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Fall

Fall

Fall

Fall is the best time of year to plant grass seed to your lawn whether it's starting new from bare soil, repairing an existing lawn from summer damage, or just thickening the grass you already have to assure health and to choke out weeds. It is recommended to over-seed every fall at a rate of 2-5 pounds per thousand square feet (50lb bag covering 10-20k square feet). The better your lawn looks the less seed you need to apply.

How Much Seed To Apply

The amount needed for overseeding lawns are different with different seed varieties. The rates can be adjusted depending on the thickness of your lawn. If you currently overseed on an annual basis, less seed is preferred.

  • Use 2 to 5 lbs per 1000 sq. ft if your lawns is thick already. It is more of a maintenance activity for thicker lawns.
  • When overseeding lawns with open dirt areas and other trouble spots, use 4 to 8 lbs per 1000 sq. ft.
  • For complete renovation, 8 to 12 lbs per 1000 sq. ft. may be needed.
  • Make sure you follow good irrigation techniques for the best results. It may take a couple of years, overseeding each year, for the lawn to look it best.
  • Remember a key point when overseeding lawns: Try not to apply too much seed, and I emphasize "too much". Thick, vibrant lawns are created over time as plants grow and enlarge. Applying so much seed in an attempt get a super thick lawn in three months may lead to overcrowding as plants mature.

Golf courses often use 15 to 30 lbs of seed when overseeding important areas. Why? Because they have an extremely high user expectation. They don't have the luxury of "allowing it to grow in over time." They know how much of a particular seed the turf can handle. Don't try to follow their example or you may create problems for yourself.

Some websites will tell you to double or triple the recommended rates. Some even say when overseeding an established lawn that you should use double the rate of seed recommended for planting a brand new lawn. I don’t agree with this advice. They are assuming that the homeowner is not going to water correctly. The problem is if you do water correctly and get good germination, you can easily end up with to too much grass. Even if you use triple the rate, but fail to water, you can still lose the lawn. There is work required for overseeding lawns correctly, so be determined to pay careful attention to how you water. You can measure out more seed if you really believe you need it.

Maintenance that Follows Overseeding

Keeping the Seeds Moist

After overseeding your lawn, the seeds will need moisture to germinate. Keep the soil moist (but not overly wet) by lightly sprinkling two to three times a day throughout the required germination period. Once your grass begins sprouting, you can cut down on the amount of water. Instead, water less frequently, but a little deeper. Be careful not to soak the soil repeatedly or you could encourage root rot diseases. As the grass grows, allow the soil to dry slightly before watering again. The greatest danger to seedlings is overwatering and soaking the soil, which could lead to disease (root rot) problems or underwatering and drying out the tiny roots. The second greatest problem is if you have high heat periods that cook the tender roots should the ground get too dry.

To Cover or Not to Cover Seeds

 

Generally when overseeding lawns, the existing grass provides cover and shade. In poor lawns with lots of exposed dirt, the soil will need to be raked to cover the seed with a thin layer of dirt.

If you plan to spread compost, apply the compost first and then seed. This is to make sure you don’t bury the seed too deep. After seeding, Rake the seed so the compost lightly covers the seed. There are also various seed coverings that shade the soil and reduce evaporation. The least expensive may be wheat straw. There is no magic to it, so just lightly spread a layer of straw over the lawn. With a light breeze you can use the wind to your advantage. The wind can catch the straw and distribute it evenly over ten feet or so. You will always get some wheat that germinates, but wheat can’t take repeated mowing. After a few cuttings, it will dieback and disappear. You may need to remove the straw after the grass starts growing if it was applied too thick.

Most professional turf mangers will spread seed after mowing and soil preparation. Some rake it in and some don’t, but it is always better to cover the seed with a thin layer of soil. Don’t mow again until the seed germinates and reaches at least two inches. It may take two to three weeks, depending on the seed type. If you mow before the seed germinates, you run the risk of picking up loose seed. Remember, contact with the soil and moisture is most important.

Using a Starter Fertilizer

When overseeding lawns, you may find it necessary to apply a starter fertilizer before or directly after seeding. This is especially true if a soil test says your soil Phosphorus (P) is low. Starter fertilizers will contain higher amounts of phosphorus (Middle number on the bag of fertilizer).

The reason for the increase is because phosphorus is relatively immovable in the soil. The soil may contain plenty of phosphorus already, but since it doesn’t move or leach, it may not be where the tiny roots can reach it. The only drawback to adding (P) is that weed seeds will benefit from the added phosphorus as well. However, when you remember that a thick turf is your best defense against weeds, added phosphorus will only help you achieve your goals.


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