How To Weed And Seed A Lawn

Your lawn is riddled with weeds. Will overseeding effectively crowd them out, or are you just throwing money away? I discuss overseeding weedy lawn areas. How to Reseed a Lawn With Weeds. If you are faced with a neglected lawn that’s partially dead and is being taken over by weeds, you may be able to renovate it. Restoring a deteriorated lawn may be possible if the weeds and dead spots cover less than 40 percent of the lawn area. Renovation of a weedy lawn involves more … A patchy and weedy lawn is unpleasant and unappealing. Luckily, there are ways you can get rid of the weeds and replant grass seed to have a lush lawn. Before you start, it's important that you purchase the right type of seed for your…

Overseeding Weedy Lawn—Waste of Time or Effective?

Anyone who’s had to care for a lawn of their own knows how easily weeds can spread. Once they get into your yard, it’s almost impossible to get them out, no matter the number of herbicides you use. That’s because weeds are opportunistic and will claim any bare or thin patch they can find in your yard. But is overseeding weedy lawn areas a good option? Or will the weeds just crowd out your new grass. I’ll discuss in today’s article.

The best way to get rid of weeds, oddly enough, is to grow a lawn lush enough to kick them out.

If weeds don’t have a place to grow, they’ll stay out of your yard.

One of the best ways to reclaim your yard is to periodically overseed it. Overseeding (or spreading grass seed on an established lawn to help it thicken up) is an effective way to improve your lawn, but it’s no quick fix.

It’ll take a good amount of work, but the results are worth the effort if done correctly.

Let’s talk about effectively overseeding weedy lawn areas and the best times of year to do so.

How Overseeding Can Help Your Lawn

Overseeding is the method of revitalizing a yard by adding more seed into an existing lawn.

You don’t have to till your lawn, and you don’t have to tear it up for over-seeding a lawn to be effective.

When you overseed new grass grows to fill in the bare spots of your yard, making it grow in greener and thicker.

Overseeding at the right time of year, before weeds are established or after annual weed pressure begins to ease, will ensure success.

How To Succeed When Overseeding Weedy Lawn Areas

The most important things with overseeding are preparation and timing.

You can’t overseed a weedy lawn in the summer when all of your weeds are mature and growing vigorously. You’ll be wasting your time and money if you try that.

The best times to overseed your lawn are early spring (when soil temperatures are consistently above 55 degreees Fahrenheit) and early-mid autumn.

The time of year when you overseed your weedy lawn will depend upon why you’re doing it in the first place.

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If your lawn is thin, and you want it to grow in thicker to prevent weeds from growing, early spring is your better bet.

If you want to give your lawn a hard reset, late autumn is the better choice as your new grass will not have any pressure from annual weeds.

The hot summer months are very harsh for new grass seedlings, so springtime isn’t quite as good for most weedy lawns.

Preparing Your Lawn for Success

Aside from choosing the best time, you must prepare your lawn for overseeding to work the best.

  • Cut your grass short. When mowing your lawn normally, you should only cut it by 1/3 its length. But for overseeding, you want the grass short enough to make sure grass seed can get close to the surface. Try cutting the grass by 2/3 its lengths or cut it down to about 1 ½-inches tall.
  • Clear your lawn of clippings. After mowing your lawn, make sure there are no clippings on your yard. These can interfere with new grass seed. Either use a bag on your mower or rake them up afterwards.
  • Let air into your yard. You want to then loosen up the soil to improve soil contact with the new seeds. This is also a good time to remove thatch from your yard. Either aerate your lawn or use an iron rake to loosen the turf.

Seeding your Lawn

Once these steps are done, it’s time to spread seed onto your yard.

First, choose a grass seed that matches your climate and pairs with your grasses. Also, pick a grass that you can depend on. You want it to grow through the year, and be able to adapt to your yard conditions, like if your yard is sunny or shaded.

Before you begin spreading seed, check the label on the grass seed you purchase for the rate of overseeding. Most bags of grass seed will provide this information right on the bag.

You want to get the right amount of seed in your yard—too much will keep grass from growing because the seedlings compete for moisture, too little and your yard will stay thin and ripe for weed growth.

Once you’ve determined your application rate, use a lawn spreader (broadcast spreaders are my preference) to evenly spread it over your yard, and make sure you spread it on a dry day with no wind.

I like to spread some quick-release starter fertilizer on the lawn before spreading my seed. Scott’s makes a really good product (Amazon link), and it’s particularly good for Spring overseeding because it has a crabgrass preventer in the mix.

Spreading a thin (1/4 inch) layer of compost over the new seed will work wonders to improve germination and help your new seedlings thrive.

You’ll probably want to review my guide to watering new grass to improve your results.

