With the many different types of grass seed available today, choosing what type of grass to seed alone is a difficult decision, but choosing to overseed adds another component to the mix. Let’s face it — grass seed is expensive, and if you want to get the best bang for your buck, you’ll want to choose the best grass seed for overseeding.
In this article I’ll help you choose the best seed for your lawn, your climate, and your skill level. This way, you can make an informed choice.
The two main types of grass are warm-season grass and cool-season grass, in order to decide which is best for you and overseeding, you will need to match them based on your climate and sun exposure. Not all grass types require overseeding, but generally, bunch type, cool-season grasses benefit the most from overseeding.
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Why Overseed Your Lawn?
Overseeding your lawn is when you plant new grass seed over existing grass or turf. This is done without destroying or pulling up any of the previous turf as well as soil.
The most obvious reason to overseed is to improve the look of your lawn. You might want to overseed if your lawn looks old, brown, somewhat worn out. If your lawn needs huge amounts of water and nutrients to thrive, consider overseeding.
Overseeding is a great way to fill in bare spots in your grass, make your lawn thicker, improve the current grass variety you are growing, or give your lawn an overall better look. No longer will you need to worry about people running on your lawn or if heavy rains are thinning it out.
After overseeding, your lawn will be able to hold up to natural events and environmental stress.
Another reason for overseeding is if you have an insect problem or are prone to diseases. Having a healthy lawn means you will no longer be prone to pests or weeds. That means if you are looking to avoid using chemicals then overseeding is a great option.
When to Overseed
Different types of grass require different times of overseeding, but generally, late summer or early fall is the best time to overseed your lawn. This is due to the soil and outside temperatures being the best for seed germination as well as grass growth. Doing so during this time will also give your seeds more of a chance to grow with fewer weeds as well as time before cold weather sets in.
Overseeding during the middle of summer gives you a larger chance of disease for a few reasons.
Nicole Forsyth, M.S., a certified horticulturist and member of Lawn Chick’s expert panel, shares that “most turf diseases are fungal, which thrive with moisture.” Since summer is naturally hot and dry, that lack of moisture “discourages fungal and bacterial blight” naturally.
However, introducing the regular irrigation needed to grow grass from seed at this time of year may create conditions more favorable for turf disease.
There is also the chance of weed growth at this time of year, which may cause complications during germination.
The added irrigation and (likely) fertilizer is ideal for weed germination and growth, which is another reason I don’t recommend overseeding in the middle of the summer.
If you choose to overseed in the spring you may encounter heavy rains and high temperatures. This is a breeding ground for weeds. Spring is also a time that many people choose to treat for crabgrass or broadleaf. Using herbicides within the first 4-6 weeks after germination is not recommended. I recommend that you do not seed during this time.
There is one exception to the rule of overseeding in the spring, and that is with Bermudagrass in southern parts of the United States. For Bermudagrass, it is recommended to overseed in the late spring or early summer. This is due to Bermudagrass and other warm-season grasses need warmer weather to germinate and fully develop.
For those who live in a place with good snow cover during the winter, you might choose to do dormant overseeding in the late fall or early winter. This can only be done if the soil temperature is low enough to avoid seed germination. Dormant overseeding will only work if you have good snow cover that will prevent wind and water erosion.
Before You Overseed
Begin by understanding what problems caused your lawn to need overseeding in the first place. Problems that you may be able to fix with overseeding include:
- Bad soil condition
- Poor drainage
- Soil compaction
- Not enough water
- Bad fertility
- Poor air circulation
- Not enough sunlight
- Overdose of thatch
- Planting of the wrong grass variety
- Neglect of lawn
Mainly you want to understand the problem before adding in new grass, to ensure the new grass will be able to grow healthy and strong.
How to Overseed
When overseeding your lawn there are a few steps to actually prepare your lawn to make it go as successfully as possible.
