Overseeding Your Lawn

Sep5th 201221 comments

Overseeding for better greening.

Over seed your lawn for thick green grass

When you think lawn care, spring may be the first thing that comes to mind, but the fact is back-to-school is perhaps an even better time to treat your lawn to some TLC. Fertilizing, compact aeration, composting and compost tea all are excellent ways to help your lawn looks its best, but perhaps the most important fall activity is to thicken your lawn by “overseeding” with new grass seed. Yes, a thicker lawn looks better, but the real secret is that a thicker lawn helps crowd out weeds naturally, without resorting to chemical weed killers.

Why do it now.

Back to school is always a little crazy, but if you can squeeze in a couple of hours, here are a few reasons why late August through September is the best time to grow new grass seeds and get that thick green lawn that will be the envy of your neighborhood. While daytime temperatures are on the decline, below the surface the soil retains its warmth – and warm soil helps seeds germinate faster. Back-to school season also brings more rainfall – not great for football, but super helpful for seed germination. Cooler temperatures also reduce insect infestation and disease. And last but not least, weeds don’t germinate during cooler fall days, so your new grass won’t have to compete with new weeds.

How to Overseed Your Lawn

  1. Mow at the lowest possible setting. Use a grass-catcher if you have one, lumps of cut grass will interfere with new seed germination.
  2. Use a grass rake to remove all dead grass and twigs - ensuring good contact between the new seed and soil.
  3. If your lawn soil is compacted (hard to pierce with a shovel or spade) have the lawn aerated, allowing moisture reach the seeds and roots. You can rent a DIY machine, or call Mahoney’s Safelawns and we’ll do it for you.
  4. Spread a high quality seed for a more disease-resistant, drought-tolerant, attractive lawn. Note: overseeding uses half the seed as new lawn seeding.
  5. Apply a quality seed starting fertilizer to provide the phosphorus needed to establish strong roots.
  6. Spread a 1/2-inch layer of compost over the seed –– this is important to improve the soil and will help keep moisture near the seeds.
  7. Water consistently. Grass seeds will absolutely die if they’re allowed to dry out, so your number one job is to keep them moist for at least 3 weeks. Watering should be shallow — getting the top 1/4 inch wet is enough — but you may have to water twice a day especially if it’s hot. Warning: Allowing new seed to dry out for even a day or two can ruin the grass seed you just spread.
  8. After 3 weeks, you can water less frequently but more deeply.
  9. Do not mow until the old grass reaches 3 inches.

Got Bare Patches? Seed Now, Too

  1. Remove all dead grass roots and debris with garden rake or cultivator.
  2. If your soil has the consistency of clay, spread some compost over the area. If your lawn is compacted, do compact soil aeration.
  3. Smooth with a rake or smaller tool, like your hand.
  4. Sprinkle a modest (not too thick) layer of premium grass seed over the spot.
  5. Add a quality organic or traditional seed starting fertilizer.
  6. Gently tamp the seed and fertilizer down so it doesn't easily wash away when you water.
  7. Apply a thin (1/4 inch) layer of straw, sifted compost, or soil-less growing medium as mulch.
  8. Water at least daily to keep the seeds constantly moist for 3 weeks, as you would for overseeding the whole lawn.

Yes, it looks like a lot of steps, but overseeding is not rocket science, doesn’t take all that much work and really isn’t very expensive. Plus year after year you’ll be rewarded with an easer to maintain, more beautiful lawn. One final note: don’t procrastinate –– new grass roots need time to establish before frost, so for best results make sure to overseed before mid-October. Questions? Stop in to any Mahoney’s – we’ll talk you through it.

Now let's hear your fall lawn care secrets.

Got any fall lawn care tips or helpful suggestions that you'd like to share? Leave a comment and let us know your recipe for successful fall lawn care.

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Comments

What if your lawn has a lot of crab grass in September?

My lawn looked really good in May and June, but by mid-August, I couldn't keep up with the crabgrass simply by pulling it (we don't use any chemicals on the lawn).

I'm ok with going over the yard with a de-thatching rake and aerating it, but I am not sure if the crabgrass is going to cause a problem with getting the full benefit of over seeding. I'm sure it's better than doing nothing, but my question is whether there are additional steps that you think are required for areas that include higher percentages of crabgrass?

