A 9-Step Guide to Over-seeding Your Lawn
There's an often overlooked practice that can help you get the thick, healthy lawn you desire. Professional landscapers know exactly what it is, though most homeowners do not. It's called "over-seeding" and, when integrated as a part of your normal lawn maintenance plan, it can keep your lawn looking fantastic year in and year out. Whether you have been a yard master for many years or are new to lawn care, knowing how over-seeding works can yield you a better looking lawn.
In short, over-seeding is the process of spreading new grass seed across your existing lawn. When done correctly, it's a direct way to get almost immediate results. When grass matures, it gets thinner. This is especially true if you are using your lawn for entertaining or play. The process of over-seeding, then, keeps introducing younger, thicker grass into your lawn. That way, you don't have to endure a balding lawn that may require you to, essentially, start all over at some point.
The fundamental technique of over-seeding doesn't vary much. What can vary by geography, though, is type of grass you are growing, timing of application, and overall goals. For your best shot at success, there are nine basic steps. Let's begin!
1. Set Your Goals
Are you trying to save a thinning lawn or prevent thinning lawn. As with most tasks in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That said, you want to over-seed with an eye towards the upcoming season. Thai leads us to our next step...
2. Timing Matters
In northern regions, like ours, the ideal time to over-seed cool-season grasses is at the tail end of summer or the onset of autumn. This is when those grasses are at peak growth rate. The next best time is in the spring. This is because, when the soil is warm, it spurs seed germination. At the same time, cool air encourages growth. All the while, the moisture in the soil needs to stay consistent. Another advantage to over-seeding in the fall is that crabgrass, nutsedge, and other warm-season weeds are not growing as much as they are in warmer weather, which gives your new seed an upper hand.
3. Lawn Over-seeding Prep
When mowing prior to over-seeding, you'll want to cut the lawn extra short and rake up the clippings. This gives the new seeds an opportunity to get to the soil faster, as well as be exposed to more water and sunlight. Ideally, you'll want to set your mower deck height to two inches or less for overseeding. After you mow, rake the clippings with a metal thatch rake. This not only removes clippings, but thatch, as well. It also loosens the the soil so that the seed has a more hospitable growing surface.
4. Fix Your Other Lawn Problems
If you are going to be over-seeding, you'll want to make sure that any other lawn problems you may be having are also corrected so as to not undermine new seed growth. If you are having issues beyond basic thinning, your best place to start is with a simple soil test. The results of the soil test will guide your correcting actions. It's also not a bad idea to de-thatch and aerate your lawn if you have compaction issues. Thai allows air and moisture to better access new seeds, as well as the roots of your existing lawn.
5. Use the Right Grass Seed
It sounds simple, but the right seed for your climate will result in a better looking lawn. Grass seed will almost always list the ideal climate conditions right on the bag. While we are at it, you'll want to get the best seed your budget allows. The old adage of "you get what you pay for" also applies to grass seed.
6. Seed Spreading
If you don't already have a lawn spreader, make sure you pick one up when you are getting your new grass seed. If you have a large lawn, consider a drop or broadcast spreader. If you have a smallish lawn, a handheld spreader should work just fine. If you are just doing spot work, you can likely just use your hand. Apply the grass seed at the recommended over-seeding rate, which you will also find on the package of grass seed.
Pro tip: To ensure that the grass seed spreads evenly, avoid applying on windy days.
When fertilizing an over-seeded area, stay away from "weed & feed" products. The "weed" part of them contains a pre-emergent herbicide, which inhibits the seed germination process. Look for starter fertilizers instead. Fertilizers will list nutrient ratios on the packaging. Phosphorus stimulates root growth. Nitrogen promotes growth and greening above ground. Some states, counties, and even districts have laws regarding the use of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers, because runoff can get into water supplies and promote algae growth. Double check with your county extension to learn about any applicable restrictions regarding fertilizer application.
8. Water, Water, and Water Some More
The importance of consistent moisture for an over-seeded lawn cannot be understated. For the first four days following the over-seeding, make sure the lawn gets watered lightly twice a day. In the following five days, alternate heavier waterings every other day. After that, water as necessary to stem off any wilting. This type of watering routine promotes healthy root growth.
After the initial over-seeding process and subsequent watering, you can return to your normal lawn maintenance plan, including regular watering, mowing, and regularly-planned over-seeding.
Over-seeding is a great way to get the best-looking lawn on the block. The process is relatively simple, but timing and consequent watering and care are essential for success.
E.P.M. Lawnscape and Supply offers commercial lawn maintenance services in the Jackson, MI area. Feel free to contact us online or call us today at (517) 990-0110.