season grasses of the south like St Augustine, Bermuda, Zoysia, etc. keep
growing strong. The growing season is just longer in the south and building up
a healthy plant before the grass goes dormant for the winter is really
beneficial. We recommend feeding your lawn until soil temperatures fall to 70
Question: Why Do Saint Augustine Lawns Go Brown In Winter?
Not all lawns will go brown in winter, and
there can be many factors which can attribute to a lawn either going brown or
staying green over the winter time. But the main reason is that lawns naturally
become dormant or semi dormant over winter, and in doing so – some will
naturally lose their green color and brown off. Warm season grasses thrive in
the hot weather and therefor suffer in the cool weather. Luckily they come
right back in the spring!
Fall Weed Control: Typically many winter annual weeds are really cool season weed types and can be managed by applying a pre-emergent herbicide around September/October. Selective, post-emergent herbicides can be applied as necessary —- use sparingly as the warm season grass does not have the ability to grow or fight off the weed control itself and can be effected more dramatically than the spring time before the growing season.
Fall Irrigation: Without regular rainfall you should continue to water
to prevent drought stress. After the lawn has become dormant, water as needed
to prevent excessive dehydration. No more than 1 inch needed a week including
Fall Mowing: Continue to mow at the normal mowing height until the
weather starts to cool in the fall. Once nighttime temperatures fall below 70
degrees regularly, raise the mower cutting height ½ to 1 inch to allow more
leaf surface. This will allow the turf to become acclimated and insulate the
roots longer. Once fully dormant, cut slightly lower than normal to
allow airflow and reduce disease.
Everyone wants that lush green and full lawn. For northern cool season grasses, the closest thing to a get rich quick lawn solution is to fall dethatch and overseed. It will create the biggest impact difference to your lawn and is fairly easy.
To do the dethatching for most yards under 20,000 sq ft you can easily knock this out with a simple DIY electric dethatcher like the one SunJoe sells for typically between $130-180. We like it for its price (as cheap as renting a beast of one from Home Depot for a few hours), and for its effectiveness. Check out the thatch coming up in the quick video below. Removing all of that buildup will allow water and nutrients to better reach the soil to be more effective. This will also prep your soil for better seed to soil contact when overseeding.
Type of Grass :
When picking your grass type for the fall overseed you need to decide what is best for your lawn. We like the idea of introducing more Kentucky bluegrass (AKA – KBG) blends into the lawn for their ability to expand growth and fill in gaps in the lawn. You can READ MORE ABOUT GRASS TYPES HERE. One brand we enjoy using is from OutsidePride.com and comes at a fair price.
Lawn Renovation Steps & Video From This Old House: 1. Mow the lawn to a height of 1½ inch. Be sure to collect the grass clippings. 2. Run a de-thatcher across the entire lawn to remove dead plant matter. (WE LIKE THE SUNJOE!) 3. Use a leaf rake to collect and remove all the thatch pulled from the lawn. Some people use a leaf blower or run their lawn mower over after raking to pick up the extra piece in their bagger. 4. Run a gas-powered core aerator across the lawn. (WE ACTUALLY SKIP THIS STEP, UNLESS YOU HAVE REALLY COMPACT SOIL) 5. Rake up and remove the soil plugs extracted by the aerator. (IF YOU DID THIS) 6. Spread compost over the lawn and rake it down into the holes. Even if you did not core aerate compost or peat moss is a really nice introduction of organic matter to the soil. 7. Analyze the physical structure of the soil with a soil test kit; amend the soil as necessary. (LAWN SERV’S JOB!) 8. Use a broadcast spreader to over-seed the lawn with new grass seed. Adjust the spreader to dispense seven pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet area. 9. Use backside of leaf rake to lightly work the grass seed into the lawn. 10. Lightly water twice a day to keep the lawn damp, not soaking wet.