Could the grass seed germinate and sprout in the spring and grow strong enough to help crowd out the crabgrass in the late summer? Could the new grass withstand an application of an organic crabgrass preventer in August next year?

One of the best things you

One of the best things you can do to keep crabgrass down organically is to keep your lawn growing thick and healthy. That being said now is a good time to get seed down because that crabgrass is going to start dying off when we get into colder weather. But now is a good time to throw down the seed right over the crabgrass, take advantage of the warm soil temperatures it will give quick germination, you may need to come back a little later with a second application to get some of those spots you may have missed because of the crabgrass was so thick. Also be sure to apply an organic fertilizer at this time, it will help the new seed as well as the established turf. Fall is always a great time to feed your organic lawn, what doesn’t get used gets stored up for early spring. Something else you should think about this time is your soil ph. If you’re acidic add some lime or Mira cal to change your soil to a neutral ph. It’s said that crabgrass doesn’t like a neutral ph and it thrives in an acidic soil.

As far as organic crabgrass control don’t neglect what I said above. As soon as you let your lawn go dormant or even stress in time of drought like this summer you run the risk of the crabgrass taken over. Now there’s also the corn gluten meal out there but it has to go down at the right amount. You need to use Jonathan green corn gluten meal because that’s the only one that is straight corn gluten. Organic will have corn gluten in there lawn booster but it makes no claims as a weed preventer (it’s only in there for a nitrogen source). Now Jonathan green gives two application rates on the back and the ``heavy ‘’ rate should be used if you seeking weed control. Don’t neglect this because a little won’t do a little crabgrass control it will only feed your lawn and the crabgrass. Another bad thing about the corn gluten meal is the cost may be going up next year, due to the drought in the mid west this year the industry is talking that prices will be going up. There is also another organic weed killer that comes in a liquid form that is put out by Whitney farms and Bayer but it doesn’t work on crabgrass though it is very affective on a lot of others out there.

The whole hand pulling is sometimes tough though if you keep the turf growing good it will choke out the crabgrass. Crabgrass needs sunlight to germinates and it needs to be touching the soil so try keeping your turf a little longer if you’re not doing that and keep it healthy like I said before. Good luck and if you need any help you can talk to b k or mike in the Chelmsford store.

Overseeding under extreme drought conditions

We are in eastern Kansas 40 miles SW of Kansas City off Interstate 35. We have a one acre front lawn of tall fescue that was 30% lost due to the extreme drought this year. This is the second year of drought in this area. There are bare patches and large areas of varying shape that are bare. Varying weeds and crabgrass are growing on the bare spots. This is not a flat lawn. It slopes 300 feet down to our house, and part of the driveway has a steep slope to the edge of the property. How would you plan for repair and renovation of the lawn? We are not prepared yet to go to large areas of ground cover or fancy gardens replacing parts of the lawn. If the midwest drought continues a few more years, then there may be no choices.

We used to live in Bedford, MA, so we are very familiar with Mahoney's. Thank you.

overseeding under extreem drought conditions

Richard;
It sounds like your seed is a good choice, that is tall fescue is very drought resistant. Some varieties will vary and I’ve had great luck with Jonathan greens black beauty around here. One thing I should mention here is any lawn is only as good as its roots, which means it needs a good few inches of rich soil. Around here we see a lot of what I call builders delights. That is the builder comes in takes all the loam and leaves an inch behind for your lawn so there’s nothing underneath except hard pack clay or sand. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. The better your soil, the better your root growth, which means the better your drought resistance. I have anywhere between 6- 12in. of compost in my back yard under my lawn and I can tell you it makes a difference.
There’s also a couple products on the market that are what I call a wetting agent we carry one called organic water wizard www.uwaterless.com this stuff actually pulls water and morning dew into the soil and will cut you watering in half. This may be something to look at if you go under watering bans. I’ve used this in small areas and it works very well but it can get expensive if you doing large areas like 20,000 squ. Ft. or more.
Good luck;
Mike

