Lawns In October Seeding in October – Soil temperatures are still well into the 70s; we’ve not had a single overnight temperature much below 50; it’s still prime time for seeding/overseeding Can You Fertilize And Overseed At The Same Time? There are two kinds of people when it comes to yards and plants: those who have gardens and those who have lawns. Oddly enough, gardeners and 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…
Lawns In October
Seeding in October – Soil temperatures are still well into the 70s; we’ve not had a single overnight temperature much below 50; it’s still prime time for seeding/overseeding lawns. Please bear in mind that all meaningful seeding in our growing area should be done in the fall. Warm soil temperatures encourage faster, more complete seed germination; good overnight dews and more regular rainfall (normally) get new seed well established before cold weather arrives. As the ground cools deeper into the fall it cools from the top down, which means that it is always cooler at the surface than 2-3” deep in the soil, which encourages roots to go deeper as they seek warmer soil. Spring, on the other hand, is the complete opposite for seeding: colder soil slows seed germination greatly. Even after germination, roots establish poorly in the cooler soil and remain at the surface where the soil is warmer. The spring seeding season is short followed by summer, with the hardest growing conditions of the year. Spring is for emergency seeding; fall is for meaningful seeding.
Because we’ve had the current dry spell during late August and September, we encourage all of you who either have already seeded or will be seeding to supplement what little moisture we’ve received for good seed germination and establishment. We recommend frequent (daily, if possible) light watering from seeding through germination. This is to keep the seed wet, soften the seed coat and speed germination. After the seed is completely germinated and is growing nicely, water less frequently but more deeply, leaving sprinklers in one spot for 20-30 minutes before moving to other areas. And watering in the morning is best, although watering to promote germination can be done later in the day. And, if we start to get regular rainfall (at least ¾”-1”/week) watering AFTER GERMINATION AND ESTABLISHMENT will not be necessary. The overnight dews will suffice in getting the whole lawn growing nicely.
Broadleaf Weed Control in October – Dandelions and plantain, as well as many other of the cool-warm weather active perennials are still actively growing. They can be easily removed from lawns in October with a single application of TRIMEC liquid herbicide. Warmer weather active weeds like clover and wild strawberry have perceptibly slowed in their growth by now and will be more difficult to eliminate, but in some lawns can be removed. Cool weather active weeds like ground ivy, wild violets, and others are starting to grow actively now, and will be readily controlled by TRIMEC at this time (and into November). It is important to kill perennial weeds in the fall, at the ends of their growing seasons, so we will not be bothered by them in the spring. However, if you have seeded this fall, or plan to seed, we recommend that you NOT apply TRIMEC (or any herbicide) until next spring. Seeding takes precedence in the fall. It’s too late to do a full lawn application of Trimec due to the 2 week waiting period until seeding can take place. You won’t get complete germination and plant establishment before the cold weather arrives. If you fall into this category, remember next year to apply TRIMEC in the late-August to mid-September window where you can treat weeds, wait 2 weeks and still seed with best results.
Fertilizing Lawns in October – It is key that any lawn fertilizer applied in October not be the last feeding of the year. We strongly recommend two fall feedings for all lawns: early fall AND late fall. Of the 2, the late fall WINTERFEAST feeding is by far the more important for the lawn. It is intended to subtly green the lawn before dormancy, but is primarily to promote root growth after the above-surface turf has gone almost dormant. This will keep the lawns green until the ground freezes, will stimulate deeper and denser root growth this winter, and will green the lawn early next spring without pushing lots of top growth. Having said that, and if you haven’t yet fed your lawn this fall, you should a.) feed it right away, with our early fall fertilizer (19-2-6) and feed again, with WINTERFEAST fertilizer after Thanksgiving, or b.) withhold feeding until late October or early November, and then apply your WINTERFEAST fertilizer.
Liming in October – All lawns in this region benefit from being limed every year in order to neutralize the inherent soil acidity we are blessed with. Liming regularly makes fertilizers work better by making the full affect of the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium more readily available to the grass plants. In acidic soils, both macro (NPK) and micronutrients react chemically with the low pH of the soil and create compounds that bind them to the soil thus making them less available to the plants. You get less greening power, less root development, less fertilizer effectiveness.
Mowing and Leaf Removal – Do not put mowers away yet. The grass is still growing, and will continue to grow for at least another 2 months, albeit less fast as temperatures fall. Our objective with lawns is to have all lawns mowed closely (2.5”-3”) when it goes dormant for the winter season. So, keep mowing every week to ten days until after Thanksgiving. If lawns are long when winter sets in, the late falling leaves and snow falling will mat the grass down and encourage dormant diseases and an early spring mess. Another reason to continue mowing through November is that leaves will continue to fall through November, which can be detrimental to newly established and mature grass plants. By mowing regularly (at least every 7-10 days) you’ll be chopping up the leaves that fall or blow onto the lawn, thus keeping the turf upright, tight and clear.
Can You Fertilize And Overseed At The Same Time?
There are two kinds of people when it comes to yards and plants: those who have gardens and those who have lawns.
Oddly enough, gardeners and their various plants often have fewer problems than those growing a lawn of just one kind of grass.
The problem with keeping a great lawn goes deeper than a few weeds, literally and metaphorically.
