How To Weed And Seed Your Lawn

FS584, The secret to a thick full lawn is overseeding. Is your lawn looking less lush than you'd like? Overseeding chokes out weeds, fills in bare spots, and is an easy weekend DIY. Here's how and when to do it…

Seeding Your Lawn

An attractive lawn with minimum maintenance problems begins with proper site preparation. The initial investment should be considered over the many years that a correctly established and maintained lawn will provide enjoyment. For example, improper grading can increase mowing time and reduce turf quality. Drainage problems will encourage weed encroachment and wetter areas are difficult to mow. Research studies have demonstrated that the rapid germination and growth of turfgrass is critical for a successful lawn establishment.

Listed below are the major points to consider when planting a new lawn:

Grading

Establish a sloping grade, free of depressions, away from buildings. Naturally wet areas, due to internal drainage problems, should be corrected by the installation of a subsurface drainage system such as perforated pipe and stone. Remove all rough debris including large stones. The grade around established trees should not be altered to avoid damaging the existing root system.

Soil Preparation

It is important to properly prepare the soil. The following steps should be accomplished prior to seeding:

  1. Soil Testing: Make every effort to have the soil tested. Test results will provide an accurate recommendation of the specific lime and nutrient requirements for that soil. County Cooperative Extension Offices can assist in obtaining the soil testing kits and in the interpretation of the results.
  2. Liming: Proper liming is essential for maximum utilization of the applied fertilizer and other soil nutrients by the germinating turfgrass.
    1. Apply the recommended amount of lime and fertilizer and incorporate uniformly into the soil 4 to 6 inches deep.
    2. If the amount of lime required exceeds 200 pounds per 1000 square feet, apply one-half of the recommended amount, work it into the soil, then apply the remainder and incorporate into the soil.

    Fertilization

    1. Preplant Incorporated Fertilizer: Evenly broadcast fertilizer or other nutrient source as recommended by soil testing and till into the soil 3 to 4 inches deep. (Can be done with liming).
    2. Post Plant (“Topdress”) Fertilizer: Following your incorporated application, a fertilizer should also be applied 2 to 4 weeks after turfgrass emergence. Apply 3 to 5 pounds of 20-10-10 fertilizer per 1000 square feet or the equivalent amount of 2-1-1 ratio fertilizer. Applying nitrogen containing fertilizer to young turfgrass seedlings promotes rapid lawn development. Consider watering in fertilizer if rain is not imminent. Do not apply fertilizer to “wet” grass seedlings as some types may cause plant “burn”.

    Seeding

    1. Timing: Late summer and early fall provide the most ideal conditions for turfgrass establishment. Generally, this timing will allow adequate grass growth prior to winter. Cool evening and moderate daytime temperatures, along with anticipated fall precipitation, are conducive to rapid seed germination. In addition, many weeds including crabgrass are no longer germinating, reducing competition in new turfgrass plantings.
      1. Primary Establishment Period—late summer, early fall. (The earlier date is most desirable.) Southern New Jersey (Trenton and south) August 20 to October 10 Northern New Jersey (Trenton and north) August 15th to October 5th.
      2. Secondary Establishment Period—early spring (all of New Jersey).
      3. Establish the lawn during the first warm, dry period as soon as soil is dry enough to till without forming clods. Preparing soil when it is too wet results in poor germination and growth from compacted soil conditions.

      Use quality seed adapted to site.

      Seed Selection: Many advances have been made by turfgrass breeders in recent years. For instance, there are now Kentucky bluegrass varieties better adapted to moderate shade, as well as improved disease resistance. Tall fescues, just a few years ago, were considered stemy, coarse grasses. Today, finer leafed, lower growing, denser and darker green tall fescues are available. The same can be said for perennial ryegrasses. Fine leaf fescues, such as hard fescue and creeping red fescue, are known for their adaptability to shady areas and “droughty” soil. New improved fine fescues are also available.

      In addition, the issue of seed mixtures is an important consideration. Reputable seed companies provide mixtures of “improved” varieties of various species allowing a wider range of site adaptation. Mixtures of various turfgrass species, each selected for a specific trait, provide the best opportunity for successful lawn establishment if a site has a combination of wet, dry, sunny and shady areas.

