Guide to Spring vs. Fall Seeding

Traditionally, seeding is thought of as a spring activity. Many restoration projects are completed in the summer and require fall seeding. There are some noteworthy advantages to fall seeding; however, you do have the option of seeding in the spring or in the fall. In southern states, seeding should be timed with the available moisture in the area.

Benefits of Spring Seeding


  • Cool season species germinate soon after seeding.
  • Germination of warm season species generally occurs within three weeks of the soil temperature reaching 55° F.
  • Seed loss due to decay and wildlife consumption is minimized.
  • Seed-to-soil contact should be accomplished by working the seed into the soil 1/4”-1/2” deep.
  • Seeding can be delayed until weed control is applied in order to improve establishment.
  • Irrigation during periods of dry weather is necessary for proper germination.
  • Light mulching is an important element of seeding to protect both the seed and soil and retain moisture.
  • Native grass biomass seedings are generally done during the spring when soil temperature is near 55° F and rising.
Benefits of Fall Seeding


  • Fall seeding imitates natural reseeding
  • Frost seeding is the broadcasting of seed over frozen soil following the first killing frost.
  • Good seed-to-soil contact occurs through natural moisture and frost action.
  • Some natural stratification occurs; i.e., natural changes occur to the seed and seed coat during the winter that enhance germination.
  • Germination will most likely not occur until spring.
  • Some cool season species will establish during winter; however, warm season grasses and most forbs will germinate in the spring.
  • Some seed can be lost to decay and wildlife consumption during the winter.
  • Establishment may be hindered by weed competition that begins during the winter.
  • Mulching is an important element of dormant seeding to protect both the seed and soil and retain moisture.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this review of practices is the result of more than 50 years of experience in seed production. Ernst Conservation Seeds has been supplying seeds and consulting in the reseeding of tens of thousands of acres of roadsides, surfacemined lands, conservation and restoration sites in eastern North America, as well as growing and supplying seed and consulting in the planting of hundreds of thousands of acres of CRP/CREP-related areas for erosion control and wildlife habitat. All of these practices are opinion only and our best advice as a result of these experiences. These recommendations do not cover all of the conditions that will be encountered in the field. All of the information is for individual consideration. Ernst Conservation Seeds is not responsible for conditions that will be encountered in individual situations. The use of brand names does not represent our endorsement of a specific product; rather, it represents our experience only and has not necessarily been replicated in peer-reviewed research. The use of chemical pest control agents is subject to manufacturers’ instructions and labeling, as well as federal, state and local regulations.

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