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Overseeding Lawn 101

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Overseeding can seem like a complex and overwhelming concept for many new landscapers, homeowners and gardeners, but those who have been doing it for years know it can make the difference between a mediocre lawn and a thriving one. Here we’ve compiled a short overseeding guide to help you on your planting journey to a lawn that’s the envy on the neighborhood.

What is Overseeding?

Overseeding is the process of planting grass seed directly into turf without removing or killing off the existing lawn. This can be one of the most effective processes to improve the overall quality and health of your lawn. Overseeding is ideal for filling in bare spots, improving the thickness of your grass, and enhancing the lawn’s color.

As a lawn grows older, it becomes more susceptible to diseases, insects, and weeds. Overseeding newer turfgrass varieties into an older lawn can give it the boost it needs to withstand insects, disease, drought, shady conditions, heavy traffic, and more. The investment of overseeding pays off as it can decrease the amount of fertilizer, water, and pesticides needed to maintain a quality lawn.

When should I Overseed?

The optimal time to overseed a cool-season lawn (bluegrass, fescue, ryegrass) is in the spring or early fall. Typically, temperatures and moisture levels are most favorable during these seasons. For warm-season grasses (bermudagrass, zoysia, buffalograss, bahia), late spring to early summer is best.

Dormant seeding is also an option. This alternative method entails spreading the seed in the late fall or early winter, before the snow falls. This prevents the seed from germinating at all until temperatures warm back up in the spring. For this method to work effectively it requires adequate snow cover during the winter to prevent wind and water erosion.

How to Overseed?

Before you overseed there are a few things you want to verify. First, find out what kind of grass you currently have and whether it’s a warm-season grass or a cool season grass. Planting the wrong grass type and/or species can result in a lawn that looks like a patchwork quilt – full of different textures and shades of green. This is a very important step.

There are a couple different methods for overseeding, but most common method is to broadcast the seed with a hand-held broadcaster or drop-type seeder. No fancy walking pattern is required. Just make sure to cover all your desired area as if you were mowing it. As a rule of thumb, it is a good practice to aerate your lawn before overseeding. This opens up the soil and increases the amount of seed-to-soil contact. If you have an older lawn, there’s a good chance you may have excess thatch that will need removing. By removing this layer of excess dead grass from the lawn, you significantly increase the chances of seed-to-soil contact. Depending on your lawn this could require a little bit of elbow grease and a thatching rake. If you prefer to take a simpler approach, renting a dethatcher from your local home improvement store will do the trick.

If you’re looking for the easiest and most effective method for overseeding, look into investing in your own slit seeder. Slit seeders are also available for rent. This method is the most effective as it requires less seeds and is the best method for improving seed to soil contact. Once you have finished overseeding, it is important to water your lawn regularly during the germination period (15-30 days). Start out watering 2-3 times a day for about 5 minutes at time and adjust if needed. After the seed has become established, water at the recommended level for your type of grass. Overseeding should be done every 2-3 years for best results. If your lawn receives heavy traffic or is recovering from pest or disease damage, overseeding annually is a good idea.

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