      1. Kentucky Bluegrasses (Poa pratensis) This is a popular lawn grass in New Jersey. It is hardy, attractive, widely adapted and known for its pleasing color and leaf texture. New varieties have some shade tolerance and improved disease resistance. It is suitable for moderately to well-drained soil but is somewhat slow to establish from seed. Spreading underground rhizomes (stems) enhance recovery from injury and fill in voids. Seeding rate is approximately 2 pounds per 1000 square feet. Spring seedlings are difficult to establish.
      2. Tall Fescues (Festuca arundinacea) This is a coarser bunch-type grass able to persist in moderate to well-drained, infertile soils. Newer varieties are improved in leaf color, texture and density. Tall fescues are also known for rapid establishment from seed, excellent drought tolerance and ability to tolerate traffic. Seeding rates are 4 to 6 pounds per 1000 square feet.
      3. Fine Fescues (Festuca spp.) Fine fescues are comprised of several species (hard, sheeps, creeping red). As a group, they are known for their ability to persist in shady areas as well as in dry infertile locations. They establish slightly faster than Kentucky bluegrass. Improved newer varieties are useful for lower maintenance turfgrass areas. Fine fescues do not tolerate high traffic. Seeding rates are 4 to 6 pounds per 1000 square feet.
      4. Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne) Breeding advances have produced varieties markedly improved over the older non-persistent types. These newer turf type ryegrasses have excellent color and fine textured leaves. They survive in a wide range of soil conditions but grow poorly in extremely wet areas. They possess moderate shade tolerance and very rapid establishment. Seeding rates are 4 to 6 pounds per 1000 square feet.
        Rapid Lawn Establishment: At certain times, such as in new home construction where dust or muddy conditions cause concern or on sloping terrain where soil erosion is a serious problem, a rapid cover of turfgrass is most critical. A first choice may be sodding the critical areas (see Rutgers Cooperative Extension fact sheet FS104, “Steps to an Instant Lawn”). Another choice can be the use of seed mixtures containing primarily perennial ryegrass or tall fescue. These varieties in combination with the use of straw mulch (see next point) and timely rainfall or irrigation can provide an “established” lawn in 4 weeks if growing conditions are favorable.

      Clean straw mulch conserves moisture.

      Straw Mulching and Irrigation: It is desirable to keep newly seeded lawns moist in the top 2 inches through irrigation or rainfall. If the top layer of soil dries out prior to good root establishment, poor stands of turfgrass may result. Some temporary surface drying is acceptable but should be kept to a minimum until germination is complete. Once seedlings have an established root system, watering can be less frequent and deeper (3 to 5 inches). Irrigation should not be overdone (do not create constant “muddy” conditions). Observe the drier areas of the lawn (sunny, high areas) for early signs of wilting. Irrigate, if feasible, to increase chances of successful establishment.

      Straw mulch such as unrotted, weed seed free wheat, oat, rye, or salt hay can be applied at 50 to 90 lbs., (1 to 2 bales) per 1000 square feet. This offers a significant advantage for turfgrass establishment. Light mulching, where approximately 25% of the soil is visible through mulch, is all that is needed in most situations.

      Mulching increases soil moisture retention. Morning dew is retained longer on the soil surface. Benefits include reduced watering needs and quicker seed germination.

      Weed control in newly planted turfgrass.

      Acknowledgement

      The author wishes to thank J. Heckman, R. Duell, R. Funk, J. Murphy, B. Clarke, and E. Milewski for their constructive inputs into this fact sheet.

      Copyright © 2022 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. All rights reserved.

      For more information: njaes.rutgers.edu.

      Cooperating Agencies: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Boards of County Commissioners. Rutgers Cooperative Extension, a unit of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, is an equal opportunity program provider and employer.

      New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station
      Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
      88 Lipman Drive, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8525

      Copyright © 2022 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

      Rutgers is an equal access/equal opportunity institution. Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to direct suggestions, comments, or complaints concerning any accessibility issues with Rutgers websites to: [email protected] or complete the Report Accessibility Barrier or Provide Feedback Form.

      How to Overseed or Reseed Your Lawn

      There’s a secret behind achieving a beautiful, lush lawn. Landscape professionals know what it is, but many homeowners don’t. Overseeding—as part of a comprehensive, proactive plan—keeps lawns looking great. Whether you’re tending your first lawn or have years of experience, learning how to overseed your lawn can improve your results.

      Overseeding is spreading grass seed over an existing lawn. Done right, it’s a straightforward process that gets results. As grasses mature, thinning is normal—especially if you enjoy your lawn and use it often. Overseeding keeps your lawn competitive and steeped in youth and vigor, without starting over from scratch.

