Overseeding Your Lawn

by Ivory Soap

A lush green lawn is the perfect welcome mat for your home. But despite your best efforts, it’s not always easy to keep it in top shape. Bare spots, or weak, thinning or patchy grass can appear seemingly overnight due to compacted soil, poor drainage, weed infestations, or just plain weather. To bring your lawn back to life, overseeding may be the best answer.

Overseeding your lawn sounds like one of those things you’re not supposed to do. Like overfeeding or overwatering. But overseeding is different. It’s the process of planting new grass seed over your entire lawn to fill in areas of bare or weak turf, and it’s the successfully proven way to improve the density of your lawn and enhance its vibrant natural color.

The best time to overseed is in late summer or early fall, after the worst heat of summer and before the first nip of winter comes on. Particularly when combined with core aeration and fertilization, overseeding can dramatically improve your lawn’s overall health, too, making it thicker and more likely to fend off weeds. The easiest way to accomplish all this, of course, is to set an appointment for professional lawn overseeding. But if you’re a devoted DIYer, here are the steps to follow:

1. Select the Right Grass Seed

The lawns that benefit most from overseeding are cool season grasses like Fescue, Ryegrass, and Kentucky Bluegrass, although certain warm season grasses can benefit also, especially when they’re dormant in winter. Introducing special blends of improved grass species can work to enhance your lawn’s overall color and appearance, and increase its resistance to disease, insects, and weeds. Best to consult a professional to help you make the right choice.

2. Mow and Rake the Lawn

You want the new seeds to be able to get through the current grass to reach the ground and have as much sunlight as possible, so mow your existing lawn to a height of 1 to 1-1/2 inches.  Then rake up the clippings and apply extra pressure with your rake to remove thatch, that tangled layer of dead grass, roots, and other organic matter that develops on the ground under the grass.

3. Loosen Up the Soil

Heavy raking might be sufficient, but if the soil is badly compacted you’ll want to rent a roto-tiller or aerator at your local garden center. For overseeding rather than starting a new lawn, don’t disturb more than the top 1 or 2 inches of the ground, though, because breaking the soil up too much will disturb the root structure of the current grass and give weeds room to settle in.

4. Check and Correct the Soil’s pH

Grass likes soil with neutral pH, neither acid nor alkaline. You can get a pH test kit at a garden center, or use one of the home-style methods described in this WikiHow article. The fix for acidic soil is an application of lime, and the remedy for alkaline soil is an application of sulphur. If you’re not experienced with the products and process, consult with your local garden center before you do more harm than good.

5. Add Compost

Although top-dressing the soil with compost before seeding is a relatively new turn for home lawns, it has been used to maintain the gorgeous turf on golf courses since the sport was invented. It helps the seeds germinate and gives the seedlings a nutrient boost. But make sure you apply a very thin layer of compost to avoid burying your existing grass.

6. Spread the Seed

Even though the problem areas of your lawn may be scattered, you want to spread the grass seed evenly over your entire lawn. Depending upon how much area you need to cover, you can use one of a variety of reasonably priced spreaders, either on wheels or hand-held.

7. Rake the Seeds In

Lightly rake the lawn so that seeds settle down through the existing grass and onto the soil. If they’re not in direct contact with the soil, they won’t germinate.

8. Apply Fertilizer

A slow-release nitrogen fertilizer will give your refreshed lawn the nutrition it needs to thrive as it grows.


9. Water Now and Later

Finally, water the lawn heavily right away to push the seeds firmly into place. Then water two or three times a day for the first few weeks to keep the soil moist but not soaked until the seeds germinate. After the grass sprouts, you should water less frequently but for longer periods so that the water sinks in more deeply. Still, you don’t want to drown the new grass. The greatest threats to seedlings are  overwatering to the point of root rot or underwatering that dries out the tiny roots as they try to establish themselves.

10. Mow Your Beautiful Lawn

When the grass reaches the tallest height recommended for its type (usually somewhere between 2-inches), mow it down by one third, and continue that procedure each time. Cutting grass too short doesn’t leave enough nutrients in its leaf blades and it also allows more sunlight to reach the soil and encourage weeds.

Guest Post by the very talented, Cher Zevala.

Thank you, Cher!

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

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