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Winter of Dormant Seeding

The Winter of Dormant Seeding

Here at Twin City Seed Co., we’ve received plenty of questions regarding the impact our unusually dry and warm winter has on dormant-seeded turfgrass in Minnesota. Typically, dormant seeding in the Twin Cities occurs late October through November when soil surfaces are not frozen, but below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The idea is that the seed will lie dormant over winter and begin germinating once soil temperatures and daylengths increase, and moisture is plentiful from snowmelt in the spring. This gives the dormant-seeded turfgrass a head start and competitive advantage over annual grassy weeds that germinate later in the season. It also helps reduce the need for irrigation that’s often needed to aid germination.

Mother Nature made some odd choices this winter in the Twin Cities. From late October through January, our five-year average of days at which soil temperatures are favorable to dormant seeding is about 45 days. This year, Mother Nature has blessed us with 59 days favorable to dormant seeding. These 2 extra weeks with only 16 days with measurable snow cover makes this the “Winter of Dormant Seeding” (so far).

These conditions may influence the success of dormant seeded turfgrass and your current lawn. Since we are not fortune tellers, the answer to the many questions we’ve received from Twin Cities residents are full of “if-then” statements with exceptions. To lay it out, we’ve decided to present our thoughts on the most common questions we’ve received lately.

Can I dormant seed my lawn right now?

Yes. Our soil temperatures in the Twin Cities are currently favorable to dormant seeding.

I dormant seeded in late fall. Should I be worried about it with this weird weather?

No. The seed should remain dormant until soil temperatures rise to 50 degrees Fahrenheit or more for several days.

How will the lack of snow impact the success of my dormant seeding?

We don’t know yet. If we remain dry through the remainder of winter, irrigation may need to be relied upon to trigger germination in the spring. The seed has been exposed longer, which may increase the potential of feeding by your neighborhood birds.

Will the lack of snow impact my current lawn?

We don’t know yet. The sunlight and wind exposure our lawns experience with the lack of snow cover may lead grasses to dry out to the point of no return. Snow cover helps insulate our lawns so that they are not exposed to bone-chilling temperatures. If a cold snap happens as we experienced earlier in January, there’s also a possibility a low temperature kill could occur. It’s important to note that these cases are possibilities, not probabilities at this time.

In summary, do not panic, and let’s hope Mother Nature gifts us some snowfall for a true Minnesota winter our lawns expect.

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