Best Grass Seed for Overseeding

What is the Best Grass Seed for Overseeding?

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.

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.

What is the Best Grass Seed for Overseeding?

Overseeing during the middle of summer gives you a larger chance of disease due to heat and lack of water. There is also the chance of weed growth, which may cause complications during germination. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

How Much Grass Seed Should You Apply to Your Lawn When Overseeding?

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

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

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.

Red Fescue

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.

Water and fertilize adequately, and be sure to mow once your seed has grown high enough to do so.

Choose a Good Seed to Overseed Your Lawn

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.

by

Sarah’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

16 thoughts on “What is the Best Grass Seed for Overseeding?

    • Hey, Robert!

      It can work either way, but I always spread the seed and starter fertilizer and then cover with a thin (1/4″) layer of the compost. It’s tempting to spread 1/2″ – 1″ of the compost, but you don’t want to bury the seed too deeply or you can get poor or very slow germination rates. A nice thin layer is sufficient and will improve your soil more than you think.

      If you prefer to get the compost spread evenly first, spread your seed and work it into the compost with the back of a leaf rake so you get most of it buried (otherwise the birds will thank you).

      If you can run a core aerator over your lawn before you tackle this project you’ll probably be glad you did – loosening the soil and allowing seed and compost to fall into those holes will deliver amazing results. You can read my guide on that right here in case you’re interested in giving it a try.

      Good luck!

      • Robert Kellogg

        Hey Sarah,

        Thank you for your detailed and insightful response. I had the top 3 inches of soil in my lawn tested. I have two follow up questions about nitrogen and Ph:

        1. The lawn test results stated that my soil has a “very high” amount of Nitrogen, (26ppm nitrate). So, I am hesitant to use a starter fertilizer. You wisely anticipated that I will put more than 1/4 inch of compost down; probably more like 1/2 inch. Since the seed will not be touching the nitrogen-rich soil, do I still need starter fertilizer? The seed I am using is Eco-Lawn from Wildflower Farms (mixed fescue).

        2. My lawn test result also identified a “slightly too acidic” Ph, (5.68). The lab report said the correct Ph for grass is 6 to 7 and recommended adding 19 to 25 pounds of lime per thousand square feet. Would it make sense to add powdered lime to the yard, then place the compost, and finish with the grass seed on top? I could wait a few weeks to add the lime but I hate to do all that walking on the newly sprouted grass. I live near Seattle so acidic soil is typical due to the endless rain (other than summer).

        Thanks again. I appreciate the amount of detail you provide in your website and the conversational, easy to read style.

        A separate article about soil testing may be useful, if you do not already have one posted. I searched online and found lots of sources. The cost for a basic test from the site I used was less than $20. It was easy to mail in a sample in a zip lock bag. The test more than paid for itself because the report prevented me from buying fertilizer that I do not need. The test report also included detailed recommendations about which soil supplements to apply. If you Email me, I will be happy to share a copy of the test results.

        • Hey, Robert!

          It’s great that you did a soil test and were happy with the results. It’s something I recommend in a lot of the articles on this blog, and recently wrote an article on the subject. I always say it’s the best money I spend on my lawn every year – I do it in the spring before the grass wakes up for the season so I know exactly what my lawn needs (and doesn’t). Sometimes that simple pH tweak you’re talking about unlocks the full potential of your lawn … so many people keep pounding Nitrogen-rich fertilizer blindly, when their lawn already has that nutrient in abundance.

          In answer to your questions:

          1. I think you’ll do fine with compost and skipping the starter fertilizer, but if you still want to use one (but are worried about the high nitrogen), go with something lower in N but higher in phosphorus. Phosphorus tends to be non-mobile in soil so it can be difficult for seedlings to uptake what they need for strong root growth, which is why planting seed is one of the few times I go with a synthetic fertilizer in my yard. That quick-release phosphorus really helps the young grass plants establish what they need to thrive on their own without me. You could try the 3-18-18 liquid fertilizer from Simple Lawn Solutions (Amazon link) – might be a good match for your project.
          2. Yes, that’s exactly what I’d do with the Lime. After you spread it if you find there are some heavy spots (that can happen with powdered lime sometimes) you can work it into the turf lightly with a leaf rake to get even distribution. You may find that an annual application is something your lawn really benefits from. You also may be interested in this article about over-applying lime, and some things you may need to do to correct that issue if your pH swings too far in the other direction.

