If your lawn doesn't look this good (and whose does?) then don't miss the best time to do something about it - between now and October 15 in our area. Acting now to thicken up and patch your lawn means that next year it'll be thicker, have fewer weeds, and just look better. So get on it!
How to Overseed Your Lawn or Fix Patches
Most lawns really need overseeding at least every other year - to keep them thick and relatively weed-free. It's for cool-season turfgrass like fescues or Kentucky bluegrass that most Marylanders grow, not for warm-season grasses like Zoysia or Buffalograss.
Need to Start a New Lawn?
It's the best time to do this, too. And if your lawn is 50 percent or more weeds, it's usually suggested that you start from scratch, as though you were just starting that lawn.
For well researched advice on starting new lawns I turned to the University of Maryland's Home and Garden Information Center and found this exhaustive advice about establishing new lawns (also overseeding and renovating lawns). You may find this link about how to start a new lawn easier to follow, though (I sure would).
Homestead has its own brand of grass seed specially formulated to perform well in our region. We also carry the Jonathan Green varieties, including the ever-popular "Black Beauty."
Feed your Lawn NOW
Between now and November is the ideal time to feed it - NOT in the spring, as some advertising would have you believe. That's because in the fall, the fertilizer goes to root growth over the winter, not to producing quick topgrowth that just forces you to mow more often. Money spent on fertilizer is so often wasted in the spring - either because the nutrients result simply in that quick topgrowth or because they run off into our waterways and eventually into the Bay - where they add to the pollution there.
If you're overseeding
Most lawns really need overseeding at least every other year - to keep them thick and relatively weed-free (the best defense against weeds is thick turf.) And you can indeed apply grass seed at the same time as fertilizer, as long as the fertilizer is low in Nitrogen (or it can burn the new blades). Any organic fertilizer is fine, or a synthetic product labeled "low-Nitrogen" or "starter".
Here's how: It's best to aerate your lawn first, especially if the soil is clayey, and put down some gypsum after aerating. The next day (at least) add lime if it's needed*, then water. The next day, apply seed, and water. Finally, (again after waiting at least a day), apply the fertilizer and water. Water every day until the seed germinates, then twice a week, then once a week thereafter. Don't mow until the new grass is 4" tall, and only with a sharp blade.
If you're not overseeding
If you're not seeding at the same time, you have a greater selection of lawn fertilizers to choose from, and they can be applied right up until the time the ground freezes - through November in our area is usually safe. Organic gardeners love the Espoma and Milorganic brands of all-organic fertilizers, and the results are terrific. For the budget-conscious, we recommend Greenview Fall Lawn Food. Though synthetic (which is why it's less expensive), it's still slow-release, and it contains NO phosphate, so it's Bay-friendly!
*Free In-Store Soil pH Tests!
Before applying lime, be sure to test your soil to confirm that it actually needs it. And why not - the test is free and takes just 5 minutes, while you wait. To prepare the sample you bring to the store, just dig 2" down and scoop a teaspoon or so into a plastic bag.