homeowner overseeding lawn in springtime

Overseeding Your Lawn this Spring, A How-To Guide for Homeowners

Winter is finally in the rear-view mirror, and that warm spring sunshine is starting to work its magic. Now you can finally spend more time out in the yard, enjoying not only working and playing outside – but also relaxing out there too. Last week we discussed springtime yard cleanup tasks, and now, it’s on to caring for and enjoying a beautiful lawn.

But what’s this? Did you hear the needle of the record scratching too?

Your lawn looks a little – bleh. You’ve got some patches of yellow here and there, and even the overall color isn’t as lush and green as you’d like it. You might even have some weeds poking through in areas where your lawn is thinning.

Looks like it’s time for a little overseeding. So if you’re wondering how to get a beautiful lawn this spring, follow along as we cover:

  • What is overseeding
  • Purpose of overseeding
  • When to overseed
  • How to overseed
  • Tools for overseeding
  • What to do after you overseed

If you want more ideas for around your yard, take a look at these budget friendly landscaping ideas for your yard.

Updated: September 30, 2021

What Is Overseeding and Why Is It Done?

Overseeding is the process of adding additional grass seed to your existing lawn. The purpose of overseeding grass is to fill in those parts of your lawn where grass is dying and turning yellow, to keep weeds out and to improve the overall aesthetic of your lawn.

The end result is a healthy, dense, lush green lawn that would not only make Bob Vila drool with delight, but help you understand how cheap curb appeal projects like this can make a big difference in your homes appearance.

Best Time for Overseeding Your Lawn

As a rule of thumb, most lawn experts agree that the best time of year for overseeding is in the fall, with overseeding in spring as the next best alternative. These time frames will work well for most homeowners in most parts of the country, because you’ve got a good balance of both warm ground temperatures and cool air temperatures to maximize grass seed germination cycles.

But if the neighbor across the street has a pretty damn good looking lawn and you need every edge you can get over that guy, then here are some more specific recommendations that might make your grass spring up just a little faster and a little greener.

If You Live in the Northern States

Northern latitudes experience cold weather a bit earlier than the rest of the country, so you can actually get a jump on things and overseed in late summer or early fall for your cool season grasses such as:

  • Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Perennial Ryegrass
  • Fescue

If You Live in the Southern States

If you live in the South, then things tend to warm up a bit quicker. So you’ll optimize your lawn growth by overseeding in late spring or early summer for your warm season grasses, such as:

  • Bermuda
  • Centipede
  • Saint Augustine
  • Zoysia

Tools and Supplies Needed for Overseeding Yard

After a long boring winter, it’s understandable that you might want to grab your credit card and run out to the nearest hardware megastore to buy some new toys. But when it comes to overseeding, you won’t likely need to buy a whole lot of tools. Many are already in your garage or storage shed.

If you’ve got a large lawn area, then you might rent one or two power lawn tools – see below – but most of your overseeding budget will just go toward seed, fertilizer and topsoil.

Okay, maybe you can buy a spreader if you want! Just a small one!

Here’s a list of the tools and supplies you’ll need for overseeding your grass:

  • Lawn mower & fuel
  • Power rake or thatch rake for dethatching
  • Power aerator (optional)
  • Grass seed
  • Slow-release fertilizer
  • Quick-release fertilizer
  • Spreader
  • Topsoil, mulch or straw
  • Garden hose & sprinker attachments
  • Water – lots of water

Alternatively, you can hire a landscaper to overseed your yard for around $120.

Step-by-Step Guide to Overseeding Lawn

Overseeding your lawn is a fairly straightforward process. In many cases the entire project can be completed within a single day or a weekend, depending on the size and starting condition of your lawn.

NOTE: Herbicides can prevent grass seeds from germinating. If you’ve recently applied pre-emergent or herbicides to your lawn to kill or prevent weeds and crabgrass, then wait at least 4-6 weeks before you begin overseeding.

1. Water lawn the day before overseeding

Watering your lawn the day before overseeding will help to loosen up the soil in preparation for the new grass seeds.

2. Cut grass short

On overseeding day, mow your lawn using the shortest setting on your lawn mower. You want your existing turfgrass height to be about ½-1 inch. Tall grass will block sunlight and make it difficult for the new grass to grow, so don’t skip this essential step.

3. Rake and dethatch areas to be overseeded

A thin layer of thatch is actually good for your lawn. But if you run a thatch rake or power rake across your existing grass and pull up handfulls of thatch with each stroke, then you want to remove most of that layer. A little thatch helps to nourish the soil and keep it from drying out too quickly, but too much can prevent seeds from contacting the soil beneath, preventing germination.

4. Aerate lawn (optional)

The best time of year for aeration is during the fall. But if your soil is seriously compacted, then you’ll want to loosen it up before overseeding.

5. Spread seed and fertilizer

The amount of grass seed you’ll need varies widely depending on the type of grass you choose. And to further complicate things, you might also choose a seed blend with mixed species of grass seed. Follow the instructions on the bag when calculating how much seed you’ll need. But for planning purposes, check out this grass seed calculator to give you a pretty good estimate.

And remember: an acre is 43,560 square feet. So if the instructions give you pounds of seed per 1,000 sq. ft., then multiply that number by 43.5 if you’re measuring your property in acres.

Use a spreader to evenly distribute grass seed over your lawn. If you have any bare or dead spots, hit those areas with a little extra seed to help them fill in. Then do the same with a slow-release fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the package when determining the amount of seed and fertilizer to use.

6. Cover dead spots with light layer of topsoil, mulch or straw

Cover bare areas with both topsoil and straw, mulch or peat moss to protect the seeds from birds and washout. That protective layer will also help trap moisture in the soil to help the seeds germinate.

7. Lightly water lawn immediately after overseeding

Lightly water your overseeded areas immediately afterward to begin the germination process.

Caring for Your Newly Overseeded Yard

It’s vitally important that you water your lawn frequently after overseeding. If that soil dries out at any point, the seeds will die. You should water the lawn at least twice per day, but watering three or even four times per day could be necessary during warm, dry spells. Check your lawn regularly to make sure it never dries out during this germination cycle.

For the next 4-6 weeks, avoid walking on the overseeded areas to prevent damaging the new growth. Don’t even let the dog walk on there. Bad dog! After six weeks, hit the entire lawn with a quick-release fertilizer.

Once your new grass has about 1 inch of height, reduce watering frequency to just once a day. When the grass height exceeds 2 inches, it’s time to start mowing again to keep it around that same height.

Now, if your area gets hit by frequent rains this spring, you could have some issues with the seeds getting washed out. Topsoil and peat moss can also wash away with the seeds, so that’s frustrating. Applying a light layer of straw can help to prevent washout and hold those seeds and topsoil in place. Some folks use a biodegradable mat or netting to hold seeds and soil in place. This might be a good solution for you if all else fails.

And that’s about it. Put in one solid weekend of work. Water like crazy for a few weeks, and then hit it with fertilizer again and start mowing regularly. Before the spring season is over, your lawn will have a new lease on life, and you’ll be the envy of all the neighbors