New lawn

I started a new lawn about a month ago, I tilled the dirt, added horse manure tilled that all in but I had to stock pile a load of manure while I got the dirt ready, and then I spread it, but in the area I piled the manure the grass wouldn't germinate. I realize it is because I left to much manure in that area. So I spread out a few wheelbarrows of dirt and reseeded. I want to make sure it takes this time, so do you have any suggestions? I saw for patching lawns you suggest spreading hay. Would that be a good idea for my situation?
I think the main problem was the manure dried out faster than the rest of the lawn. The bare area is about 200 sqft

Ya it sounds like the manure

Ya it sounds like the manure may have been a little hot, ie still composting. This may stop germination or at least slow it down. But you got the right idea, spreading a bit of dirt on top should help. The hay just helps keep the moisture on the soil and seed helping the germination, peat moss also may be used in the same way. Anyway keep the moisture on it and it should germinate.

dead grass

Hi What is the best thing I can start doing for my front yard ,I missed the right time to seed and most of the grass I planted to late last year is all brown and most like ly dead 

Should I rake out dead and lay down new dirt any ideas would be great we are trying to do it with out harsh chemicals

Dave & Jan Connell

11 Little Tree La. Fram Ma.

dead grass

There is no “right” time to seed just times that may be easier. If your around to water and get it to establish you can seed any time. Just don’t throw out seed in the middle of a drought and go away and expect it to germinate or you’re really just feeding the birds.

Sounds like you may have had a bit of snow mold over the winter which is not a big deal I would just re loosen up the soil you had and don’t bother with the new soil unless you want to fix any low spots. Use some organic fert that has some phosphorous in it like Jonathan greens organic fert, be sure to stray away from anything with corn gluten meal and you should be good to go.

Help. I seeded my yard now it's infested

I seeded my back yard and now it seems weeks later it is infested with what I think are Mosquitos. How do I get rid of these. By infested I mean there are thousands.... But only where I have seeded. I don't feel like I can even go outside without getting attacked my dog included. Help. 

bugs on new lawn

Bugs like the mosquitoes and especially the may fly are really attracted to the wet soil and moisture. They should pass as you start to slow down on the watering or as the weather warms. You could do a spray to do a quick knock down if you need there are both organic and synthetic mosquito controls out there that may help.

New lawn

We had a new lawn put down over a septic system in May--it was hydroseeded over a few inches of loam and took well for the most part but there are a number of scattered patches where the grass didnt grow or died off.  I'm trying to determine the best approach to fill in the gaps--the big challenge is that we are only going to be around for a few more weeks to water any new seed we put down.  Would it be better to seed/water now through early September or wait until spring when we can water on a more regular basis?

Thanks

Seed now you will have less

Seed now you will have less competition from weeds and crabgrass, and ground temps are ideal. 

You must loosen the top 2-3 inches of soil  in the bare spots. 

Water 3-4 times per day just long enough to get the surface good and moist.  You need to keep the soil MOIST at ALL TIMES.  Never dry.  Never.   But you can't water so much that there are puddles.  Hose timers are available at most home improvement stores.

 

Temperatures for Seed Germination

I was planning on overseeding this fall.  However, our temperatures dropped greatly and early, so much so that I am worried  that our nightime lows my inhibit or halt all germination.  What temperatures should I be looking for for overseeding?  What temperatures are to low?

plenty of time

~~The air temperature doesn’t matter, it all has to do with the soil temperature. Fescues will stop germinating around 60-65 degrees while blue grass and rye will keep germinating till about 55 degrees. But don’t worry about it there’s still plenty of time to seed. Don’t let a few cold nights stop you, you should still get good germination for another month.

garden center

Well, this is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche

Seeding my dead lawn this fall (again)

My house is at the bottom of a long hill and my yard is about 2 feet higher on the downhill side than the sidewalk. So I have a southern facing sloping corner where I planted Jonathan Green Full Sun seed last fall. It took off and was really nice in the Spring. By early summer some yellow-green areas started to appear. I responded by watering heavily and often. By mid summer, it had not improved so I threw down some summer fertilizer in a half-assed, last-ditch effort to bring it back (I have to admit here that it was a Scott's product. I was at Home Depot and picked it up because of convenience -- instantly regretted it). Days later brown patches and started appearing and I couldn't get it to come back. We then left for a week long vacation and when we got back, all of the fall seed had died. I know I did a few things wrong, among them:

  • Overwatering - The area is southern facing and gets direct sun from sunrise to sunset. I was probably a little too heavy handed with my watering because I was nervous about the area drying out (prior to planting the lawn I discovered that the soil was very hydrophobic). If I watered a little less frequently, the roots would have probably been stronger.
  • Not testing the soil - So I mentioned that the soil was hydrophobic. I rototilled in some peat moss, lawn soil, and other organics and assumed that would fix all my problems. After the grass died I decided to send a soil test to UMASS Amherst ($10 per test - not a bad deal) and found that the pH was 5.0 and the soil was very lacking in some nutrients.
  • Blindly fertilizing - Since I didn't know what my soil needed, I had no business fertilizing it with a random product I impulse-bought at Home Depot. I think this probably burned some of the grass and kicked off its rapid decline. Also, when I planted the seed in the fall I didn't use any of the recommended lawn products from Jonathan Green. So I did not give the grass the push it needed to get a healthy start.

So, I know some of the things I did wrong, but I still have some questions.

  1. Is "Full Sun" hardy enough to tolerate a south facing slope that gets 10-12 hours of direct sun or should I kick it up a notch a try the "drought tough" blend?
  2. What's the best way to fix hydrophobic soil? I think I have "fixed" the top 6-8 inches, but if I dig down 12 inches pour some water in the hole, it pools up and does not soak into the soil. If that soil won't absorb water, then how can I expect the grass roots grow any deeper than 6-8 inches?
  3. How far down should I worry about? Jonathan Green says that grass roots can potentially grow to a depth of 4 feet. I assume that is only under ideal conditions when you have 4 feet of great soil. When I go down about 20" I start hitting some rocky soil and other less-desirable conditions. I can't ensure ideal soil quality to 4 feet. So how far down should I worry about? My understanding is that the drought-resistance of grass depends on how deep and healthy it's roots are. If mine can only go to 20", is that deep enough to withstand a New England summer on a south facing slope?

If anyone has some answer to those questions, I'd be very appreciative. If not, hopefully some of you can at least learn from some of the mistakes I made.

seeding again

~~Well full sun is definitely hardy enough, it’s very similar to the drought tough in fact. That tall fescue in there is what really reaches deep for water and the blue grass and the rye grass help blend it all together nicely. I would go with the full sun or the black beauty ultra, they both have a good mix of all three grasses and will do fine on an all-day sun slope.
If you have 6-8 inches of good soil that’s plenty for a good healthy lawn, most new developments don’t have that now a days and their lawns do fine, I always say more is better but 6- 8 inches is better that most. That tall fescue will still penetrate the soil to 4 ft. as long as it’s not a hard pack clay or something else that resembles cement. You can always loosen up clay soils with gypsum but I don’t think you need it.
A couple other things to consider - your soil is a bit acidic but that wouldn’t kill your lawn. If the fertilizer went down on real hot day or if it went down to heavy that may killed the grass but even a highly soluble fertilizer like Scotts shouldn’t burn when applied properly, you would need to almost double the application rate to burn you lawn. The overwatering issue may have something to do with it but its real tough to overwater, the turf would have sit in water to kill it but this does bring on other problems like diseases and shallow root development. The diseases you would notice by spreading, not the whole area dyeing of at once but patches going and spreading out, also spotting on the individual blades of grass or even total collapse of the blades with some rotting. If the area is around any large trees, that is are there any roots under this area? This could cause drought stress or root competition with the turf and the turf can’t win, this is very common in June or when the spring rains stop. So this year that was like late may early June? It’s also hard to irrigate a hill you got to keep in mind if you water heavy it runs off. You really got to get a slow even water especially when the hot days of summer come in, the dry soils make it even harder to irrigate a hill like this. fall is the best time to seed or should i say early fall is so good luck.
Hope that helps
 

Over seeded a week ago and going great so far

I have a small lawn in my backyard in Northern California which is part shade and part sun.  It was just getting worse every year regardless what I did, lots of bare spots and the tall fescue was clumping without a lot of friends nearby so it looked like crabgrass.  After much research, it seemed like it needed a good over seeding.  Had a pro come out and areate  a few weeks before I began the project.

