Planting Grass Seed in New Jersey

by Dallas Piscopo

Planting grass seed in New Jersey should be done between August 15 and October 1. Seeding in late summer/early fall provides warm soils and cool temperatures that create a good environment for seed germination. Grass can be established in the spring and early summer but weeds overgrowing your grass will be a problem. Planting grass in late summer or early fall will produce a thicker and denser grass lawn. Lawns seeded within a week of Labor Day are more likely to fill in completely for winter and produce a thicker turf appearance for the following spring compared to lawns seeded in late fall.

Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass is considered a high quality turf grass 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 New Jersey and should be planted in the colder regions. 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. (Never blend with a tall fescue variety.) 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. Plant at 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet or 1.5 pounds per 1,000 square feet for over-seeding projects.  Mow at 2 to 3 inches.

Perennial Ryegrass

The majority of the perennial ryegrass used in New Jersey 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 can fit well in some New Jersey lawns. Make sure you select a good turf-type ryegrass variety. Planting rate should be between 8 and 12 lbs per 1,000 square feet.  

Tall Fescue

Tall fescue has been used traditionally for a low-maintenance grass in lawns where a coarser textured grass 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 New Jersey summers without extra irrigation. Tall fescue seedlings will not be cold-tolerant and can die if planted too late in the fall.  It is not as cold tolerant as bluegrass and fine fescue and should not be used in colder regions of New Jersey.

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. Seed at 6 to 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet under a well prepared soil. 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 New Jersey, fine fescues are seldom seeded by themselves. Fine fescues are commonly found in mixtures with the other cool-season turf grasses in low maintenance or shady lawns. Plant at  5 pounds per 1,000 square feet and maintain mowing height between 3 and 4 inches.

Zoysia Grass

Zoysia grass may be used in the southern coastal regions of New Jersey where weather may be slightly warmer compared to the rest of the garden state. Zoysia may be hard to establish at first 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. Keep in mind that zoysia grass will go dormant and turn brown in the winter. It is best to plant zoysia grass in late spring or early summer. The most common zoysia 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.

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

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