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FAQs - Lawns - Getting Started - Spring

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When is the best time to seed and what is the recommended grass seed for Maryland?

I bought some grass seed that was on sale at the end of the season. How long is grass seed good for and what is the best way to store it?

Three large maple trees were removed from my yard last fall. The stumps were ground out but there are still some wood chips there. What do I need to do to get some grass to grow in this area now?

Now that spring is here I am attempting to start a new lawn. About 4 weeks ago I seeded with tall fescue. It started to come up a couple of weeks ago but it is very spotty. I have just sown more seed but I am seeing some weeds encroaching. When can I apply an herbicide to kill these weeds?

Every summer for the past five or six years my tall fescue lawn dies in the summer.  I know part of the reason is that it is planted in the full sun on a slight slope. I am not able to water because I am on a well. Is it feasible for me to switch to zoysia? I have heard from other people that this a tough type of grass.

When is the best time to seed and what is the recommended grass seed for Maryland?

Though you might be tempted to start in the spring, the fall is the best time to sow grass seed in Maryland. The time frame ranges from the end of August to mid-October. The further you go into the fall there is a greater chance of temperatures becoming too cold for germination and growth.  The second best time is late winter going into early spring.  However, the later you wait; most likely, the grass will not have a mature enough root system that is able to survive the heat and drought of the summer. Summer seeding is rarely successfully even with careful watering. Tall fescue is the recommend grass species for areas that receive at least four hours of sunlight.

I bought some grass seed that was on sale at the end of the season. How long is grass seed good for and what is the best way to store it?

Germination rates decline over time.  The decline can be up to 50% per year for each year it is stored after the expiration date. Plan to use the seed within the year. Store it in a cool, dry spot that is not subject to extremely warm temperatures.  Check the viability of seeds by lining-up ten seeds in the middle of a folded, damp piece of paper towel.  Slide it into a plastic bag and keep the paper towel slightly moist. Check daily and within a week or two the seeds should germinate. If less than 6 of the seeds germinate you should purchase new seed.

Three large maple trees were removed from my yard last fall. The stumps were ground out but there are still some wood chips there. What do I need to do to get some grass to grow in this area now?

If the area encompasses a large portion of your yard you should begin with a soil test to check the soil pH and nutrient requirements. Dig down beyond the wood chips to take the soil samples. Early fall is the best time with early spring as the second best time to seed this area. Rake out and remove any wood chips, rocks and other debris. Level off the surface of the ground. If necessary, add top soil to even out the grade. Add the soil amendments according to soil test results and work them into the top couple inches of soil. Purchase tall fescue seed and sow it at the rate of approximately 6-8 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. of bare area. Gently tamp down the seed with back of a metal rake or walk on the surface to ensure good seed to soil contact. Cover the area lightly with straw and water twice a day to keep the seed bed moist but not to the point of runoff. It is likely that this area will need to be well watered during the driest part of the summer.

Now that spring is here I am attempting to start a new lawn. About 4 weeks ago I seeded with tall fescue. It started to come up a couple of weeks ago but it is very spotty. I have just sown more seed but I am seeing some weeds encroaching. When can I apply an herbicide to kill these weeds?

One of the disadvantages of starting a lawn in the spring is heavy competition from weed seeds. Herbicides cannot be applied to new lawns until they have been mowed 3-4 times. And you cannot apply a crabgrass preemergent for much longer than that. You should check the product label for information about application on newly seeded lawns. Hand pull as many as you can and at the appropriate time spot treat with a liquid herbicide. You should always identify the weeds before spraying to make sure you select the correct herbicide.

Every summer for the past five or six years my tall fescue lawn dies in the summer.  I know part of the reason is that it is planted in the full sun on a slight slope. I am not able to water because I am on a well. Is it feasible for me to switch to zoysia? I have heard from other people that this a tough type of grass.

Maryland is located in what is referred to as the ‘transition zone’. Cool season grasses, like tall fescue, struggle in the hot, dry part of the summer. They go dormant during this time period but often will come back when cooler temperatures and rainfall return. Warm season grasses, like zoysia, go dormant after the first frost in the fall and do not green-up again until mid-May. Zoysia does handle the heat better and is a low maintenance grass. It is better suited for the warmer parts of the state like the eastern shore and southern Maryland.  If you decide to convert your fescue lawn to zoysia you will need to plan on totally renovating your existing lawn.  Zoysia lawns are started by planting plugs beginning after spring green-up until early August.  Meyer is the recommended cultivar because it has excellent winter hardiness. It can take a couple of years for a zoysia lawn to become established.

Please send us a question at Ask the Experts if you have a lawn question you would like answered. Digitial photos can be attached to your question.

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