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Central Park New York

The Best Grass Seed for New York

Taking matters into your own hands to create a beautiful, green lawn is a fulfilling experience for many homeowners. And for inexperienced homeowners who want a better lawn, there’s good news: maintaining a beautiful and lush turf in your front and back yard is less about having that magical green thumb and more about planting grass seeds strategically. This page will teach you everything you need to know about building a better yard in New York state. 


What is the Growing Climate in the State of New York?

Though the state of New York is technically a Northeastern state with typically cold weather, the severity of winter conditions and storms really changes based on where you live in the state. 

Based on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, you can see that cities located in upstate New York, especially along the northern Canadian border, can drop to -35 degrees F. 

Traveling further south to New York City, which sits on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, temperatures rise to a warmer 5 to 10 degrees F. And, across western New York, in cities such as Rochester and Buffalo, temperatures sit in a more “average” region of around -10 to -15 degrees F.

New York USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

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While the state is not technically a transition zone, this variability in temperatures between northern cities and southern cities can make choosing the right grass seeds a confusing exercise. 

So here are two important tips when planting grass seed in New York State:

  • First, go for cool season grasses only
  • Use a mixture that adapts to lawn conditions such as sun exposure, intended use, and maintenance needs. For example, let’s say your property is located in an area that gets a lot of sun exposure (6-8 hours). You know you need a durable but low maintenance lawn in primarily cold weather. A good mixture would be 60% Kentucky Bluegrass, 20% Perennial Ryegrass, and 20% Fine Fescues.


The most common cool season grasses have very specific shade, wear and drought tolerances. Based on growing conditions, you can decide which of these grass seeds your mixture should include and in what proportion.


What is the Best Grass Seed for New York?

If you live in New York State, the only grass seeds you should be looking at for your lawn are cool season grasses. These are seeds that thrive once spring comes along and the temperature warms up. 

Depending on the variety, they may go dormant in extreme heat or if you fail to water your lawn frequently. But don’t worry — once the weather cools down a bit and rains come back in late summer to early fall, they’ll perk right back up for a lush lawn right up to the edge of winter.

The most common cool season grasses used in New York lawns include the following varieties.


Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass is a lush and hardy perennial grass that has a soft feel underfoot and develops into a thick mat that chokes out weeds. Most cool season grasses do go dormant in the peak of summer, especially if temperatures soar over to the high 90s and into the 100s. 

However, Kentucky Bluegrass is particularly well-suited for these conditions because it demonstrates a stronger response against dormancy and, when it does go dormant, is able to revive without lasting damage. Mow to a minimum height of three inches and you’ll have a happy camper all year long.

  • Shade Tolerance: Poor
  • Drought Tolerance: Poor (needs twice as much water as other types)
  • Wear Tolerance: Good
  • Days to establish: 30-90
  • Feeding need: High 


Perennial Ryegrass

There’s a reason why perennial ryegrass makes up a smaller percentage of grass seed mixtures. It’s called a “nurse grass,” which means that it protects other grasses by providing shade and protection. It’s particularly sturdy and its only real strength is that it can germinate very quickly. 

However, perennial ryegrass also requires very little maintenance. It has elements of insect and disease resistance built right in. Its light green color makes a nice variety when grown with other grass types. 

  • Shade Tolerance: Poor
  • Drought Tolerance: Poor
  • Wear Tolerance: Good
  • Days to establish: 14-21
  • Feeding need: Average


Tall Fescue

Tall fescues are becoming quite popular through the state of New York. If you live on Long Island, for example, you’ll find this to be a very hearty and agreeable seed choice for your lawn. It requires less fertilizer and watering, and it’s also easier to grow without chemical-based pesticides. 

Keep in mind that tall fescues, while low maintenance, are not as happy in extremely cold winters. If you live in the northern part of the state, you may not want to include tall fescues. Instead, use this grass seed if you live in warmer, southern regions or in transition zones in the state. They’re also not a grass seed type that works well with other mixes. So, if you choose tall fescue, don’t plant it with a mixture. 

  • Shade Tolerance: Good
  • Drought Tolerance: Fair
  • Wear Tolerance: Good
  • Days to establish: 21-30
  • Feeding need: Average


Fine Fescue

Like the name suggests, “fine” fescues have fine, delicate blades of grass. They thrive in shade, and they stand up very well to low-moisture soil. However, fine fescues need plenty of drainage, and a sandy soil works best. They’re also great for overseeding, so you’ll often find this variety of grass seed mixed in with other cool season grasses. 

  • Shade Tolerance: Excellent
  • Drought Tolerance: Fair
  • Wear Tolerance: Poor
  • Days to establish: 21-50
  • Feeding need: Low


When is the Best Time to Plant Grass Seed in New York State?

The perfect time to plant lawn seed depends on which grass type you have. For cool season grasses, you have two windows of opportunity to plant grass seed — the spring and the fall. These grass types respond best to being planted in the fall, as long as you do so prior to the first frost. 

If you do plant in the springtime, there are a few things you should consider. 

Firstly, there’s always a chance that a sudden cold nap could prematurely stunt your grass seeds. The soil temperature is the most important factor of grass seed germination, so one good cold spell could undo your efforts. 

Planting in the spring also makes your lawn more susceptible to weeds because this is usually the point in the year where weeds start to blow around and germinate as well. 

Instead, you should plan to plant in the fall. Lawn establishment and care is a year-round activity so you’re not entirely done once you’ve completed seeding in the fall. 

This is also the right time to aerate your lawn and overseed patchy areas. Spring should be the time that you’re actively watering your young seedlings (or allowing the weather conditions to do this for you). 


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Mid-spring is also the right time to begin fertilizing your lawn. Planning  your activities according to the time of year will help you germinate a healthier lawn, faster. It also eliminates the chances of weed competition. 



At Nature’s Seed, we know that using the right grass seed type makes all the difference to a lush and beautiful lawn. 

Our grass seed mixtures are designed to respond to your region and uses. Whether you’re using grass seed to cover up patchy parts or establish an entirely new lawn, our grass seed guide can help you find the right seed mixture for your property. 

Contact us today to learn more about grass seed types for your state and region. 

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