Your lawn is starting to wake up! Think about your lawn like a bear emerging from hibernation. It has just spent the last several months sleeping and recovering from the stress of last year’s hot summer, and is now slowly warming up. Now, your lawn is hungry (needs some high-quality food), could probably use a nice long shower (here comes the Spring rain!), and could use a nice thorough grooming to get ready for the season.
Spring lawn care can be daunting (where do I even start?!), but don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be that hard! In fact, there are a few big things to start with that will really get you set up for a great season. Take a look below for some tips on how to get started.
1.First up? LOOK for signs of damage, weeds, and issues that you want to address this year.
Our first recommendation is always to take a nice long walk around your property. Do you see any signs of damage (did the snowplow dig up a part of your grass?) A few things to take note of:
Wet winter weather may mean that you have moss growing in your lawn.
See any circular spots on your lawn that look like moldy bread? If so, this might be snow mold!
Can you see any “tracks” in your lawn where pesky critters (moles/voles/mice) may have enjoyed your beautiful lawn this winter?
Are there any new weeds that are starting to pop up? Some weeds (e.g., bittercress) emerge before the grass does, so you’re likely to see these first thing in the Spring.
If so, take a couple pictures and let us know!
2.Next: GET READY for the season! Time to prepare your tools.
Mower maintenance is a big one—we usually recommend doing a mower (and other equipment) maintenance at the beginning of each summer. This includes:
Changing the oil, air filter, and spark plugs
Giving your mower a good wash (we also recommend washing before you put it away for the winter, but just in case, give it a good wash in the Spring too!)
Fueling the tank with fresh gas!
There are many shops that offer a full maintenance (or even just a quick blade sharpening), but most of these to-dos are easily done by yourself if you’re willing to give it the time! Most importantly, make sure to read your owner’s manual for proper maintenance safety, and never do any of this maintenance while the mower is running!
3.Finally, after you’ve tackled this prep work, it’s GO TIME!
Even though the soil ecosystem has been active over the entire winter, now that your lawn is waking up it’s about to be kicked into turbo mode! This means that your grass—and potential weeds—will be pulling nutrients from your soil at a much higher rate and quickly growing the “shoots” part of the plant. This means you’ll need to start mowing very soon! A couple of big needs at this point in the season:
Clear a path for sun and rain to get to your grass and its roots—make sure you pick up any sticks, trash, leftover leaves and debris that may be covering your lawn. You should also give your lawn a good raking—this will really help to promote air and water flow (my removing dead grass, etc.), boosting your lawn’s health!
Hand pull those weeds! Some individual weed plants can drop tens of thousands of seeds over the course of a single season, so any weeds that you can hand pull at this point in the season will be a big help in reducing weed populations as we go.
Time for your pre-emergent treatment—this early-season treatment is focused on creating a weed “barrier” that will prevent weed seeds from germinating and popping out of the soil.
So, to summarize: take a nice long walk around your yard, get your tools ready to go, and then dive in! Most importantly, have fun with it (if you have kids, now is a great time to have a competition on who can pick up the most sticks!).
As always, feel free to reach out anytime with questions and let us know what you see when you’re out there!
Taking care of your lawn for the first time is a great feeling. It takes time and effort and you can get tangible results. If you are new to the yard game it can probably be a little much on figuring out where to start.
One way to lighten your load is to not try to take it all on at once while you are learning. Lawn Serv, our do-it-yourself lawn care subscription box can help take some of the highly effective and technical science pieces off your plate to start as you learn more.
To learn more about some of the yard basics follow along to these items:
Getting to Know Your Soil
Fix Any Problems
Knowing Your Grass Type
Feed Your Grasses Well
Fight Lawn Weeds
Mowing is More Than a Saturday Chore
Water is Likely Needed
Stick with It
1. GETTING TO KNOW YOUR SOIL
When it comes to lawn care, what happens with the grass reflects what’s going on in the dirt it grows. An easy place to start is by testing your soil. Your local agricultural school or county agriculture office will have information on test kits and reputable soil laboratories. This will help you understand imbalances of pH, organic matter, macronutrients and provide insight into how much nitrogen should be applied at what times of year.
