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Overseeding Thin Lawns: How, When, and Why

Overseeding Thin Lawns: How, When, and Why

Have you ever heard the term “lawn overseeding" and wondered what it meant for the health of your lawn? If you're curious to know what overseeding a lawn is and whether you should do it, you came to the right place! We're breaking down the basics of overseeding grass for you so you can achieve the healthy green lawn you've always wanted.  

What Is Overseeding?

The term “overseeding” is probably intuitive to you and simply means applying an abundance of grass seed on top of your existing lawn in order to create more dense growth. Not all grass seed will take root, and depending on your soil health, sun/shade compatibility, and wildlife factors, a lot of it may not. That’s why overseeding existing lawns is important for lush, green growth.  

“Reseeding” is a similar term, sometimes used synonymously with overseeding. It implies reapplying grass seed as needed, either after a spring thaw or once more before colder winter months set in.

How Do I Know If I Need To Overseed My lawn?

 Many lawns become compacted, lose soil nutrients, or fall victim to turf diseases or pest infestations because of changes in weather patterns (too much or too little rain). Some lawns may experience damage throughout the growing season and become dry, brown, brittle or spongy. Others may have reacted to pet urine or harsh commercial lawn care products with patches or spots. All of these lawns could benefit from overseeding.

Lawns that get used regularly throughout the growing season are likely to need at least spot-seeding near the end of the growing season. Many homeowners schedule reseeding and aeration services annually to continue an abundance of growth the following year. 

If your lawn is damaged or thinning, or you want to add to its density in the next growing season, you should overseed your lawn. 

When Is The Best Time To Aerate and Overseed Lawns?

The best time to overseed is at the end of the growing season, before the ground freezes and grass becomes dormant. Grass does not grow throughout the winter under typical conditions, but will spring to life the moment the soil thaws in the spring. For the New Jersey area, we recommend aerating and overseeding your lawn from late September to mid-October.  

As mentioned above, some lawns need a little more seed added in early spring. Keep some extra seed from your initial reseeding and sprinkle areas that appear to have little or no growth as compared to the other thin areas where you applied seed in the fall. 

How to Overseed Your Lawn: 6 Easy Steps

1. Choose a grass seed that's right for your lawn by checking for climate and sun/shade compatibility. We consider Tall Fescue the best grass seed for overseeding lawns in the New Jersey area. 

2. Cut the grass slightly shorter than you normally would and use a heavy rake to remove thatch and debris. Avoid mowing after overseeding. If you’re establishing a new lawn, remove debris and loosen the top two inches of soil. 

3. Aerate the lawn. Lawn aeration is a very important step of the overseeding process. Throughout the spring and summer, soil can become heavily compacted from regular mowing and traffic. Soil compaction can prevent your seed from taking root.

Soil compaction also creates a more difficult environment for seedlings to grow once they’ve taken root. Aeration is a natural, chemical free way to rejuvenate your soil’s existing nutrients and make them more accessible to plants. Aerating and overseeding ensures your grass seed can burrow deep into the soil for strong roots, and reach more nutrients as it grows. 

4. Cover the lawn with seed. The best way to overseed a lawn is with a “seed spreader” or grass overseeder, which will evenly distribute the seed with normal use. Just be sure to cover all areas of the lawn that need it, and spread seed evenly. If spreading by hand, attempt to do the same, a handful at a time. Gently sift the seeds onto the lawn for even coverage. To give you an idea of how much seed to apply, some experts recommend about 16 seeds per square inch. You don’t need to count the grass seed, just use that number as a general rule of them when deciding how much seed to use. 

5. Water as usual. Once your seed has been applied to the lawn you need to be prepared to water your lawn often in order to encourage your seeds to germinate.  The soil needs to remain moist all day long similar to a damp sponge.  It usually requires watering your lawn 2-3 times a day at intervals of 5-15 minutes. You should continue watering at this pace for 2-4 weeks.  If you have an established lawn then you can reduce the watering to once a day for 15 minutes for two weeks.  Once your new seeds establish themselves are you wondering how much water your lawn needs, and when? Check out our blog post about how to properly water your lawn

6. Add more grass seed as needed in the spring. Once the ground has thawed and you’ve started to notice new growth, observe that growth for several days. If you notice any areas that aren’t sprouting new plants the way you’d like them to, dethatch the area with a coarse rake and reseed the area. Use the same application instructions and seed you used for your fall overseeding. Overseeding in spring is possible, but an initial overseeding in fall is preferable.

Overseeding and Fertilizing

If your soil is lacking the proper nutrients to sustain new grass growth, overseeding will be for nothing. Professional lawn care companies can provide soil health tests to help you determine if your soil’s pH or nutrients are imbalanced, and may recommend fertilizing after overseeding your lawn. If you’re wondering whether to fertilize or overseed first, the steps should be rake, mow, aerate, overseed, then fertilize. This allows your seeds a layer of nutrients throughout the winter. 

Green Roots Organic offers all of your overseeding, fertilizing, and late fall lawn care services, no matter where you’re beginning. All of our organic and semi-organic products help maintain natural ecosystem conditions. Our compost is fully organic and can nurture new growth throughout the growing season. Contact us today for more information or an instant quote.