Dormant Seeding

Dormant seeding describes the distribution of seeds during a period outside the normal growing season, so that the seeds will be in place and ready to germinate when conditions allow. Ideally, the weather is persistently cold, to prevent premature germination. In Ohio, dormant seeding is done by seeding into a prepared soil after soil temperatures have cooled below 40 degrees F, so the seed will not germinate until spring 2004.

Research on dormant seeding practices has revealed the following advantages:

* Soils are generally drier & easier to work during winter than in spring, especially native soils (silt clay loams).

* There is more workforce time now than in spring

* Dormant seeding requires less irrigation than spring or summer seedings. However, seeds will dry out if there is no winter precipitation at all.

* Dormant seeding requires less robust weed and disease control strategies.

* Dormant seed can emerge up to 15 days earlier than conventional spring-seed

Disadvantages of dormant seeding:

* Dormant seeding would most likely not be as successful as an early fall planting.

* A spring warm-up could initiate germination only to be followed by an extreme cold period, which could kill the seedlings.

* Dormant seeding with quick-germination species, such as perennial ryegrass, has a higher risk of cold damage.

* Situations in which dormant seedings fail include areas of soil erosion and the use of dark colored mulches, which raise surface temperatures & promote premature germination.

* Increased seed application rates (30-50%) are recommended because seed mortality rate is higher in dormant seedings.

To summarize, success of dormant seeding is heavily influenced by the winter weather. The mild and changeable winter of 2002 would not have been as ideal as the snow cover and persistent cold of 2003. The decision to go with a dormant seed in 2004, rather than a conventional spring seed, is one that needs careful forethought and investigation.


Bullied, W. J.; Entz, M. H. (2000) Ryegrass development and seed yield response to fall dormant and spring seeding time. 2000 Annual Meeting Abstracts [ASA/CSSA/SSSA], p. 143.

Diesburg, Kenneth. (1994) Winter dormant seeding. Northern Ohio Turf. Vol. 35, No. 10, December, p. 14.

Diesburg, K. L. (1985) Dormant seeding study. Iowa Turfgrass Research Report. July 1985, p. 65-66.

Reicher, Zac (2001) Seeding when you'd rather not: Mother Nature can be more cooperative than construction schedules. Golf Course Management. Vol. 69, No. 5, May, p. 67-71.

Ruemmele, Bridget (1999) Seeding during dormancy: Winter is the most challenging time of year to seed. Grounds Maintenance. Vol. 34, No. 11, November.

Authors: Pam Sherratt & John Street