At Lawn Serv we consider this a major data point to both the long term and short term planning of products needed to apply and can dramatically improve results with less waste and environmental impact. That is why we include a free soil test for everyone who signs up.
2. FIX ANY PROBLEMS
You can use the soil test results to make decisions on when and how much product to apply from pH to nitrogen. One of the most common soil problems is a too high or too low pH which can lead to an unhealthy grass growing environment but a lush weed growing ecosystem. Lime, as an example, reestablishes balance to soil pH so grasses can take up available nutrients more easily. If your family includes pets, you’re sure to have some pet damage. But don’t worry; healthy lawns with good soil and happy dogs can coexist.
At Lawn Serv we include products for weed control, pH balancing, bug control, and fertilizer in our subscription boxes. If you run into any lawn diseases or need grass seed we can get you that also and include those products into your lawn box plans!
3. KNOWING YOUR GRASS TYPE
Grasses suited to their growing region create the best lawns.
Grass types vary in their climate preferences and tolerances for drought, shade and other conditions. Cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, peak in growth during cool temperatures in fall and spring. They flourish in northern zones. Warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass, excel in summer heat and warmer climates. Region-appropriate lawn grasses require less water and other resources, including maintenance time.
The numbers on fertilizer labels reveal the percentages of actual nitrogen and other nutrients products contain, so you can match the product to your needs. Be careful, though: feeding too much or too often causes more harm than good. Establish a feeding schedule that meets your lawn’s fertilizer needs, or sign up for Lawn Serv and we will take care of the timing and delivery of the appropriate products based on soil testing.
5. FIGHT LAWN WEEDS
Even new lawns usually end up with weeds and weed seeds as they can travel many ways and from near and far. Weeds compete with grasses for nutrients, water and light.
One lawn weed can quickly turn to more and not all weeds are cured the same way. In short manually hand pulling mature weeds, followed by pre-emergent control to stop weed seeds from germinating, with post-emergent weed control for weeds that do germinate but are hard to hand pull is the triple threat. When moving in the right direction a full lush lawn that crowds out weeds is going to be your ongoing defense.
6. MOWING IS MORE THAN A SATURDAY CHORE
Keep a sharp mower blade, know your grass cut height and mow based on grass growth, not day of the week. Mowing heights vary according to grass type and the season. Some grasses, such as Bermudagrass, are best kept short, while other types need more height. Hot spells warrant higher mowing heights all around.
7. WATER IS LIKELY NEEDED
Water-conserving grasses help reduce water use and bills. Watering and other lawn maintenance can vary from month to month through your seasonal lawn care calendar, but you should always accommodate what’s happening in your lawn. If you are applying products to your yard such as fertilizer the plant will need water during times of drought to absorb those nutrients. LEARN MORE ABOUT WATERING HERE. Keep in mind though that grasses can go dormant naturally. This happens during heat in the north and cold in the south as example and does not mean your lawn is dead necessarily.
8. STICK WITH IT
If you are even going to start with caring for your lawn you need to learn to love it at least a little bit and have fun. There are ups and downs, never ending weeds, and gratification that come from the opportunity. You don’t have to win every weekend, you just have to stick with it and over time you will most definitely see the results.
There are many different types of grasses, and most lawns contain a mixture of them. Even turf grasses you might see in the store year after year are always slightly different as environmental conditions change each year for harvesting. Turf grasses have in a lot of cases been evolved through science to stand up to the ever changing climate and diseases to provide more resistance turf.
One of the key starting points of identifying your turf typically just starts with where you live. There are different types of grass meant for the warm and cool seasons of the United States and their climates. We WROTE A BLOG SHOWING THIS HERE.
Warm season grasses that thrive in warm-weather regions, such as the Southern United States.
Cool season grasses that do best with extreme temperature fluctuations, such as those found in the North, Northeast, and Pacific Northwest.
