Why wait until early spring to do something you can do in late fall? Especially if a little work earlier on can produce more lush and healthy results?
Below we define dormant seeding and review a long list of advantages that can come from a little proactive seeding strategy.
WHAT IS DORMANT SEEDING
Dormant seeding (also called dormancy seeding) involves planting/spreading your seeds prior to the winter season, when the ground is cold enough to restrict germination of the grass seed until next spring.
This strategy revolves around allowing new seeds to work their way into the soil over several weeks or months, laying in wait to germinate during early spring as the soil temperature warms up.
Dormant seeding requires a soil temperature below 10 degrees Celsius to be effective, and research has shown that seeds laid in dormancy can produce grass as much as half a month sooner than those laid in early spring. This is likely due to the fact that dormant seeding mimics mother nature, allowing seeds to naturally hibernate, and awaken alongside its natural environment.
Dormancy seeding gives seeds the opportunity to settle more securely, ensuring they aren’t blown away and are able to take root exactly where you left them. Thanks to a dryer earth in late fall, cracks and gaps allow for seeds to fall deeper into the soil. This advantage can be especially important if you’re seeding or re-seeding to address patchy or typically shaded areas.
In the case of shady areas, dormant seeding provides for the need for sunlight by seeding at a time when most of the trees are bare and sunlight is able to break through what would otherwise develop into a protective canopy in spring. As well, the softer sunlight, compared to that which beams directly onto the plants come summer, can help protect plants and grass which have not fully developed against sun and heat damage.
Also, dormancy seeding reduces your need for water as the moisture trapped during the snowy and frozen months of the year is released naturally during the early thaw months. The alternative is paying for water or waiting for rain - both of which would be made unnecessary.
You’ll know when the timing is right for dormant seeding because your grass will be done growing and your final mow of the year was likely weeks earlier. It is important for you to clean up the inevitable fallen leaves during this time to ensure your seeds make it into the ground and don’t just get swept away on fallen foliage.
In Alberta, it can be especially tricky with warm patches and rain, and we recommend an in-depth review of the forecast and historical trends to ensure you are headed into a nice stretch of cooler temperatures, snow, frost, or light rain for the ideal dormant seeding environment.
As such, the success of dormant seeding is largely dependent on what happens during the winter months. The best results come when snowfall covers and protects these areas for a long period of time, and you can expect to see healthy seedlings as early as late April. At this time, a review of the success to-date can be made and a decision to supplement areas with more seed can be made. Don’t take the need for more seeding to be a sign of failure - as this is common and more about the specific areas you seed, than the practice of dormancy seeding itself.
Having said this, if you are confident that your dormant seeding failed, you haven’t missed your opportunity to plant, and can always try again in spring using traditional seeding methods.
For the best results, an increase of 25 per cent over regular spring seeding rates is recommended by the experts to ensure adequate germination and the seedling’s best chance at survival.
This need to increase becomes especially important when seeding into areas where saline soils and weed competition present additional challenges to the seeds.
Keeping this in mind, it is important to be selective in the type of seeds used for dormant seeding. It is crucial that you select seed mixes that are well adapted to your site conditions and they will produce the results you are looking for - don’t worry, if you are working with experts like Strongfield Environmental Solutions, virtually any of our grass seed mixtures can be used for a dormant seeding.
Finally, don’t assume a set-it-and-forget-it approach to dormant seeding - the areas still require a lot of moisture, and while the season should take care of a lot of that for you, be aware of moisture levels and supplement anywhere the soil appears dry.
Interested in learning more about dormant seeding or anything else to do with vegetation management and reclamation? Strongfield Environmental Solutions is your one-stop-shop for all your seasonal needs.
Contact us today to get a free and no-obligation review of your current approach and solution provider to see if there is any room for improvement!