best grass seed for new england lawn

How To Choose The Best Grass Seed For New England Lawns

The cool and humid New England climate can be tough on plants and your lawn grass is no exception.  Despite the unpredictable weather and rather challenging conditions, you can still achieve a lush, green lawn. 

In order for your lawn to thrive in the long, cold New England winters, it takes more than just your regular run-of-the-mill grass seed.  The best grass seed for New England will be bred and mixed specifically to stand up to the region’s rigors. 

Our Top Pick: Jonathan Green Fall Magic Grass Seed Mix

Jonathan Green Fall Magic is formulated with several grass types and designed specifically for fall planting.  The mix, which includes Black Beauty tall fescues, is ideal for seeding a brand new lawn or repairing a sparse or damaged lawn. This seed typically germinates in 10-14 days and can be used in shady areas as well as areas that get full sun. 

Other Great Grasses

Scotts Turf Builder Kentucky Bluegrass Seed Mix

Kentucky Bluegrass is one of the most commonly grown grass types in New England.  While Kentucky Bluegrass is beautiful, it requires regular maintenance such as periodic fertilizing and frequent watering. If you go with this option, we want you to know what you’re signing up for, but when properly maintained, it flourishes in the colder New England climate. 

Scott’s Turf Builder Kentucky Bluegrass seed mix is designed to continuously self-repair so it can stand up to some wear and tear. The blades are light to dark green and grow strong and sturdy even throughout the region’s unpredictable weather.  It also comes with their exclusive 4-in-1 WaterSmart PLUS coating to help the grass absorb more water, and feeds the seeds with essential nutrients to help protect new grass from disease. 

Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue

This medium-green color grass is the original tall fescue that made the jump from pastures to suburban lawns in the mid-1900s.  It grows in dense bunches and can tolerate both hot and cold conditions making it perfect for New England lawns. 

Kentucky 31 is a budget-friendly fescue variety that has stood the test of time.  It produces a rich lawn with a coarse, green texture that can handle high traffic.

Pennington Smart Seed Sun and Shade

Most lawns have both sunny and shady spots but many grass types are only designed for one or the other. Pennington Smart Seed Sun and Shade blends tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, and fine fescue grasses to create the ideal mix for a New England lawn. 

This seed blend produces a thick, fine-bladed, dark blue-green lawn that will thrive in both the sun and shade.  The seeds also contain Pennington’s exclusive Penkoted technology that aids with germination and disease and insect resistance. 

Things to Consider When Shopping


One of the biggest challenges when it comes to choosing the best grass seed for New England lawns is the extreme variability of climate on the east coast. Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, and parts of New Hampshire have the characteristic short summers and long harsh winters with heavy snowfall, while Connecticut and Rhode Island have the exact opposite. We suggest contacting your local extension office for more specific information on grasses that grow well in your particular area. 

Your Hardiness Zone

The USDA Hardiness Zones can also help you select the best grass seed for your area.  This zone chart provides a guide to the lowest extreme temperature and assigns a number to each zone.  The zones in New England rance from zone 3b in Maine all the way through 7b in Massachusetts.  This means that the lowest extreme temperature in the New England area ranges from -35℉-10℉.  

Those are clearly different growing conditions!  That said, cool-season grasses tend to do well in all of them. 

Why choose cool-season grasses?

As a general rule of thumb, cool-season grasses grow the best starting in zone 7 and moving northward.  These grasses have an active growth period during the cooler parts of the year like early spring and fall, making them ideal for those short New England summers. 

Kinds of cool-season grasses?

If you are looking to plant a beautiful, lush, green lawn in the New England area, there are a few types of grass seed that perform particularly well in this growing climate. Each of these grasses has its own advantages and disadvantages but in general, they can all stand up to the unpredictable New England weather. 

Grass Comparison Chart 

Grass TypeLeaf TextureEstablish RateNitrogen UseWater UseDrought ToleranceShade Tolerance
Kentucky Bluegrassmoderate to fineslowmoderate to highmoderate to highmoderatepoor
Perennial Ryegrassfine to moderatevery fastmoderate to highmoderate to highgoodpoor to moderate
Tall Fescuemoderate to coarsemoderatemoderate to highlow to moderateexcellentgood to excellent
Fine Fescuefinemoderatelow to moderatemoderategood to excellentexcellent
Bentgrassfinemoderate to fastlow to moderatemoderate to highpoor to moderatepoor to moderate

Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass is one of the most commonly grown grass types in New England.  While Kentucky Bluegrass is beautiful, it requires regular maintenance such as periodic fertilizing and frequent watering. If you go with this option, we want you to know what you’re signing up for, but when properly maintained, it flourishes in the colder New England climate. This grass stops growing at 75℉ so keep your average temperature in mind when deciding when to plant. 

Tall Fescue

Like most of the grasses growing in lawns across the United States, tall fescue originated in Europe.  It was introduced in the US in the early 1800s but was mostly used as a pasture grass.  In the mid-1900s a variety that would later be referred to as Kentucky 31 was discovered by Dr. E. N. Fergus, and the popular pasture grass made the leap into suburban neighborhoods.

In general, tall fescue is a cool-season grass with a high heat tolerance that is best suited for the transition zone between the northern and southern United States.  It requires a bit more care than fine fescue but is heat, drought, and shade-tolerant as well as disease resistance.  It grows by forming bunches and has some capacity for self-repair. 