      The basics of overseeding are the same everywhere, but goals and timing vary based on geography and the type of grass grown. For success with overseeding your lawn, follow this basic guide:

      Establish Your Goal

      Homeowners overseed to correct thin lawns, but pros overseed to prevent thinning. For lawns in southern regions, overseeding warm-season grasses with cool-season reinforcements adds green color during winter. When warm-season grasses go brown, overseeding with a premium, cool-season ryegrass, such as Pennington Annual Ryegrass, provides a green temporary lawn while your permanent, warm-season grasses are dormant.

      Time the Task

      The best time for planting cool-season grasses in northern regions is late summer to early fall, when they’re growing most vigorously. Spring is the second best time. The warm soil encourages seed germination, cool fall air stimulates growth, and soil moisture stays more constant. Tough, warm-season lawn weeds, such as crabgrass and nutsedge, are less active in fall, too. The Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance service recommends overseeding at least 45 days before your average first fall frost. 1 In southern areas, overseed thinning lawns in late spring, as warm-season grasses enter active growth. For winter color, overseed southern lawns in fall. Wait until nighttime temperatures drop consistently below 65°F and your existing warm-season lawn slows and begins to lose color.

      Prepare the Area

      Mow your lawn extra short and remove the clippings, so new seed contacts soil and gets sunlight and water. Set your mower at two inches or less for regular overseeding. For southern lawns and winter color, set the blade as low as it goes, and cut just above the soil—what’s known as scalping. Rake the soil with a metal thatch rake to remove thatch, clippings and debris. This loosens and exposes soil to receive seed.

      Correct Existing Lawn Problems

      For troubles beyond normal thinning, test your soil and make corrections before overseeding. Follow test recommendations for using soil amendments and repairing bare lawn spots. If needed, take time to dethatch and core aerate compacted lawns so air, moisture and seed can get to the soil. Pennington One Step Complete products combine premium seed with a stabilized-release fertilizer and wood mulch to simplify lawn repairs.

      Select a Quality Grass Seed Product

      Better seed yields better lawns. Always use grasses recommended for your regional climate and choose top-quality grass seed you can depend on. Pennington Smart Seed products provide premium grass seed appropriate for sun, shade or high-traffic areas in lawns in northern or southern regions. Three-in-one Pennington Lawn Booster combines superior Smart Seed varieties with premium-grade fertilizer and soil enhancer.

      Spread Your Seed

      Apply seed at label-recommended overseeding rates, using the lawn spreader that suits the job. Use drop or broadcast spreaders for large lawns and handheld spreaders for smaller areas. For small spots, simply seed from your hand. Work when the air is calm, so seed distributes evenly.

      Fertilize Overseeded Areas

      Avoid weed & feed products; the pre-emergent herbicides inhibit seed germination. Starter fertilizer, such as Pennington Ultragreen Starter Fertilizer 12-22-8, delivers essential nutrients for new grass. Phosphorus supports vigorous root growth, while nitrogen fuels top growth and greening. Some states and counties restrict phosphorus lawn fertilizers due to environmental concerns regarding runoff, but exceptions may be made for new seedings. Check with your local county extension agent about nutrient application restrictions.

      Keep Your Lawn Well-Watered

      Newly overseeded lawns need consistent moisture. Keep seed and soil moist with frequent, light waterings twice a day for the first four days; water more heavily every other day for the next five days; then water as needed to prevent wilting. This encourages deep, healthy roots.

      Return to Regular Maintenance

      Keep your newly revived lawn looking its best with a regular, comprehensive maintenance plan that includes diligent watering, best mowing practices and proactive overseeding. A simple weekday lawn maintenance schedule can keep your lawn lush and your weekends free.

      For a simple, all-in-one approach to a thicker lawn, you can put your lawn on the fast track with Pennington Lawn Booster. This easy-to-use product simplifies overseeding to give your lawn the boost it needs. In just one application, your lawn will grow quicker, thicker and greener than ordinary grass—guaranteed.

      Available in formulas for sun & shade or tall fescue lawns, Lawn Booster combines three essentials: seed, fertilizer and soil enhancer. Lime-enhanced, pure-bred Pennington Smart Seed, backed by years of breeding and research, adds beauty and sustainability. Once established, these water-conserving grasses require up to 30 percent less water than ordinary grasses. That’s year after year, for the life of your lawn. Plus, they stay green up to three weeks without watering. That means less work and more leisure time for you.

