Determining when to plant grass is largely dependent on your region’s average temperatures and climate.
Grass seed needs warm soil temperatures to successfully establish itself on lawns.
Michigan has some frigid winters.
The harsh and bitterly cold temperatures often lead to significant damage come springtime.
Luckily, getting ahead of winter damage by planting in the fall is an excellent way to ensure you have a lush green lawn in the spring.
The best time to plant grass seed in Michigan lawns is during the fall or late summer. The warm soil temperatures combined with the cool air provide optimal seed germination and seedling growth conditions. If planting in the fall is not possible, the next best time is early spring.
We all want a green, carpet-like lawn to enjoy for the warmer months.
Strategically timing our seed planting helps us achieve our dreams’ lawns.
We’ll let you know everything about the best time to plant grass seed in Michigan.
Table of Contents
Planting Grass Seed In Michigan
There are many reasons why we may want to plant new grass seeds.
Maybe you recently built a house on a new property or moved into a new property with a damaged lawn.
Maybe you have neglected your lawn the past few years and have decided a complete overhaul is your best bet.
Regardless of your reasoning behind establishing a new lawn, there are a few things you’ll need to consider.
Most importantly, you’ll need to consider the timing of planting new grass seed.
This is one of the most vital factors in successfully establishing a new lawn.
Each region has its patterns of temperature, climate, and precipitation.
Michigan has especially harsh winters.
The combination of its northern location and lake effect snow coming off the Great Lakes makes it chilly and snowy.
For this reason, lawns tend to take a hit during the bitter cold months and heaps of snow.
Grass seed needs a particular level of warmth to grow successfully.
For most grass seeds, germination is most effective when the soil is sufficiently warm, and the air is cool.
Timing your planting is one of the most crucial decisions to make.
While it’s nice to think throwing down some seed is enough to establish a new lawn, it’s unfortunately not as simple.
Other things you’ll need to consider are:
- Seed type and quality
- Soil health
- Weed treatment
Seeding In The Fall
The ideal time to plant grass seed in Michigan is undoubtedly fall.
The combination of the warm soil temperatures and the cooler air temperatures provides ideal conditions for grass seed germination.
Most people who plant in the fall find they have the most successful in establishing their new lawn.
Seeding In The Spring
If, for whatever reason, fall planting is not possible, the next best option is in the spring.
The warming temperatures will be good for the grass seed.
Timing is incredibly important in the spring.
As a general rule, you do not want to plant in the late spring or early summer after June 15th.
The goal is to avoid planting before any broadleaf weeds or crabgrass has had a chance to establish itself on your lawn.
Check out our guide on how to get rid of crabgrass for more tips on eliminating this annoying weed.
How To Establish A New Lawn
Once you’ve decided when you are planting grass seed, it’s beneficial to familiarize yourself with some of the steps you’ll need to take to make it all happen.
Grass seed needs quite a few things to flourish and thrive.
Setting yourself up for success will give you the best results and the least frustrations.
Sometimes people spend a lot of money on fancy grass seed but fail to properly test their soil and waste product and money.
Soil testing is always the first step when establishing a new lawn.
Soil samples show the pH of the soil and the overall composition.
Knowing this information allows you to take further steps to achieve optimal pH and composition for growing grass seed.
Collecting soil samples should take samples at least 1″ inch wide and 4″ inches deep into the earth.
Gather samples from multiple locations in your yard to get the most accurate and well-rounded results from the testing facility on your soil layer.
There are a ton of soil testing kits out there, but the Luster Leaf kit is one of the best (check it out on Amazon).
It’s professional quality and contains the materials for 80 tests, making it great for any size of the lawn.
Grass seed requires a certain pH for optimal growth.
When a soil’s pH is either too acidic or alkaline, you face a myriad of issues, often resulting in the death of your grass.
Before you lay down any seed, make sure to check and repair your pH.
- If your soil is too acidic, adding lime helps restore a proper pH balance.
- If your soil is too alkaline, adding sulfur helps bring the pH to an ideal level for growing grass.
We often think of our dirt as just dirt, but quite a few different materials make up your soil.
In many ways, it is way more than meets the eye.
Soil contains a certain composition of sandy soil, clay soil, and organic matter.
Most imbalanced soils are referred to as either sandy or clayey soil.
|Sandy Soil||Clayey Soil|
|Tends to be less fertile||Retains little organic material|
|Does not retain much water||Retains a high quantity of water|
|Is not susceptible to compaction||Tends to become highly compacted|
Ideally, you want your soil to drain well, which requires a good soil composition.
Soil nutrient testing will show you how to reach a better composition for ideal growing conditions.
Prep The Soil
Once you know the composition and pH of your soil, it is time to take some steps to prep your soil and get it ready to lay down grass seeds.
This is an incredibly important step.