It’s important to know your grass type so you can take the best possible care of your lawn. The transition states between clear cool and warm season grasses can make for some of the hardest identifications. For example, if you pick a Northern weed control for a Southern lawn, you could actually harm it, not good!
Below are some characteristics of grass types…
TALL FESCUE (Cool Season)
Typically a cool-season type, tall fescue can also be found in hotter regions due to its ability to tolerate heat. It is a bunchgrass often used in athletic fields because it can withstand heavy use and foot traffic. In some lawns, patches of tall fescue may stick out and appear as a grassy weed. It grows in bunches, and is therefore not used very often in seed mixes.
Blade: Pointed, visible veins, 3/16” wide
Color/Texture: Dark green, coarse, stiff
Popularity: All regions
RYEGRASS (Cool Season)
Ryegrass is easy to spot in a lawn due to its shine. Also, it leaves a “whitish” cast when mowed. It is a bunchgrass, which germinates quickly and is often found in seed mixtures with Kentucky bluegrass. It is primarily found in cool-season areas of the North, but may not survive as far north as Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Canada.
Blade: Pointed, visible veins, 1/8” wide
Color/Texture: Dark green, soft
Growth: Quick, bunch type
Popularity: Mid- to North U.S.
FINE FESCUE (Cool Season)
The name “fine fescue” is actually a collective term for the various species of grasses in this group: red, chewings, hard, and sheep. Like the name implies, they are very fine textured with needle-like blades. Fine fescues are popular because of their shade tolerance. However, they do not tolerate heat and dry conditions.
Blade: Hair-like, fine tip, 1/16” or less
Color/Texture: Dull or gray-green, soft
Water: Above average
Popularity: Northeast to North Central U.S. (depending on species)
KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS (Cool Season)
Kentucky bluegrass is one of the most popular types in the North. It has a deep, green color and excellent texture. It grows well from seed, and is a popular choice for sod farms in the North. It grows from a very extensive system of rhizomes, underground stems that produce new plants. However, it does not grow well in deep shade.
Blade: V-shaped, pointed, 1/8” wide
Color/Texture: Darker green, soft
Growth: Aggressive, via rhizomes
Popularity: Northern favorite, sod farms
MIX – BLUEGRASS/RYE/FESCUE (Cool Season)
The majority of Northern lawns are a combination of Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescues. Kentucky bluegrass will form the nicest lawn, but it has a very low shade tolerance. Ryegrass can tolerate heavy foot traffic, but does not tolerate extreme cold or drought conditions. Fescues (both tall and fine) are often found in mixes due to their tolerance of shade, foot traffic, cold, and drought. When combined correctly, these types will form a dense turf that is acceptable for most Northern lawns in the U.S.
Blade: Thin, tall
Color/Texture: Soft with coarse mix, dense
Growth: Average to tall, via rhizomes
Popularity: Most Northern lawns
BENTGRASS (Cool Season)
Bentgrass can be found on most golf courses in the Northern U.S. It can be mowed as low as 1/10″ and makes an ideal surface for putting greens and fairways. Even when mowed very low, it forms a dense turf with a very fine-textured feel. The costs to maintain a home lawn of bentgrass can be very costly due to the fungicides, insecticides, fertilizer, and expensive mowing equipment it requires. It also needs frequent watering – almost daily. Unlike other Northern types, it grows by an extensive production of stolons (above ground).
Blade: Narrow, flat
Color/Texture: Soft, dense
Growth: Low, 1/10″
Popularity: Northern golf courses
ST. AUGUSTINE GRASS/FLORATAM (Warm Season)
St. Augustine grass is best suited to warm-arid regions such as Florida and the Gulf Coast region. Occasionally, it will be found in areas of California. It is not at all tolerant of cold temperatures, and requires plenty of moisture for survival. It is a very coarse-textured type that grows via above-ground stolons that can reach several feet. It has very broad blades compared to other grasses, with a rounded tip. It is often referred to as “Floratam,” which is a variety of St. Augustine grass.