      The premium fertilizer in Lawn Booster stabilizes nitrogen in the soil, to reduce leaching and other nitrogen loss to the environment. Your seed gets nitrogen for immediate feeding and for extended feeding for up to eight weeks, without extra fertilizer inputs on your part. Moreover, the soil-enhancing gypsum in Lawn Booster corrects soil conditions to allow for better root growth, so your newly boosted lawn can flourish and be the talk of the neighborhood.

      For the lawn of your dreams, don’t wait to overseed until your lawn looks less than its best. Give your lawn the boost it needs, step-by-step or all-in-one. Pennington’s here with premium grass seed and lawn care products to help you keep your lawn at its peak.

      Pennington, One Step Complete, Smart Seed, and Ultragreen are trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc.

      Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance is a registered trademark of NexGen Turf Research, LLC.

      5 Simple Steps to Overseeding a Lawn

      Is your lawn looking less lush than you’d like? Overseeding, which chokes out weeds and fills in bare patches on your property, may be the solution you’re looking for.

      By Teresa Odle and Stacey L Nash and Bob Vila | Updated Apr 19, 2022 5:20 PM

      A full, green lawn creates curb appeal and makes you feel like sipping an iced tea on the back patio. But if bare spots peek through and weeds overpower the grass, the lawn might be more of an eyesore than a point of pride. Overseeding chokes weeds and fills out the grass until it’s thick and lush. If you’re not sure how to overseed a lawn, all it takes is the right tools, smart timing, and a little knowledge about your local climate.

      What does “overseeding” mean, exactly—why is this lawn task not just called “seeding”? “Overseeding” the term for adding more grass seed to a lawn without turning the topsoil. For many homeowners, overseeding is part of general lawn maintenance. Some lawns might need overseeding once a year if drought or disease threaten the grass, and other lawns might need it every few years only to brighten the grass and keep it full.

      A few basic tools—like a lawn mower, seed and fertilizer spreader, and rake—are all that’s needed to achieve a less patchy, more verdant yard. With the right grass seed and timing, overseeding will restore the lawn and make it hard to resist spending the day lounging in the yard.

      • Lawn mower
      • Lawn rake
      • Grass seed
      • Seed/fertilizer spreader
      • Garden hose
      • Lawn sprinkler

      We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

      Note: If your lawn has thatch (a compact layer of grass and soil), it might need dethatching or aerating before you spread seed. Otherwise, the grass seed used in overseeding won’t reach the soil to germinate and take root. Aerating creates holes in the grass and soil through which water, oxygen, and vital nutrients can reach the new grass seed and the roots of the existing grass.

      STEP 1: Mow and rake the lawn.

      The goal of overseeding a lawn is to get the grass seed in contact with the soil. To do that, the first step is to mow the lawn. Mow it shorter than usual so the grass seed will have a better chance of reaching the soil. Make sure to bag the clippings so they don’t come between the seeds and soil.

      After mowing, rake the entire lawn to remove dead grass, rocks, sticks, and any other debris. This process removes any final barriers between the grass seed and soil, and loosens the soil in preparation for seeding and germination.

      STEP 2: Amend the soil.

      Soil amendments are different from fertilizers in that amendments have specific nutrients and chemical compositions for specific soil types. For example, lime, wood ash, and poultry manure raise the pH level of acidic soil to make it more suitable for certain plants and grasses. Sulfur amendments, on the other hand, add acidity to alkaline soil. Additions of peat moss for clay soil and compost for sandy soil also can improve the nutrients in the lawn and its condition.

      If a lawn has not been growing and greening as it should, doing a soil test can determine the soil type and pH. The test results will identify what, if any, types of amendments the soil needs for grass to develop. Keep in mind that if the soil has a neutral pH and is fertile, it likely needs no amendments.

      STEP 3: Spread the grass seed.

      At the appropriate time to overseed (knowing when to reseed a lawn is based on your climate and grass type), start by loading the grass seed into a seed spreader and spread about 16 seeds per square inch of soil. The right seed density will depend on the thickness of the existing lawn, so some lawns might need less. You also can spread grass seed by hand if you don’t have a spreader.

      Choose a grass seed designed for your climate or region and that complements the existing grass. Lawns with cool-season grasses thrive in variable temperatures like those found in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. Warm-season grasses grow best in a climate like that of the southern United States.

      Consulting the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map can help determine the average local climate to best choose the appropriate grass type. Look for grass seed that’s rated by the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program because these varieties have been tested and found resistant to disease, drought, and common pests.

      STEP 4: Add grass seed fertilizer.