I killed some chic weed (about 3 sq feet) via weed spray that would not kill the grass.  It took two applications to do the job and then hand pulled most of it out .  Later used a metal leaf rack and aggressively removed what little thatch there was all over the lawn and aggressively raked the bare spots and kept removing dead grass so the seeds could find the dirt.  Waited three weeks to put down new seed per the weed killer manufacturer's recommendation which worked out to be a few days after labor day. 

One thing which really made a huge difference was I dumped in small piles - three, 2 cubic foot bags of Kellog Topper for grass and sod (from Home Depot) and raked it below the current grass with the back of a garden rake so it would settle in well below the current grass.  It also has a little starter fertilizer in it.  I then rotary spread a very good quality grass from Nature's Finest seed which was their Triple Fescue blend.  Also hand spread in certain areas so I wasn't broadcasting into the adjoining gardens.  Then I took about three 5 gallon buckets of the same Kellogg's and lightly hand covered all of the seed, trying to only put 1/4", maybe a bit more over all of the seed.

I then hand watered heavily with a gentle shower, also concentrating on the areas where the original grass was, in hopes of forcing seed down to the dirt line.  Then set my sprinklers to water 3x daily for three minutes, every day. After a few waterings the Topper was now down to the dirt line.

The old grass has loved the organics in the Topper and with the extra watering it started to really grow well with great color.  But it took about 1 week to see the new grass grow through the Topper.  Every day the new grass continues to sprout like crazy!!  The original grass is going to be a jungle before I get the seedlings to at least 2" to mow it. But it is looking fantastic and with the elongated fall growing season in Northern Calif, it will be well established before the ground gets cool and should be very healthy.  I plan to follow up with a quick release fertilizer about 5 weeks after the seedlings are mature.

DD in NorCal

 

Over seeded a week ago and going great so far

I have a small lawn in my backyard in Northern California which is part shade and part sun.  It was just getting worse every year regardless what I did, lots of bare spots and the tall fescue was clumping without a lot of friends nearby so it looked like crabgrass.  After much research, it seemed like it needed a good over seeding.  Had a pro come out and areate  a few weeks before I began the project.

I killed some chic weed (about 3 sq feet) via weed spray that would not kill the grass.  It took two applications to do the job and then hand pulled most of it out .  Later used a metal leaf rack and aggressively removed what little thatch there was all over the lawn and aggressively raked the bare spots and kept removing dead grass so the seeds could find the dirt.  Waited three weeks to put down new seed per the weed killer manufacturer's recommendation which worked out to be a few days after labor day. 

One thing which really made a huge difference was I dumped in small piles - three, 2 cubic foot bags of Kellog Topper for grass and sod (from Home Depot) and raked it below the current grass with the back of a garden rake so it would settle in well below the current grass.  It also has a little starter fertilizer in it.  I then rotary spread a very good quality grass from Nature's Finest seed which was their Triple Fescue blend.  Also hand spread in certain areas so I wasn't broadcasting into the adjoining gardens.  Then I took about three 5 gallon buckets of the same Kellogg's and lightly hand covered all of the seed, trying to only put 1/4", maybe a bit more over all of the seed.

I then hand watered heavily with a gentle shower, also concentrating on the areas where the original grass was, in hopes of forcing seed down to the dirt line.  Then set my sprinklers to water 3x daily for three minutes, every day. After a few waterings the Topper was now down to the dirt line.

The old grass has loved the organics in the Topper and with the extra watering it started to really grow well with great color.  But it took about 1 week to see the new grass grow through the Topper.  Every day the new grass continues to sprout like crazy!!  The original grass is going to be a jungle before I get the seedlings to at least 2" to mow it. But it is looking fantastic and with the elongated fall growing season in Northern Calif, it will be well established before the ground gets cool and should be very healthy.  I plan to follow up with a quick release fertilizer about 5 weeks after the seedlings are mature.