Perennial Ryegrass

This grass type is ideal for areas with a mild climate year-round, but can still handle cold winters with only minimal damage.  It prefers some shade and grows quite well, especially when blended with Kentucky Bluegrass.  Perennial Ryegrass does not, however, hold up well in sweltering summer conditions.

Fine fescue

Fine Fescue is an excellent low-maintenance choice that performs well.  It is ideal for homeowners seeking an easy to cultivate lawn.  It grows best on a dry, shaded lawn, and offers a good resistance to cold temperatures.  It is not, however, recommended for high-traffic areas because it can be easily compressed underfoot.  


Bentgrass is a creeping grass variety that has a dense, matted-down appearance.  While creeping bentgrass may not give you that perfectly manicured, vibrant green lawn, It is a popular choice for New England homeowners, solely because it thrives in cooler temperatures.  This means less maintenance and fewer repair and patching jobs come spring. 

What you should know before buying grass seed?

Before buying any grass seed, regardless of your location, it is important to run a soil test.  Especially if this is the first time you are trying to establish a lawn.  You can take a sample to your local extension office to find out if your soil has the proper balance of nutrients.  Your extension office can also let you know if you need to amend your soil before planting.  

Seeding a lawn without first testing the soil is like playing roulette.  Just don’t take the chance.

Other factors to keep in mind when choosing the best grass seed for your New England lawn are required maintenance.  Are you willing to put in the effort to grow a beautiful, high-maintenance lawn, or should you stick to one of the lower maintenance varieties?

Similar to the soil test, you need to keep in mind the amount of sun and shade your lawn receives.  Different grasses have different growing conditions and if your lawn has lots of trees, a sun-loving grass is doomed to fail.

Grass Seed Mixes

Lawns in New England must be able to stand up to a wide variety of temperature and weather changes throughout the year. 

We have established that while some grasses thrive in cool weather, others prefer warmer growing conditions. While one particular grass variety will be perfect year-round, you can purchase seed mix varieties that offer you the best of both worlds. 

Understanding what exactly is in a seed mix can be confusing though so let’s take a look at some of the most popular seed mix labels.

The Contractor’s Mix

  • Cost effective
  • Gives quick results
  • Usually only lasts a year before dying out

The Professional Landscape Mix

  • Cost-effective
  • Works well in both sun and shade
  • Will grow year after year

The Master Mix

  • Multi-purpose mix
  • Grows quickly
  • Dark rich color
  • Will continue to grow year after year

When to Plant in New England

Since New England has such a wide climate range, when to plant will largely depend on the area you are in.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island

The best time to plant grass seed in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut is in late summer and early fall.  Mid-August to mid-September is the ideal seeding window. 

The cooler air temperatures combined with the still-warm soil temperatures create the perfect climate for the best grass growth. 

You can also plant in the spring from mid-March to late April, but fall would be a better choice. Just make sure the daytime temperatures have warmed to 60℉-70℉.

Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont

The best time to seed your lawns in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont is also in the late summer/early fall.  In Mid-August to mid-September, soil temperatures are still quite warm, which is necessary for seed germination.  The warmer soil temperature combined with the cooler air temperatures and rainfall makes for ideal growing conditions.  Sowing your seed this time of year will also deter warm weather weeds such as crabgrass, allowing your lawn to get a solid start.

How to Start a Lawn From Seed

Step 1: Test your soil 

Step 2: Calculate the square footage of the area you will be seeding (length x width)

Step 3: Till the area and remove any stones, roots, or weeds that could affect grass growth

Step 4: Add any amendments recommended by soil tests and rake soil to create an even surface

Step 5: Water the ground lightly and allow it to compact slightly

Step 6: Evenly spread your grass seed mixture evenly over the ground

Step 7: Moisten the area again and apply straw over the seed to lock in moisture and encourage germination

Overseeding 101

Over time, grass starts to get old and will need to be replaced.  Older lawns invite weeds to creep in and overtake them. Overseeding is a great way to bring your lawn to life.  Luckily, it’s fast, inexpensive, and you don’t have to tear everything out and start over from scratch.

How to Overseed

  1. In order to prep your lawn for overseeding, you will need to mow your grass to a shorter than normal height and bag the clippings. Then rake the lawn to remove any dead grass or debris. This will allow the grass to germinate more easily.
  2. Rake a thin layer of enriched soil into your lawn to improve germination rate and provide essential nutrients to your new grass. We recommend Scott’s Turf Builder Lawn Soil.
  3. Fill your spreader, adjust the settings to the package recommendations, and apply the seed to your lawn.
  4. Fertilize and water your lawn with a fertilizer designed for new grass.

Best Time To Overseed In New England

Just as with starting a new lawn, early fall is the best time to overseed in New England.  

By early September, most weed growth has begun to taper off and the daytime temperatures are beginning to cool.  Daily temperatures of 70℉-75℉ are ideal for overseeding, so depending on which area of New England you live in, you may be able to wait until mid-October. Just be sure to give the seeds a month or so to get established before the first frost. 

Final Thoughts

Regardless of where you live, you can have a beautiful, green, low-maintenance lawn.  It’s all about choosing the best grass type for your area.  Hopefully, we have helped you narrow down the best grass for your New England lawn and you can get started this fall!