Overseeding can reinvigorate lawns where the grass has developed thin patches. In some parts of the country, homeowners can also overseed their yards with winter rye grass for a lush green lawn through the winter months. Here’s a guide to why, how, and when to overseed your yard.
What is overseeding?
When a lawn has developed thin or bare patches, overseeding with the same grass species restores and thickens the lawn. If you aim to have beautiful green grass in the winter, when lawns are ordinarily dormant and brown, you can overseed with annual winter rye. When spring arrives, the ryegrass dies, and the original grass emerges for the growing season.
Best types of grass to overseed
Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue are the most common breeds of grass in the North and West. Ryegrass is most common in the East, and Bermuda and Zoysia in the South. But all types of grass are grown throughout the country.
Only some breeds of grass receive overseeding well. The best grass to overseed is Bermuda. Other good types for overseeding are fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. The least receptive types are Zoysia, Saint Augustine and centipede grass.
Overseeding with winter rye should only be done on Bermuda grass.
When to seed
Fall is the best time to overseed, whether for boosting your existing grass or growing winter rye.
Spread your grass seed between late September and November, when temperatures have decreased from summer highs but before the first freeze. Research the typical first frost for your area and spread your seed a few weeks prior.
Overseeding, step by step
- When overseeding with annual winter rye, buy ten to fifteen pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn. When overseeding with your lawn’s existing grass seed, buy two to five pounds per 1,000 feet of property to be seeded.
- Begin overseeding by mowing your lawn between one and two inches in height, maximum. This is necessary so the seed can penetrate past the grass canopy to the soil.
- Next, rake and remove the grass clippings from mowing.
- Rake again with a heavy-tined rake or a dethatcher to pull up thatch at soil level. Thatch and debris must be removed so that the seed can reach the soil.
- Optional step: rent a lawn aeration machine to perforate the soil. This ensures maximum productivity of the overseeding.
- Now spread your seed with either a broadcast spreader (which flings the seed in a circular motion) or a drop spreader (which drops the seed downward across the width of the machine). Spread half of the prescribed seed across the lawn by walking back and forth, then spread the other half, pacing back and forth perpendicular to the first spread.
- Water twice daily for the first week, then once daily for another two weeks.
- Mow the grass for the first time when the seeded grass grows three inches tall—water after mowing.
- Mow a second time once the grass reaches three inches again or about a month after the seeding. After the second mowing, fertilize.