Blade: Broad with rounded tip, 1/4” wide
Color/Texture: Dark green, coarse, spongy
Growth: Slow, from sod or plugs
Popularity: Southern favorite
ZOYSIA GRASS (Warm Season)
Zoysia grass forms a lawn that feels like a thick, prickly carpet. Zoysia is found mostly in and from the middle part of the U.S. and east toward the Carolinas. It can also be found in the North, but will turn brown once the weather turns cold. It is very slow-growing—it can take more than a year to establish a lawn of zoysia grass. It has stiff leaf blades and will produce numerous seed heads if it isn’t mowed.
Blade: Narrow, needle-like
Color/Texture: Prickly, stiff, carpet-like
Popularity: Mid U.S., East to the Carolinas
BERMUDA GRASS (Warm Season)
Bermuda grass makes for a nice home lawn because it can tolerate a very low mowing height, which is also a reason it is widely used on golf courses in the South. It spreads by both stolons (above ground) and rhizomes (below ground), which helps it to form a thick, dense turf. It is usually found in the South, but may grow as far north as Kansas City. Its maintenance requirements (fertilizing, watering, mowing) are high.
Blade: Sharp, pointed, 1/8” wide
Color/Texture: Deep green, dense
Growth: Close cut, high quality
Popularity: Central U.S.
CENTIPEDE GRASS (Warm Season)
Centipede grass spreads above the ground through stolons and forms a dense turf. Because it grows horizontally, it requires less mowing and is easy to edge around garden beds and sidewalks. It is found throughout the warm-humid areas of the South. It does not grow well in hot, dry areas and will die if not supplied with adequate moisture. However, it requires less fertilizer than other warm-season types.
Blade: Pointed with notch
Color/Texture: Light green, dense, soft
Growth: Grows low, almost horizontal to the ground
Water: Less than average; will go dormant quickly during a drought
Popularity: Southeast U.S.
DICHONDRA (Warm Season)
Mainly found in California and Arizona, dichondra is often used for home lawns since it can be mowed like grass, and it forms a pleasing, dense turf. The leaves spread opposite of each other along creeping stems. It requires a constant supply of fertilizer, and is often attacked by insects and diseases.
Blade: Round leaves
Color/Texture: Pale to bright green, dense
Growth: Broadleaf species; mow like grass
Popularity: Arizona & California
Keep in mind allowing the grass to grow ½ to 1” taller during extreme heat or drought can be beneficial. You should never cut more than ⅓ of the blade off in a 3 day window.
Typically homes are bought and sold with information such as the square footage of your house and a total lot size. However that doesn’t give us great lawn care information. We as homeowners and yard maintainers really need to know the grassy area eliminating the house, driveway, shed, and other non-grassy areas.
The great part about technology is we can now do that measurement from ANYWHERE! Lawn Serv built a tool leveraging aerial photography built off of the Google Maps database that you can use for free here — http://www.myyardsize.com/ . Below is a video on how it works.
It is very simple:
Put in your address
Plot points around the item you want to measure (cutting out your house, driveway, shed, etc).
Read the number in the top left
Measuring Tape – section off areas, do a length by width calculation, add them all together
At Lawn Serv we developed our DIY subscription box based on simple feedback from our customers and years of knowledge in lawn care. We identified a few things everyone should be thinking about and made the process simple by doing all the hard work leveraging science and data.
Here are some of those items:
Measure Your Lawn
Why? Over or under treating your lawn could be bad for your lawn or bad for the environment. The easiest way to do this is with the MY YARD SIZE website that we developed just for you! The alternative of course, is to use a tape measure and do some math.
Identify Your Turf
Why? Different types of grass require different mowing heights and lawn treatments. See the map below for understanding where you live and what type of grass you might have.
Cool-season grasses grow in the north and most of the transition zone. They grow best at 65-75 °F. Examples: Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, fescues, bentgrass.
Warm-season grass of the hotter southern states grows best at 80-95 °F. Some examples are St. Augustine, zoysia, bermuda, bahia, centipedegrass.
