Planting grass seed in West Virginia should be done between August 15 and October 1. Seeding in the late summer/early fall provides warm soils and cool temperatures, creating a good environment for seed germination. Grass can be established in the spring and early summer, but weeds will pose a problem. Planting grass in late summer or early fall will produce thicker and denser lawns. Lawns seeded within a week of Labor Day are more likely to fill in completely for winter, producing a thicker turf appearance for the spring compared to lawns seeded in late fall.
Below are the most commonly used grasses planted or seeded in West Virginia…
Kentucky Bluegrass is considered the best quality turf grass for cooler climates and makes a fine textured lawn. It has the ability to fill-in damaged areas without any need to reseed. Bluegrass is also much more winter-hardy compared to other cool-season grass varieties. Newer varieties will have better disease resistance. 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. Bluegrass could be seeded or sodded for establishment. Plant Kentucky bluegrass at 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet, or 1.5 pounds per 1,000 square feet when over-seeding. Mow at 2 inches to 3 inches.
Perennial ryegrass used in West Virginia lawns is usually blended with a Kentucky Bluegrass variety. The quick establishment properties of rye grass work well with the fast establishment times of bluegrass. Its texture is similar to bluegrass, and it has good drought tolerance. Rye grass isn’t necessarily as cold tolerant as bluegrass but works well in West Virginia lawns. Seeding rate should range from 8 lbs to 12 lbs per 1,000 square feet.
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 remains green for the duration of most West Virginia 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 either bluegrass or fine fescue and should not be used in the colder regions of West Virginia.
Tall fescue grows rapidly and needs frequent mowing, especially during the summer. Mow frequently, making sure not to cut more than one third of the grass height. This prevents unsightly scalping of your grass. Seed at 6 to 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet on top of 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 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 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.
Follow these links for detailed information on soil preparation and planting grass seed.