University of Maryland Extension

Grass Seed

illustration of seed germinaiton
Seed germination
Photo: Pixabay

Key Points:

Seed types

Turf-type tall fescue is the recommended grass species for Maryland. It does well in all parts of the state. 

Purchasing grass seed

grass seed test plots
Research plots testing grass seed cultivars

  • Buy high-quality seed. Poor quality seed is low in viability, and contains weed seeds or undesirable grass species. 
  • Select a turfgrass species that is suited for the site conditions. Then refer to the University of Maryland Technical Update, (PDF) TT 77 Turfgrass Cultivar Recommendations for Certified Sod and Professional Seed Mixtures in Maryland, for recommended cultivars. 
  • All grass seed for sale has a tag or label on the package listing basic information that indicates the seed quality. Read the information before purchasing the seed to help achieve satisfactory results.
  • Grass seed labeled as 'Maryland Certified Seed' (tested for germination and purity by the Maryland Department of Agriculture) is available in select locations such as garden centers, turf supply stores, specialty seed suppliers, or farm supply stores and typically contains UMD recommended cultivars. If MD Certified Seed cannot be located, look carefully on seed tags for the type of grass, variety, percentage of weed seeds, and percentage of noxoius weeds. Refer to Sample Grass Seed Label below. 
  • For the majority of sites, tall fescue is the recommended type of grass. Refer to Seed Mixtures and Blends below.

Sample Grass Seed Label

                                  1) Seed Blend or Mixture Name
2) Lot number
3) Date Tested
 
4) Purity      5) Variety              6) Germination      7) Origin         

36.00%        Avenger Tall Fescue             90%              Oregon             
34.48%        Falcon Tall Fescue                90%              Oregon          
28.98%        Raptor Tall Fescue                90%             Oregon              


Other Crop Seeds:
8)
 0.52% Inert Matter
9) 0.02% Other Crop Seed
10) 0.00% Weed Seed
11) No Noxious Weed Found                                                       

                               Name and Address of Seller or Supplier
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
1) Name created by seed supplier.
2) Number used to track seed information back to the original site of production.
3) Official date on which the germination test was conducted. To ensure a high germination rate use seed within one year of purchase. As seed ages, the percentage of viable seed decreases, resulting in poor establishment.
4) The percentage by weight of each type of grass and cultivar or variety contained in the blend or mixture.
5) Type of grass and cultivar or variety. Refer to the University of Maryland Technical Update (PDF) TT 77 Turfgrass Cultivar Recommendations for Certified Sod and Professional Seed Mixtures in Maryland for the list of recommended cultivars.
6) Percentage of pure seed that is viable and will grow. 
7) Where the seed was produced. Oregon's ideal weather conditions for seed production of cool season grasses makes it a large producer of quality grass seed. 
8)
 Inert matter includes chaff, soil, and debris. This value should be as low as possible. Inert matter is contained in the bag but doesn't actually grow.
9) Percentage by weight of other agriculture crop seeds or undesirable grass seed. This number should be between zero and 0.5%. Avoid purchasing seed that contains Lolium multiforum (annual ryegrass), also called Italian ryegrass. This annual grass is found in inexpensive grass seed, only lives for one year, and makes it difficult for the desired grass species to become established.
10) Percentage by weight of weed seed. This number should be close to 0.00%.
11) Avoid purchasing seed that lists a percentage of noxious weeds.   

Seed Mixtures and Blends

  • Seed is commonly sold in mixtures or blends.
  • A mixture is a combination of two or more grass species, e.g. tall fescue (should be the highest percent), perennial ryegrass (no more than 5%-10% of the mixture), and Kentucky bluegrass (5%-10%).   
  • A blend is three or more cultivars of the same species.
  • Mixtures and blends are popular because they increase the genetic diversity of your lawn. Certain grass species and cultivars are more susceptible to disease and insect problems, so using mixtures and blends increases your lawns ability to resist diseases and overcome insect infestations.
  • Mixtures are a good option if growing conditions vary throughout your yard. For additional information on seed mixture recommendations refer to (PDF) TT 77 Turfgrass Cultivar Recommendations for Certified Sod and Professional Seed Mixtures in Maryland.

High traffic areas

A mixture of turf-type tall fescue (90%- 95%) and Kentucky bluegrass (5%-10%) is an excellent lawn turf. The spreading root system of the Kentucky bluegrass will help the turf recover if injured from excessive traffic, drought, or pest damage.

Full sun areas

A blend of turf-type tall fescue or a single recommended cultivar.

Full sun to moderate shade areas

Turf-type tall fescue is recommended. A single cultivar or a blend. 

Shady areas

Fine fescues are the most shade tolerant of all the cool-season grasses, with hard fescue being the best choice for Maryland. Warm-season grasses, like zoysia, need full sun and are not suitable for shady areas.

How much grass seed to plant?

Grass-typeLawn establishment
grass seed rate
Overseeding grass seed rate
Turf-type tall fescue6-8 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.4 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.
Kentucky bluegrass2-3 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.1.5 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.
Fine fescue4-5 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.2.5 lbs. per l,000 sq ft.

Additional Resources

By Debra Ricigliano, Maryland Certified Professional Horticulturist, University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), 2019. Reviewed and edited by Jon Traunfeld, HGIC Director and Christa Carignan, HGIC Coordinator, Digital Horticulture Education.
Based on HGIC publication HG 102 Lawn Establishment, Renovation, and Overseeding.

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