- Prep your lawn by mowing it at the lowest setting and bagging the clippings. This way the seed will come in contact with the soil after spreading. After you mow make sure to rake your lawn to remove any dead grass and loosen the soil.
- You will need to use a good fertilizer spreader to actually spread the seed. Do this by filling it with your seed of choice. If you are not using a large spreader then you can also use a handheld spreader.
- Water daily for at least two weeks, always keeping the surface moist. Once your seed has grown into a full height, you can begin mowing as usual.
How Much Seed to Apply
The amount required for overseeding lawns is usually on the label as it is different with different seeds as well as different lawns.
If you decide to overseed each year, you will need less seed than if you choose to do it once every few years or for the first time.
- Generally plan to use 2-4 lbs per 1000 square feet. This is if you want your lawn thick, and prepare to need to maintain this more as well.
- If you have trouble spots or are servicing a large dirt area, you may need up to 4-8 lbs per 1000 square feet.
- Performing a complete renovation of your lawn? Be prepared to use 8-12 lbs per 1000 square feet.
- Make sure to always irrigate properly and have patience. It will take a while to seed a bright and vibrant green lawn.
- Try not to apply too much seed when overseeding. Thick lawns are created over time, and adding too much seed all at once may lead to overcrowding and thinning.
My Picks for the Best Grass Seed for Overseeding
Generally, warm-season grasses are not used for overseeding unless they are damaged or diseased. Bermudagrass is an exception. Overseed Bermudagrass in the fall – just use a cool-season variety.
Different cool-season bunch type grasses are generally the best to overseed.
Kentucky Bluegrass / Tall Fescue Blend
Many people choose to combine several types of seeds, and if you plan to do this in your lawn, I recommend a blend of Kentucky Bluegrass and Tall Fescue for overseeding. When combining these two, tall fescue should make up around 90% of the seed due to it not blending extremely well.
It is also possible to use Kentucky bluegrass or Tall fescue individually. When using Kentucky bluegrass you need to understand that this needs a bit more care than other types of grass. But it’s worth it. Your lawn will be beautiful and luxurious.
If you’re going to go with a pre-mixed blend, I recommend that you do yourself a favor and shop at a local nursery. They’ll have a blend of grass seed that is designed to thrive in your region – just make sure that what you’re buying has very few fillers and little weed seed.
I have a full comparison of Turf Type Tall Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass if you’d like to learn more about how they differ.
Perennial Ryegrass is a popular species for the overseeding of warm-season grasses. This is due to its rapid germination in only 3-5 days, its ability to grow with annual bluegrass, nice color, and high density.
The negative aspects include it usually being sold at a higher price point, and that it competes in growth with bermudagrass. Perennial ryegrass is similar to Annual ryegrass, but perennial ryegrass contains a finer texture and better coloring. It also will return year after year.
One drawback is that most varieties of Perennial Rye won’t spread, so you’ll have to repair thin sections. When maintained properly, to me there’s no type of grass quite as beautiful or fun to walk barefoot in as Perennial Ryegrass.
Annual ryegrass is similar to perennial ryegrass, but tends to be yellow-green in color and is more susceptible to disease.
Annual ryegrass is an inexpensive option for overseeding home lawns and general-purpose turfs, but you’ll have to do it every year since it won’t winter over. Annual Ryegrass is usually used to prevent erosion, or for a fool-proof way to add curb appeal when you’re listing your home.
I don’t like to use it in my lawn, but there are some applications where it is a good choice.
If you have a shady section of your lawn which always struggles, then you should consider overseeding that section with Red Fescue, or a Red Fescue blend. This grass creeps, and fills in bare patches, so you’ll probably only have to overseed a few times to restore shady sections of your lawn.
Overseeding is Always a Good Option
Make sure you choose the right seed for your climate.
Many homeowners search for the best grass seed for overseeding. But the truth is that what you do to prepare for overseeding, and after you spread the seed will usually play the biggest role in how your new grass seed performs.
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