Planting Grass Seed in Pennsylvania

by Dallas Piscopo

Plant grass seed in Pennsylvania between the dates of August 15 and October 1. Seeding in late summer or early fall provides warm soils, cool temperatures and autumn rains, creating a good environment for seed germination. Grass can be established in the spring and early summer, but you will contend with weed overgrowth.  Planting grass in late summer or early fall will produce thicker, denser grass lawns. Lawns seeded within a week of Labor Day are more likely to fill in completely by winter, producing a thicker turf appearance for the following spring.

A few common grasses planted in Pennsylvania are…

Kentucky Bluegrass

One of the most adaptable grasses for planting in Pennsylvania, especially in the state’s northern regions, is Kentucky bluegrass. It’s considered the best quality turf grass, making a fine textured lawn. It has the ability to fill-in damaged parts without any need to reseed. Bluegrass is additionally a lot more winter-hardy compared to the other varieties used in Pennsylvania. Newer varieties are more resistant to disease. It performs best in full sunlight, but could be mixed with a fine fescue for use in shady areas. Bluegrass may need one to three months to germinate and establish, based upon site conditions. It creates an outstanding athletic field. Bluegrass may 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 inches to 3 inches.

Perennial Ryegrass

The majority of the perennial ryegrass planted in Pennsylvania lawns is usually blended with a variety of Kentucky bluegrass. The quick establishment of ryegrass works well with the reduced establishment times of bluegrass. It has a fine texture that resembles bluegrass and good drought tolerance. It isn’t as cold-tolerant as bluegrass but can be suitable for many Pennsylvania lawns.

 Tall Fescue

Tall fescue has traditionally been used as a low-maintenance grass in lawns where coarser textured grass isn’t a problem.Tall fescue can handle low-nutrient soils, grows well under low maintenance and possesses good tolerance to insects and diseases. Tall fescue seed germinates and establishes rapidly, although a bit slower than perennial ryegrass. Once fully established, tall fescue has outstanding tolerance to wear. Due to its deep rooting system, tall fescue tolerates drought well and stays green throughout most Pennsylvania summers without needing extra irrigation.

Tall fescue seedlings aren’t cold-tolerant and can die if planted too late in the fall. However, well-established seedlings and fully developed lawns will withstand most Pennsylvania winters.

Tall fescue grows rapidly and needs frequent mowing, especially during the summer. Mow frequently, making sure not to cut more than one third of grass height. This prevents unsightly scalping of your grass. Click here for lawn mower tips. Seed at 6 to 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet under a well-prepared soil. Apply 1 lb to 1.5 lbs per 1,000 sq ft of nitrogen in September and November. In May, apply only one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Fine Fescue

Fine fescue varieties are fine-leaved turf grasses suited well for conditions of shade, low soil moisture, low fertility and soils with unfavorable pH levels. Fine fescues planted in sandy soils with good drainage grow best, so adding a layer of sand on top of your soil surface during soil preparation can support growth. Extra applications of grass fertilizer, frequent irrigation or establishment on poorly drained soils can lead to a drop in quality and plant body. With good management, the fine fescues will make an attractive turf for your lawn.

Fine fescues are seldom seeded alone. They’re commonly found in mixtures with other cool-season turf grasses for use on low maintenance or shady lawns. Plant seeds at 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Mow between 3 and 4 inches.

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

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Wes Snyder November 8, 2012 at 4:19 am

Can I plant Kentucky bluegrass / rye grass in mid November in northwest PA with straw?
If it does not germinate, will it come up in the spring?

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rick czyzewski March 19, 2014 at 12:11 pm

live in Delaware county pa.. what to plant in spring.. 600 sq ft…sun most of day..whats best seed to use and how much needed? best time to plant?

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Dallas Piscopo July 20, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Sorry for the REALLY late response but I had some problems with spam comments and now playing catch up. Good news is that there is still time for me to answer your question. For Pennsylvania, I would go with Kentucky bluegrass at about 3 lbs per 1000 square feet so that would be just about 1.8 lbs grass seed total for your 600 sq feet sunny location. Best time to plant will be sometime between August 15h and October 1st but keep in mind that lawns seeded within a week of Labor Day are more likely to fill in completely by winter. Good luck and let me know if you have any more questions. Send a photo or video of your results if you’d like.

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