Your lawn’s soil, the thick root layer known as thatch, and the surface grasses are in many ways their separate beasts, and the only way to keep one healthy is to address them all.
Can You Fertilize And Overseed At the Same Time?
Not only is it possible to fertilize and overseed at the same time, but it’s also actually preferable.
Here’s everything you need to know to ensure your lawn has the healthiest seed growth every time.
The Truth About Your Lawn’s Soil
There’s a five-step process for getting the best lawn.
Step 1: Begin by mowing
Step 2: Dethatch
Step 3: Aerate.
Steps 4 and 5 are where the confusion lies, as these involve fertilizing and seeding your lawn.
Unfortunately, many people forget that steps 4 and 5 go hand-in-hand, and poor seed growth results.
The reason for this issue comes down to the nutritional value of your lawn’s soil.
Grasses aren’t the heaviest feeders out there, but the shallow root systems can’t get to any nutrients deep below the surface.
Instead, your grass seeds rely on fertilizer to germinate properly.
In the five-step process, it’s not uncommon to see a person fertilizing as one of the first three steps instead of one of the final two, which can lead to losing much of the nutrition fertilizer offers.
Check The Thatch Before Seeding
When most people hear the word thatch, they think of old roofs.
But this concept of thatch has a basis in nature, and grasses are notorious for forming a thatch layer at the surface.
Thatch is useful because it can help insulate grassroots from sudden temperature changes and is made up of living and dead organic matter deposited on the mat-like root system.
Unfortunately, thatch can also grow so thick that it prevents seeds, water, and fertilizer from permeating the soil beneath.
It’s important to check the thatch layer before seeding and dethatch, if necessary, to ensure your seeds properly sow.
A thick layer of thatch forms a barrier between the grass and the soil.
For example, if you spread grass seed on a lawn with heavy thatch, the seed will not reach the soil.
Without soil contact, your grass will not sprout and establish itself.
Check the thatch layer in your yard and dethatch if necessary before seeding.
Thick thatch prevents grass seed from reaching the soil where it can root.
Rent a dethatcher or power rake to remove thatch buildup before overseeding.
Thatch soaks up water and fertilizer, robbing soil and grass seed nutrients and moisture.
In addition to preventing your grass seedlings from taking root, thick thatch also acts like a sponge, absorbing water and fertilizer before it can penetrate the soil.
Therefore, fertilizing on thick thatch will be far less effective.
Removing thatch before overseeding helps you deliver more lawn starter fertilizer to your grass seeds.
Always Aerate After Dethatching!
Another essential aspect of lawn care, aerating the soil, is essential if you want the best results from seeding.
It loosens the soil, allowing the seeds to take root, and will also help fertilizers absorb before they can be degraded by sunlight.
Aerating is best performed after dethatching your lawn and before seeding.
Choosing The Right Fertilizer For Seeds
Once your lawn has been mowed, dethatched, and aerated, it’s time to grab your seeds and fertilizer, but what fertilizer should you use?
Lawn starter fertilizers have a higher degree of phosphorus. While it’s used primarily in flowering plants for producing blooms, young grasses rely more on phosphorus for healthy root growth.
Fertilizers meant for mature lawns contain very little to no phosphorus, which will prevent germinated grass seedlings from establishing a healthy root system.
A great way to fertilize your lawn is to use organic compost.
The catch, however, is that compost contains nitrogen primarily in the form of uric acid, which is photosensitive.
If you cut corners and fail to dethatch and aerate the lawn, your compost will be rendered mostly useless because it can’t absorb into the soil properly.
Instead, aim to use it within a few days after aeration for the best results.
Note that applying compost usually works better when done after overseeding, although it will also be effective if used before.
Avoid Weed And Feed Products
Any product marked as weed and feed is one type of fertilizer that should be avoided at all costs when seeding.
These products contain fertilizer and pre-emergent herbicides designed to kill broadleaf weeds and many other unwanted lawn intruders for up to 3 months.
Unfortunately, while these tend to be formulated to kill specific plants, weed and feed products don’t discriminate when it comes to seeds and will kill your grass seed along with the seeds you don’t want.
To avoid this counterproductive fate, apply weed, and feed at least 12 weeks before overseeding and no sooner than 8 weeks after.
Should You Fertilize Before, During, Or After Overseeding?
You can overseed and fertilize in any order, although many choose to do them simultaneously to save time.
In the case of doing these steps separately, they should be done within 3 days of each other.
Fertilizing Before Seeding
This process is about as straightforward as it gets.
Fertilize within a few days after aerating, then follow up within 3 days with the overseeding.
How To Fertilize While Seeding?
Measure out the amount of grass seed and starter you’ll need and mix them thoroughly before adding to the lawn spreader.
You can then use the spreader, as usual, starting with an east-west pattern before switching to north-south for even coverage.
Not only is this method easy, but it can save a lot of time by merging otherwise repeated steps.
Fertilizing After Seeding
Try to overseed within a few days of aerating to ensure the ground is still nice and porous.
Follow this with fertilizer either immediately after or within the next three days.
This is also the best time to rake in some compost, as it will not only fertilize your freshly sown seeds but can provide an insulating layer to help prevent the seeds from drying out.
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
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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.
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.
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