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Maintaining Your New Grass

Watering your new grass is critical and knowing the stages of watering is very important.

New grass needs a lot of water, and you want your soil to stay constantly moist.

For new grass, water lightly twice per day for the first week, and water more heavily the second week.

After 2 weeks, water heavily and less frequently. You want the soil saturated down to 6-inches each time you water it past the 2 week point. This will encourage your grass seedlings to grow deep roots which will improve your lawn’s resilience to heat and drought.

Wait several weeks before mowing your lawn.

Make sure the grass is over 3 inches (I recommend 4-inches in height for the first mow), otherwise you risk ripping your seedlings out of the turf because their roots won’t be deep enough yet.

When you do mow, bag your grass clippings the first few times, and adjust your mowing deck to cut no more than 1/3 of the grass blade.

Similarly avoid herbicides for several weeks on new grass.

If you used starter fertilizer, I recommend throwing down organic slow-release fertilizer after 4-6 weeks to sustain and feed your new lawn and keep it healthy.

Annually overseeding weedy lawn areas in combination with the use of pre-emergents every spring will gradually transform your weedy yard into the lush green carpet every homeowner wants.

How to Reseed a Lawn With Weeds

If you are faced with a neglected lawn that’s partially dead and is being taken over by weeds, you may be able to renovate it. Restoring a deteriorated lawn may be possible if the weeds and dead spots cover less than 40 percent of the lawn area. Renovation of a weedy lawn involves more than just mowing down the weeds and throwing some grass seed over the lawn.

Kill the Weeds

The best time for lawn renovation throughout the U.S. is mid-August to mid-September. Most weeds have not yet dropped their seeds and there will be little new weed growth. Also, reseeding at this time will give the new grass a chance to establish itself before going dormant for winter. Get rid of the weeds by manually pulling up large, spreading weeds. Follow up by applying a selective herbicide product that kills common broadleaf lawn weeds while not harming grass. For tough grassy weeds, like quack grass or crabgrass, use a nonselective herbicide such as glyphosate on the spots where these weeds have established themselves. Normally, all weeds will be dead within two weeks. Apply another herbicide dose in three weeks to get newly sprouted weeds.

Water the Site

If you have had a dry summer with below-normal rainfall, you need to replenish soil moisture before preparing a seedbed. Give the entire lawn a thorough watering, soaking until water has penetrated to a depth of at least 6 inches, then allow the surface to dry for a day or two before starting soil preparation.

Remove Thatch

Most deteriorated lawns have a built-up layer of dead and partially rotted grass stems, roots and rhizomes just below the green grass leaves. This is known as thatch, and it must be removed before reseeding so water and fertilizer can reach the new seed. For small lawns, you can remove thatch with a garden rake. For large areas, go over the lawn with a power dethatcher, also known as a vertical mower or power rake. These machines can be rented from garden centers. Remove the clumps of matter left by the machine with a garden rake and level the soil by raking it.

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Feed & Seed

The soil nutrients most important to healthy grass plants are nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Supply these nutrients by applying a commercial fertilizer formulated for starting lawns and lightly rake it into the soil before you reseed. Buy a grass-seed blend suited to your climate and local conditions and spread it over the lawn with a drop spreader or rotary spreader. Absent a different recommendation from the grass-seed grower, spread the seed at a rate of 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet on a lawn with substantial plots of live grass and 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet on bare soil. Water lightly once or twice a day to keep soil moist but not sopping wet. Don’t mow until the new grass gets 3.5 inches tall.

  • University of Minnesota Extension: Lawn Renovation
  • Southern States Cooperative: Reseeding Your Existing Lawn

Herb Kirchhoff has more than three decades of hands-on experience as an avid garden hobbyist and home handyman. Since retiring from the news business in 2008, Kirchhoff takes care of a 12-acre rural Michigan lakefront property and applies his experience to his vegetable and flower gardens and home repair and renovation projects.

How to Reseed a Lawn with Weeds

This article was co-authored by Lauren Kurtz. Lauren Kurtz is a Naturalist and Horticultural Specialist. Lauren has worked for Aurora, Colorado managing the Water-Wise Garden at Aurora Municipal Center for the Water Conservation Department. She earned a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from Western Michigan University in 2014.

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A patchy and weedy lawn is unpleasant and unappealing. Luckily, there are ways you can get rid of the weeds and replant grass seed to have a lush lawn. Before you start, it’s important that you purchase the right type of seed for your environment and you test your lawn so you know which kind of amendments and compost to use. If your lawn is really spotty and full of weeds, you should kill all of the weeds and old grass in your lawn and start over. If you only have a few weeds, you can spot weed and reseed.