plant parts (sod, stolons, and plugs), and not from seed.

If using a seeded variety, bermuda grass should be planted starting in mid-May and can be continued all the way up to July. Seeding rate should be planted at 1.5 – 2.0 pounds per 1,000 square feet. During the summer growing season, apply 2 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square for low maintenance lawns and for a darker and greener bermuda lawn, apply up to 4 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.  (Keep in mind that the more nitrogen applied, the faster bermuda grass will grow and the more it will need to be mowed.)

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass may be hard to establish because of it slow growth and having a long dormant season, but once established, it can make a wonderful fine-textured turf cover.  It can be established by vegetative parts and by seeds.  The most common zoysia grass is a low maintenance turf grass whose leaf texture is like that of bermuda grass and like bermuda grass, forms stolons and rhizomes. Mow at ¾ to 1 ¼ inch.  Zoysia leaves and stems are strong and rigid which enables it to handle a good deal of traffic when it is growing well during the hot summer season.  With little water required, zoysia grass can grow well during the summer because of it’s heat and drought tolerance.  It is more shade tolerant than bermuda grass but only in areas where it is warm year round.  Zoysia grass suits well with low maintenance lawns where slow establishment is not a concern.

Buffalo Grass

A true prairie grass with good heat and drought tolerance that is mostly established by vegetative plant parts but can be established by seed which are collected from female plants. Buffalograss is a fine textured grass that forms a dense turf with a light green color.  It is not tolerant to sandy or salty soils and will not grow in shade.  Buffalograss can be used for low maintenance lawns at 2500 to 7000 ft elevation and does not require a large amount of nitrogen or water.  If plenty of water is supplied, buffalo grass can be cut at 1 ½ inches but for a truly low maintenance lawn, mow at 2 ½ to 3 inches during summer months.

For step-by-step instructions on soil preparation and planting grass, visit the Planting Grass Seed page.

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