      Select the best fertilizer, and load it into a fertilizer spreader. Then, scatter around the perimeter of the lawn first to make sure fertilizer reaches the edges. Next, follow a pattern similar to a mowing pattern by moving in straight rows until the entire lawn is fertilized.

      There are different types of fertilizer spreaders, including a broadcast spreader, handheld spreader, snap spreader, drop spreader, and liquid sprayer. Fertilizing small yards often requires a small handheld spreader only, while larger yards will take less time and effort with a broadcast spreader.

      Both yard size and fertilizer type will determine which type of spreader is best for your property. For example, liquid fertilizer is applied via sprayer, like one of these quality backpack sprayers, and midsize yards are more easily fertilized with a snap or drop spreader. Keep in mind that some spreaders can handle both grass seed and fertilizer broadcasting, so depending on the fertilizer type and spreader, you might only need one tool for both steps.

      STEP 5: Water the seeded lawn.

      After fertilizing, water the lawn for a short time each day. It’s best to water in the morning to maximize the water intake. More evaporation occurs during the afternoon and evening, which means it will take more water to get the same benefits. You don’t want to overwater the lawn because doing so can wash away the seed, prevent germination, or encourage thatch development and the growth of fungus and weeds. If there are puddles or the ground feels spongy, cut back on the watering time.

      Part of learning how to overseed a lawn requires knowing when to do it, and this has everything to do with climate and grass type. Cool-season grasses seed best in the late summer and early fall. The cooler temperatures slow the growth of the existing grass but give the seeds time to germinate and grow before the grass goes dormant. Warm-season grass does best when seeded between early spring and early summer. In this case, the seed has time to germinate and grow before the warmest summer temperatures hit.

      This method of overseeding should successfully fill in the lawn with lush, green growth. Remember to choose a grass seed intended for your climate, and perform a soil test to determine whether the lawn needs any extra nutrients to germinate and thrive. Finally, water the lawn for a short time each day and don’t mow until the new grass reaches 1 to 2 inches tall.

      Final Thoughts

      Overseeding lawn grass is not a tough project to complete, especially if you follow the steps and use the tools outlined above. Begin by choosing the best time for success based on your growing region and grass type (cool or warm season). Then, prep the area for lawn seeding by mowing and raking. If the lawn has a thick layer of thatch, use a thatch rake or aerate the lawn before seeding. Then, move on to amending the soil as needed to make sure your grass seed will root and grow to create a healthy, lush lawn.

      Select a seed based on the existing grass and climate or other conditions, then spread it by hand or with a spreader. Next, add some fertilizer, broadcasting it evenly with a spreader. Then, water the lawn and keep it regularly moist but not so wet that water runs or puddles.

      FAQs About Overseeding Lawns

      Not every lawn is the same, and you might still have questions about when or how to overseed existing grass. Below, we answer some common questions.

      Q. Can you just sprinkle grass seed on lawns?

      You will have very little success overseeding a lawn if you just head out and sprinkle grass seed and then cross your fingers. For grass seed to take, the soil must be ready and free of barriers like grass clippings. If the lawn has lots of weeds that compete with grass, for example, sprinkling seed is a waste of time.

      Be diligent and first take the appropriate steps to prepare the soil. After all, the fact that you need to reseed might mean that your yard has thatch or other issues that should be addressed first.

      Q. When is the best time to overseed a lawn?

      Knowing when to overseed a lawn depends largely on grass type. Sow cool-season grass seed in late summer and early fall, giving the seedlings a little time to develop before winter. Overseed a warm-season lawn in spring for best success. Also, try not to overseed on especially windy days or after a heavy rain.

      Q. What do you put down first, grass seed or fertilizer?

      First, spread your seed on prepared soil, then add grass seed fertilizer. Since you typically are overseeding in fall or late summer for cool-season grasses, and in spring for warm-season ones, you might as well apply your fertilizer to the entire lawn anyway, not just the overseeded portions. It’s typical to seed and fertilize a lawn at the beginning of the turf’s growing season.

      Q. How long after overseeding can I mow?

      Mowing after overseeding a lawn requires a little patience. You might be itching to make your lusher lawn a nice, even carpet of turf now that it has filled in. But you should wait until the new grass blades are about 2 inches tall. Since you mowed as part of preparing the soil for lawn seeding, the established grass shouldn’t be wildly overgrown.

      Some jobs are better left to the pros. Receive free, no-commitment estimate from lawn service professionals near you.

See also  Weed And Feed Or Seed In Spring