Slice Seeder

Slice Seeder Guide (how it works, how to successfully use it)

Some homeowners who want to save time while overseeding will choose to rent a slice seeder instead of dethatching, aerating, and overseeding their lawns (which is more work and more expensive). In this article, we will explore how slice seeders work, the best practices for their use, how much you can expect to pay to rent a slice seeder, and tips for success when seeding your lawn with a slice seeder or slit seeder.

How Do Slit Seeders Work?

A slit seeder (also called a slice seeder or overseeder) is a great tool for helping you establish a new lawn. They are also useful to letting you add new seeds to an existing lawn.

As a homeowner, you will probably want to use a slice seeder to make your lawn thicker, to add more grass seed to help prevent weeds, or to make your lawn healthier by adding new seeds.

Professional lawncare companies will often use slit-seeding for improving warm-season lawns by adding cool-season variety grass seeds. This means that warm-season lawns can stay green over the winter months.

The slit seeder cuts slits in the soil. After that, it deposits seeds in those cracks.

Grooves in Lawn from a Slice Seeder or Slit Seeder
The grooves cut in a lawn by a slice seeder. Seeds are dropped at a regular interval down into these slits in your turf.

This ensures that they are secure and less likely to be disturbed by anything in the environment. For example, animals and birds that might feed on the seeds won’t be able to reach them.

This method also ensures better seed-to-soil contact than traditional lawn overseeding practices, and requires less labor from homeowners to achieve a good overseeding result.

Getting Ready for Slit Seeding

Get the soil ready for using a slit seeder to deposit seed. Start by getting rid of any rocks, debris, or weeds on your lawn. You should make the area as clear as you possibly can.

Take measurements of the space you want to seed. After that, figure out the amount of seed you will need. To help figure this out, ask a lawncare professional or read grass seed packaging.

Make your soil as healthy and receptive as possible before you plant grass seed. This will make your seed more likely to grow as it should. Do a soil test and add any necessary amendments.

Best Practices for Using Slit Seeders

Before you pick up your slice seeder:

  1. Decide on the best grass seed for overseeding your lawn. Make sure it will work in your region. For example, if you live in a northern state, you will need a cool-season grass seed.
  2. Calculate the square footage of your lawn and consult your seed bag for proper coverage for overseeding. I have a free lawn size calculator tool you can use to get an accurate measurement of your lawn size. You don’t want to run out of seed, so I usually recommend making sure you have a little more than the bag says you’ll need.

When You Get Your Overseeder

  1. Consult your overseeder’s guidance (usually written right on the machine) and adjust the slice seeder’s gauge so that you will deposit the amount of seed you need for your seed type.
  2. After the gauge is set, add half of the required seed to its hopper. Use a back and forth motion to travel from one end of the yard to the other and back again, making sure to overlap a little with each pass. This will ensure you don’t miss any spots.
  3. Once you’ve covered your whole space with the slice seeder, take the machine to do your lawn’s perimeter. There are probably areas you’ve forgotten there.
  4. Next, add the second half of your seeds to the hopper. Proceed to seed your lawn one more time. The passes you do now should be perpendicular to the direction you used the first time (for example if you traveled north to south, this time travel east to west). This “cross-hatch” pattern will make sure you don’t miss any area of your lawn and enjoy even coverage when your seed germinates.
  5. Cover the yard’s perimeter for a second time.
  6. Apply some starter fertilizer to the area using a walk-behind drop spreader or broadcast spreader.
  7. Once you’ve done fertilizing, water it in (enough to wet the top 1″ of soil, but not enough for pooling or run-off). You want to keep the seed moist, more on watering best practices here.
How to Use a Slice Seeder / Slit Seeder

Before you do slit seeding, make sure you don’t have a thatch build-up problem on your lawn. If you do, you should resolve this first by dethatching your yard.

But even if you don’t get rid of the thatch first, your slit seeder should still be able to cut directly into the ground, so many homeowners can get a decent result as long as their yard’s thatch layer isn’t super dense (think 2″).

A great video from This Old House where Roger Cook shows a slice seeder in action.

How to Rent a Slice Seeder or Overseeder

Many lawncare stores have lawn equipment available for rent. This includes several large chain home improvement and lawn care stores.

For example, The Home Depot near you may offer either:

Note: Whether you see the product listed as an overseeder, slice seeder, or slit seeder — that’s the tool you want. These terms are used interchangeably.