Learn When Your Lawn Grows and How to Feed It
Different grass types grow at different times of the year as you can see in the images above. It’s important to fertilize the lawn at the right time to fuel that growth and create a thick, green lawn.
Warm-season grass. Grows most vigorously during warm weather. Begin feeding in spring. Instead of seeding warm season grasses try grass plugs in the spring. They will grow and spread throughout the strong summer growth season.
Cool-season grass. Grows the best during the spring and fall, with a tendency to go dormant during the heat of summer. Battle the heat by applying at least 1 inch of water a week in deep less frequent waterings. You can also cut the grass higher to cool the roots. Root length is typically proportional to grass length, and deep roots help in summer heat.
Spring outdoor chores aren’t hard, but they do set the stage for getting your grass ready for the growing season. Plus after a cold winter getting outside provides a healthy dose of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise
Tune up your lawn mower and weed wacker.
Change the oil, air filter and spark plugs.
Hopefully you cleaned them in the fall but if not try to remove any dirt and grass clippings-just be sure to detach the spark plug wire before working around the cutting blade.
Sharpen the mower blade, or replace it if it has large nicks or gouges. Think about keeping an extra blade on hand this year. Check the string on your weed wacker and add more if gone.
Fill the gas tank on the mower and if your weed wacker uses mixed gas and oil put together a fresh batch.
Clean up the yard.
Walk around paying extra attention to fence or tree lines and gather any tree limbs or other debris that show up.
Go the extra mile and give the yard a quick rake. Getting some of the dead grass, thatch, and blown leaves out of there.
Feed the lawn and tackle the weeds
Take the time to hand pull up weeds now, so the surrounding grass can get its best shot at growing tall and strong
Apply pre-emergent weed control. This stops weed seeds from germinating (like crabgrass) and will save your lawn down the road. Best to get this down before the soil temperatures reach 55 degrees well after the air temps do. Follow that up a month later with post-emergent weed control which knocks down weeds that might have made it through and sprouted up.
Apply a fertilizer. You should test your soil to know exactly how much but typically a spring fertilizer will be high in Nitrogen and Potassium. The bag or bottle might be something like 10-0-4 as an example.
If you have any bare spots that need seed be sure to not apply weed control to that area or think about applying seed later in the season if it can wait.
Edge the beds and apply fresh mulch.
The spring soft soil makes edging the grass by sidewalks and driveways much easier. Try to keep those looking fresh with a quick trimmer pass of the weed wacker each week.
The winter can dull a mulch bed. Everything looks better with a quick topping off of new mulch. Think about applying a pre-emergent weed control to flower bed or shrub areas to help knock down the weeding later in the season.
Check the irrigation systems for any problems and prep for the season.
Clean, sharpen, and oil your pruning shears so they are ready when the time comes
Trim the trees and shrubs. Be careful of limbs that will produce flowers though.
Power washing the deck sure would look nice!
Check the lawn for fungus and mold growth. Some details HERE
Hopefully you’ve already Dethatched, Aerated, and Over-seeded (D.A.O.) after Labor Day and before the temperatures really drop in the cool season grass zones up north. If you’re in a transition zone (middle of country) and have fescues, rye, or kentucky blue grass and the temperatures are starting to drop, it is a great time to get out in the yard and start!
Here is a list of post D.A.O. fall fun:
Fertilize: the grass is going to benefit from ideal growing conditions and plant (especially the root) preparation before the winter. This is going to really help the grass bounce back in the spring. A fertilizer with all three N-P-K numbers is great but Nitrogen (N) and Potassium (K) are a must and generally available in many fertilizers without restrictions. The Phosphorus (P) is a great addition to newly seeded lawns but can be restricted around water and you may need to complete a soil test to use a product with P.
Water: water the lawn to help drive the roots down into the soil. Soak soil around trees and shrubs if rainfall has been light to ensure that plants enter winter fully hydrated.
