by Susan Harris
If you have a lawn service, great; everything’s being taken care of. But for MOST of you, listen up. If your lawn could be better (be honest), it’s almost time to do something about it or hate it for another season. As soon as the temperatures drop into the high 70s during the day is the ideal time to making your lawn thicker – not just so it’ll look better but because thick lawns keep the weeds at bay. Then later in the fall you probably should feed your lawn, and we’ll post about that when the time comes.
How to Overseed Your Lawn
(This information is for cool-season turfgrass like fescues or Kentucky bluegrass that most Marylanders grow, not for warm-season grasses like Zoysia or Buffalograss.)
- Mow at the lowest possible setting, with a grass-catcher if you have one.
- Rake the area with a grass rake, leaving no debris. This is important to ensure direct contact between seed and soil.
- This a good time to do the recommended yearly addition of organic matter to your lawn by spreading a 1/2-inch layer of compost before seeding.
- Spread seed — about 1/2 the amount used for a brand new lawn. Buy the highest quality mix you can find — it’ll probably be more disease-resistant, drought-tolerant and attractive, as well. And a mix is definitely best because it’ll be less vulnerable to any particular disease. The best grasses for sunny areas are tall fescues; for shade, creeping fescues.
- Water, and here’s where most grass seed is wasted. Those little seeds will DIE if they’re allowed to dry out, so your number one job is to keep them moist for 3 weeks or so. 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). You could buy a cheap timer for your sprinkler to take care of the late afternoon watering while you’re at work. (Don’t even THINK about going on vacation for the next month, though — or more accurately, don’t think about planting seed just before leaving town). Missing a day or two of watering can mean wasting a whole lot of that grass seed you just applied.
- After 3 weeks, you can water less frequently but more deeply.
- Mow when the old grass reaches 3 inches.
Got Patches? Now’s the Time to Seed Them, Too
- Remove plant debris with garden rake (or cultivator for a small spot).
- Especially if your soil is clay, it’s helpful to spread some compost over the area.
- Smooth with a rake or smaller tool, like your hand.
- Sprinkle a modest (not too thick) layer of premium grass seed over the spot.
- Tamp it down with your hands.
- Apply a thin (1/4 inch) layer of straw, sifted compost, or soil-less growing medium as mulch.
- Water at least daily to keep the seeds constantly moist for 3 weeks, as you would for overseeding the whole lawn.
Photo by Diorama Sky.