The practice of fall or “dormant” seeding pastures, lawn or range is a tried and true method for establishing plants. This planting method is also referred to as fall planting, dormant planting, or winter sowing.

What Is Fall or Dormant Seeding?

Dormant seeding is the practice of seeding late enough in the year that seeds sit over winter and germinates early the following spring. Melting snow soaks the seed and surrounding  seed bed, warming temps stimulate it, and nourishing spring rains keep it growing and rooting.

When to fall or dormant seed

The timing of fall or dormant seeding is important. If done too early, some seed will germinate late in the season and those immature seedlings often won’t survive the winter.  Sow your seed while the ground is not frozen, but cold enough that germination will not occur until the following spring. As a general rule, this is sometime from late October to mid-November depending on your location.

What plants can I Fall or Dormant Seed

With a few exceptions you can fall or dormant plant just about any seed. If sowing is done late enough in the fall that seeds dong germinate, anything but the most sensitive annuals or warm season grasses call be dormant planted. Things that can be fall planted include cool season grasses, shrubs, most pasture grasses and all of our pasture mixes.

Avoid fall planting sensitive annuals like spring small grains, teff grass, italian ryegrass and most cover crops.

How to Fall or Dormant Seed

Other than the time of year for dormant seeding, the actual process of preparing the area to be seeded is virtually identical to establishing grass from seed at other times of the year.

Establish good seed-to-soil contact

Mow the existing plant matter down to about 2 inches. This will allow seed applied over the top to reach the soil. Loosen the soil surface so the seed can easily be incorporated into the surface quarter-inch or so of loose soil. Small areas of bare soil or even a thin turfgrass stand can easily be prepared using a hand rake. Larger areas can be prepared by ‘lightly’ going over the surface with a power rake or vertical mower available from most rental agencies. Set the blades or cutters just deep enough to penetrate into the top ¼ inch or so of soil. If you broadcast, rolling the surface after sowing is highly recommended – the process will “press” the seed into contact with the soil. If you are drilling, DO NOT BURY THE SEED. Seeds should be drilled NO DEEPER than .25″

Great Basin Seed products frequently sown in the fall include:

  • Dryland, Irrigated and most Pasture Mixes
  • Lawn & Turf Mixes
  • Orchardgrass
  • Turf and Forage Type Perennial Ryegrasses
  • Turf and Forage Type Fescues
  • Most native and introduced range grasses
  • Immigrant Forage Kochia