It often makes the difference between flourishing lawns and failed attempts to establish new grass.
Remove Large Rocks
Remove all possible hurdles and obstacles for your growing grass seedlings.
Often rocks and debris interfere with the seedlings’ ability to break through the soil.
Take a few walks around the yard to remove large rocks or obvious debris.
Add Compost Or Organic Material
Compost and organic material are great ways to boost the nutrient diversity of your soil.
If you keep compost at home, mix it with your existing soil by tilling.
Other organic matters like decomposing leaves, sticks, and grass clippings are another excellent and natural way to incorporate more nutrients.
Fertilizing your soil is important in preparing the area for grass seed.
Using a high-quality fertilizer gives you grass seeds an extra boost of essential nutrients to ensure proper germination and growth.
Mix the fertilizer with your soil to set your lawn up for success.
Fertilizers often have an NPK ratio on the package.
This ratio shows the concentration of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).
You’ll be able to make a more informed decision on the ideal NPK for your lawn once you get the results from your soil test.
Learn about the good things potassium does for your lawn.
Due to compacted soil, many people who attempt to establish a new lawn fail.
While this may be caused by high concentrations of clay in the soil, it is also common in high-traffic areas.
One of the best ways to improve compacted soil is through aeration.
While the tilling and mixing of fertilizer and compost is often enough to aerate, it is helpful to use aeration tools.
These tools break up the soil and allow more space for water, air, and nutrients in the soil.
The additional space also makes it much easier for grassroots to absorb these vital resources.
Supply Adequate Water
Grass seeds need sufficient water to germinate and grow properly.
The seeds will need copious amounts of water to stay hydrated enough to germinate properly during this stage.
You don’t want to flood your yard or wash away seeds, but you do want to make sure the soil stays hydrated to provide the best conditions for grass seed germination.
Generally speaking, you must wait until grass reaches a height of 3″ inches before growing.
While this is true for most types of grass, you’ll want to consult the needs and instructions for the grass seed of your choosing.
It is also very important to make sure the blades on your mower are sharp and in tip-top shape.
Dull blades often damage grass because they do not perform clean cuts.
This leads to patchy and unhealthy lawns.
Make sure to get your mower regularly serviced to keep the blades sharp.
Treat The Lawn For Weeds
Once the grass has grown enough to build up some strength and resilience, it is time to treat the lawn for weeds.
Young grass seedlings are particularly susceptible to damage from herbicides.
For this reason, we recommend waiting at least 60 days after germination before treating your lawn for crabgrass or broadleaf weeds.
Pesky weeds are a frustrating business, but you want to make sure your grass is strong enough to handle chemical herbicides.
Otherwise, you may be facing more damage.
Best Grass Seed Types For Michigan
There are some popular grass types in Michigan.
They are go-to varieties known for their success and ability to thrive in the climate of our region.
For the most part, cool-season grasses tend to do better in Michigan.
Also, check out our post on how much grass seed you need per acre once you decide what kind you want to use.
Kentucky Bluegrass is a cool-season grass and does exceptionally well in Michigan.
It comes in various colors and textures, depending on your preference.
This type of grass tends to do best in areas with moderate to high sunlight throughout the day.
Kentucky Bluegrass grows by shooting out rhizomes, making it an excellent choice for lawns prone to wear and tear from children and pets.
Rhizomes grow by shooting out grass and spreading aggressively.
This makes it very easy for Kentucky Bluegrass to recover and fill in damaged or patchy spots.
Perennial Ryegrass types of seed are known for their quick germination.
While other varieties like Kentucky Bluegrass may take more time to germinate and start sprouting, Perennial Ryegrass establishes itself faster than most.
Using a small percentage of Perennial Ryegrass in your mix is advisable when planting new grass seed in Michigan.
It makes the blend overall hardier and more resilient to heavy foot traffic and damage.
Tall Fescue is another excellent choice for establishing a new lawn from seed in Michigan.
It is generally considered a low-maintenance variety.
It requires less watering and fertilization than other grass varieties.
This type of grass is also known for its resilience and resistance to pests and disease.
Tall Fescue thrives in well-drained soil and does best when it is the only type of seed planted.
It does not do as well in blends or a grass seed mixture.
If you are looking to plant new grass and establish a lawn in Michigan, but your property tends to be more on the shady side of the spectrum, Fine Fescue may be your best bet. It tolerates shade well compared to other turfgrass varieties.
It is also considered a fairly low-maintenance variety as it does fine with low levels of moisture and fertilization.
Make sure to blend it with other varieties as it tends to thatch quickly and easily.
Grass Seed Varieties To Avoid In Michigan
While some grass seed varieties tend to do better in Michigan, there are also some to avoid.
These types tend to have a hard time thriving and growing healthily in the state:
- Kentucky-31 Tall
- Annual Ryegrass
- Pasture grasses