DD in NorCal

 

Over seeded a week ago and going great so far

I have a small lawn in my backyard in Northern California which is part shade and part sun.  It was just getting worse every year regardless what I did, lots of bare spots and the tall fescue was clumping without a lot of friends nearby so it looked like crabgrass.  After much research, it seemed like it needed a good over seeding.  Had a pro come out and areate  a few weeks before I began the project.

I killed some chic weed (about 3 sq feet) via weed spray that would not kill the grass.  It took two applications to do the job and then hand pulled most of it out .  Later used a metal leaf rack and aggressively removed what little thatch there was all over the lawn and aggressively raked the bare spots and kept removing dead grass so the seeds could find the dirt.  Waited three weeks to put down new seed per the weed killer manufacturer's recommendation which worked out to be a few days after labor day. 

One thing which really made a huge difference was I dumped in small piles - three, 2 cubic foot bags of Kellog Topper for grass and sod (from Home Depot) and raked it below the current grass with the back of a garden rake so it would settle in well below the current grass.  It also has a little starter fertilizer in it.  I then rotary spread a very good quality grass from Nature's Finest seed which was their Triple Fescue blend.  Also hand spread in certain areas so I wasn't broadcasting into the adjoining gardens.  Then I took about three 5 gallon buckets of the same Kellogg's and lightly hand covered all of the seed, trying to only put 1/4", maybe a bit more over all of the seed.

I then hand watered heavily with a gentle shower, also concentrating on the areas where the original grass was, in hopes of forcing seed down to the dirt line.  Then set my sprinklers to water 3x daily for three minutes, every day. After a few waterings the Topper was now down to the dirt line.

The old grass has loved the organics in the Topper and with the extra watering it started to really grow well with great color.  But it took about 1 week to see the new grass grow through the Topper.  Every day the new grass continues to sprout like crazy!!  The original grass is going to be a jungle before I get the seedlings to at least 2" to mow it. But it is looking fantastic and with the elongated fall growing season in Northern Calif, it will be well established before the ground gets cool and should be very healthy.  I plan to follow up with a quick release fertilizer about 5 weeks after the seedlings are mature.

DD in NorCal

 

Over seeded a week ago and going great so far

I have a small lawn in my backyard in Northern California which is part shade and part sun.  It was just getting worse every year regardless what I did, lots of bare spots and the tall fescue was clumping without a lot of friends nearby so it looked like crabgrass.  After much research, it seemed like it needed a good over seeding.  Had a pro come out and areate  a few weeks before I began the project.

I killed some chic weed (about 3 sq feet) via weed spray that would not kill the grass.  It took two applications to do the job and then hand pulled most of it out .  Later used a metal leaf rack and aggressively removed what little thatch there was all over the lawn and aggressively raked the bare spots and kept removing dead grass so the seeds could find the dirt.  Waited three weeks to put down new seed per the weed killer manufacturer's recommendation which worked out to be a few days after labor day. 

One thing which really made a huge difference was I dumped in small piles - three, 2 cubic foot bags of Kellog Topper for grass and sod (from Home Depot) and raked it below the current grass with the back of a garden rake so it would settle in well below the current grass.  It also has a little starter fertilizer in it.  I then rotary spread a very good quality grass from Nature's Finest seed which was their Triple Fescue blend.  Also hand spread in certain areas so I wasn't broadcasting into the adjoining gardens.  Then I took about three 5 gallon buckets of the same Kellogg's and lightly hand covered all of the seed, trying to only put 1/4", maybe a bit more over all of the seed.

I then hand watered heavily with a gentle shower, also concentrating on the areas where the original grass was, in hopes of forcing seed down to the dirt line.  Then set my sprinklers to water 3x daily for three minutes, every day. After a few waterings the Topper was now down to the dirt line.

The old grass has loved the organics in the Topper and with the extra watering it started to really grow well with great color.  But it took about 1 week to see the new grass grow through the Topper.  Every day the new grass continues to sprout like crazy!!  The original grass is going to be a jungle before I get the seedlings to at least 2" to mow it. But it is looking fantastic and with the elongated fall growing season in Northern Calif, it will be well established before the ground gets cool and should be very healthy.  I plan to follow up with a quick release fertilizer about 5 weeks after the seedlings are mature.

DD in NorCal

 

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