Planting Grass Seed in Wisconsin

by Dallas Piscopo

Wisconsin is located in the northern region of the United States. Most of your cool-season grasses will grow well in lawns, most notably…

Planting grass seed in Wisconsin can be done between the spring and fall months. Keep in mind that planting in the spring will bring a longer growing season to help lawns establish, but the summer heat and weeds may cause problems. Fall seeding minimizes the dangers of heat injury, but you’ll need about 6 weeks of temperatures ranging from 50° F to 70° F. 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 during the fall. You want to plant your grass seed in the late summer because, with sufficient water, the warmer temperatures will encourage good grass seed germination.

Kentucky Bluegrass

The primary grass selected and planted in Wisconsin, especially in the state’s northern regions, is Kentucky bluegrass. It 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.

Kentucky bluegrass planted in Wisconsin is often blended with perennial rye grass. 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 southern Wyoming lawns. 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.

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 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.

Bent Grass

This grass can form an extremely fine-textured, dense and uniform high-quality turf if managed properly. Nonetheless, good cultivation practices are both pricy and time-consuming. Very few homeowners can support a bent grass lawn. In general, bent grass is found primarily on golf courses. It doesn’t blend well with Kentucky bluegrass and should not be part of a lawn seed mixture.

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

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

jamie johnson April 27, 2013 at 8:05 am

So I missed planting my grass seed in the fall when is the best time in spring to do it?

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Dallas Piscopo May 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

You can probably start right about now as long as you’re getting night time temperatures above 50 degrees. Which grass are you thinking about planting?

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