  1. Mike M

    I love this site!!! I live in upstate NY. I landscaped in the spring and the lawn came in nice. Over the last month, it started to turn brown. I decided to do some over seeding in early September so it will look good next spring. I will be using a bluegrass and tall fescue blend, per my lawn care guy. Which BRAND do you suggest I use for the best results? There are a lot of them out there.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Hey, Mike!

      Thanks so much for the comment, glad you’ve enjoyed my site – hope you’ll be a regular reader!

      I’m a big fan of Jonathan Green’s Black Beauty Ultra mix. It has the fescue and bluegrass blend you’re looking for with a little perennial rye mixed in to improve wear tolerance and ensure you get a nice thick result – as that dies out over time the bluegrass will fill in and replace it. I’ve had really good luck with it and know many others have as well.

      Here’s a link to a video of a brand new lawn that was killed off and re-seeded with Jonathan Green’s Black Beauty Ultra, grown in the fall at 7 weeks after seeding so you have some idea of the type of grass you can expect.

      You can sometimes find the seed locally, or you can buy it direct from the manufacturer here (recommended for the freshest seed), or on Amazon.

      Best of luck, Mike!

  2. John K Howard

    It is the last week of August I think today’s 25th or 26th and I’m going to reseed or overseed as my yard is 90% crabgrass and clover 10% Bermuda and I suppose I messed up if I was going over seed with Bermuda which has its drawbacks are North Alabama anyway I was going to try that blend you’re talking about Jonathan Green Ultra thing is I like the idea of the perennial ryegrass coming back time and again and I hope I’m not messing up if I am be good enough to tell me I’m going to try to aerate it next week cut it down to nothing and overseed it probably take me that long to get that Jonathan’s Ultra blend from Amazon anyway please let me know what you think thank you Kirk

    • Hey there!

      Thanks for the comment. Northern Alabama is tricky because it’s right toward the southern edge of the transitional zone. For this reason I’d actually steer you away from Jonathan Green’s Ultra grass seed because it’s really geared more toward northern lawns with cool season grasses. It can perform well in some parts of the transitional zone, but because you’re on the southern side my guess is that that grass will struggle with the heat in your region.

      I’d search for something that’s going to handle the tough conditions of the transitional zone or a blend of warm season grass that will perform better in your climate with less maintenance. Look at Barenburg/Wonderlawn and Outside Pride – both have some offerings that may perform well for you, just read carefully about where they are intended to grow to ensure they’re suitable for your unique local climate.

      Good luck!

  3. Katie M

    Do you know anything about Wildflower Farm’s Eco-Lawn? Thinking about overseeding using that. I live in Eastern Washington and I’m looking for something that uses less water.

    • Hi, Katie!

      I’m afraid I don’t have any experience with that seed, but I see that it’s a fine fescue blend. I use and recommend Jonathan Green Black Beauty Ultra to overseed here in New England and it’s a very nice, drought-tolerant seed mix with excellent color and texture. Any seed mix that’s predominantly fescue should have nice deep roots which help make it drought tolerant.

  4. DR J

    Greetings,
    What grass seed would you recommend for overseeding for me? I live in North Carolina with a tall fescue lawn and a lot of bare spots in the back. The front was Sodded

    • Hey there!

      I think Jonathan Green Black Beauty Ultra would do well for you. It’s primarily tall fescue, with some Kentucky Bluegrass and Perennial Rye mixed in. It’s the one I use when I overseed my lawn.

      In your location I’d also consider a good Turf Type Tall Fescue like this one from Seedranch. It’s also available in a 10 pound bag, which may save you a bit of cash depending upon your lot size.

      For overseeding with Fescue I recommend you seed at about 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet, and you’ll want to add a bit more by hand to the bare spots you mentioned in the backyard to help them catch up with the rest of your lawn. You can calculate the square footage of different areas of your lawn using this free lawn mapping tool on my site, and do some simple math to understand exactly how much seed you should order for your project.

      Hope this helps!

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