Before winter fully hits and after your last mow (sad face!)….empty hoses, fountains, and sprinkler systems – ensure any standing water is removed from your watering equipment and store items in a dry place.
Remove the leaves: while the leaves may look nice and be fun to play in for the kids, they aren’t great for grass. They block the sunlight and trap moisture. So when the leaves are falling, blow or rake them away as often as you can. Even after the trees are empty, continue raking out the corners where the wind piles leaves up.
Clean out the gutters: leaves can build up if you don’t have guards and block drains leading to damaging ice buildup.
Protect Evergreens: Your boxwood, holly, rhododendrons, or similar often suffer in winter because their leaves lose moisture on sunny and windy days without replacing it from the soil when the ground is frozen. Surround these plants with a shelter of burlap or old sheets. The idea is to create shade and slow harsh wind, both of which help to retain moisture so the plant doesn’t dry out and die.
Provide additional protection by using an anti-transpirant spray on the plant after the first hard frost. The spray will dry into a thin film that reduces the moisture lost by transpiration.
Keep Mowing: keep going every week or so until grass has stopped growing. Feel free to mulch or bag leaves also to save time! You might have to switch to afternoon mows with damp grass in the early morning.
Clean tools and store them: Don’t throw your gardening tools in the garage or shed and forget about them until next year! Go that extra mile to clean and add a light coat of oil to mechanical equipment to prevent rust over the winter.
EXTRA FUN: Plant Bulbs: the fall is a great
time to plant crocus, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, and other spring-flowering
bulbs. Try a few, see how it works and add more the next year.
BACKGROUND: Overseeding is the action of adding grass seed to an existing lawn. This may be considered by people for spots where bare areas show, or even better over the whole yard! Overseeding is a great way to improve the density of grass that has become thin while introducing new innovative grass that is likely more resistant to disease, drought, and bugs.
THE RULE (KIND OF): if 50% or more of you lawn is in good condition, overseeding can be a positive effort worth trying. If more than 50 percent of the area is in poor condition (weeds, dog spots, etc), you will want to consider a new lawn from sod or seed (bigger project).
NOTE: Pick seed that is appropriate for your lawn type and area. You probably want to make sure you are buying perennial not annual grass so that it comes back the next year. It will say right on the label of the bag.
MOW LOW: We don’t typically advise this…. but because you are trying to grow grass from seed take into consideration that the seed will be competing with that existing (taller) grass and its nutrients (sunlight, water, fertilizer, etc). To give the seed a better chance MOW LOW in gradual steps. Normally, you should cut grass to a height of 3 to 3.5 inches. In this case, reduce that height to 1.5 to 2 inches. Also, bag or rake up the clippings in preparation for overseeding lawns, even if normally you do not. You want to give seeds the best chance of making good contact with the soil, and clippings would just get in the way.
RAKE TO LOOSEN SOIL: You will need good seed-to-soil contact for the new seed to germinate. Prepare areas by raking. Use a light touch, so you break up the soil surface without raking out the existing grass.
RAKE TO HELP SEED SOIL CONTACT: We recommend applying seed with a spreader to get more even coverage. Use the recommended rate for your selected seed when overseeding. Rake the area again lightly with an upside down rake after you overseed to improve the seed-to-soil contact.
APPLY STARTER FERTILIZER: apply a starter fertilizer for improved and faster results. We think going half application rate 2 weeks apart is a real pro move if you have the time.
WATER, WATER: The grass seed must be wet in order to germinate. The soil should be kept evenly moist, which may mean several water applications per day for a few weeks. Try not to over do the watering leading to flooding the area and making the seed move.
After the grass blades sprout, you’ll still need to water a couple of times per day and try to take it easy on the lawn for the first couple mows. Definitely don’t go heavy traffic, it will die. Keep up with your regular fertilizer applications and enjoy!
The best time for overseeding lawns that have cool-season grasses is in September in northern climates. You are looking for that not too hot, not going to frost too soon time frame.