If you want to you can buy a slice seeder, but as you probably won’t need to use it very often, making that kind of investment probably doesn’t make sense unless you’re planning to start a lawn care business. And why go through the hassle of finding somewhere to store it and having to maintain it.

If like most homeowners you decide to rent a slice seeder, find out about your responsibilities as a renter. Different stores and establishments have different rules, so ensure you’re acquainted with what they expect from you.

The Rental Agreement

You should get some sort of insurance coverage with the agreement. After all, if something untoward happens to the machine, you don’t want to be on the hook for compensating the store for its entire cost.

Where to Rent an Overseeder

The rental agreement is key. Read this carefully before making any decisions or signing on the dotted line. Also ask questions about how and when the company maintains and services the equipment. This will give you an idea of how well you can expect it to work.

Also try to find a rental company close to you if you possibly can. This will be much more convenient and will help save on any delivery costs.

Avoiding Extra Fees & Charges

Find out in what condition the company expects you to return the equipment and follow the rules. Many will charge an extra fee if you don’t hose down and clean the machine prior to returning it.

Also, be sure you understand when the equipment is due back at the store (and when the store closes for the day). You want to account for travel time so you don’t get charged for an extra day.

A slice seeder (sometimes called an overseeder) is a large and heavy machine, so keep this in mind when making your plans. If you rent your slice seeder, get guidance from the professionals at the lawncare store or rental center on how to use the machine.

This will not only make the seeding process easier and more convenient, it will also help you avoid making mistakes that could lead to machine damage.

As a lawncare equipment renter, it is your responsibility to keep the equipment safe and return it undamaged.

Tips for Success when Using a Slice Seeder or Slit Seeder to Seed Your Lawn

There are several things to keep in mind when planning to use a slit seeder.

Slice Seeding Lawn Guide
  • Slit (or slice) seeders can damage existing grass. If you plan on using this piece of equipment for overseeding an existing lawn, be extremely careful. After all, you’re overseeding to create a more beautiful lawn, not create problems you didn’t have before.
  • Do a soil test (I recommend this one which is also available on Amazon) before seeding your lawn with a slit seeder. If you have uneven growth on your lawn, the soil probably doesn’t have enough nutrition. If you don’t know how to do a soil test, you can get a professional to do it for you. In some cases, applying a certain kind of fertilizer will help the issue. In others, however, it may make the problem worse. That is why a soil test is essential.
  • You need a smooth and clear surface before using a slit seeder. Make sure you remove all leaves, debris, dirt, and rocks from the area. If these kinds of objects on your lawn, your slice seeder won’t work properly and you might even damage the machine. If you’re renting your seeder, you don’t want to bring it back to the company damaged. You could end up with a hefty bill.
  • Choose the right kind of grass seed for your region and area. No matter how carefully and correctly you seed your property, if you don’t use an appropriate type of grass seed, you’re not going to have success.

How to Choose Grass Seed

There are two main categories of grass seed used in the United States. These are:

  • cool-season grasses, and
  • warm-season grasses.

If you live in northern parts of the country, you will need a cool-season grass. If you live further south, you will probably need a warm-season grass seed.

Grass Zone Map

There’s also a transitional zone stretching across the middle of the country where both grass types can grow. The best grass for these areas will depend upon your local micro-climate, winter, and soil conditions, but referencing the grass zone map I’ve created is a good start.

Cool-Season Grasses

Cool-season grasses are sometimes referred to as northern grasses.

Kentucky Bluegrass - How to Use a Slice Seeder to Overseed Northern Lawns
Kentucky Bluegrass

These types of grasses are better able to tolerate cold and they have rapid growth not only in the spring months but also in the fall. It will stop growing as quickly in very warm weather. Some examples of popular cool-season grass varieties include:

  • Fine Fescue
  • Tall Fescue
  • Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Perennial Ryegrass

Warm-Season Grasses

Warm-season grasses are sometimes also referred to as deep south or gulf grasses.

St. Augustine Grass - How to Use a Slice Seeder to Overseed Warm Season Grass Lawns
St. Augustine Grass

These grass varieties are better able to tolerate extreme heat. They won’t be able to deal with cold weather very well, though. Some examples of popular warm-season grasses include:

Transitional Grass Varieties

As well as cool-season and warm-season grasses, there are also transitional grass varieties. Transitional grass varieties work best in an area of the United States called the Transition Zone, which lies between the cool-season grass and warm-season grass regions.

Sir Grange Zoysia Grass - How to Use a Slice Seeder to Overseed Transitional Zone Grass Lawns
Sir Grange Zoysia Grass

Overall, cool-season grass varieties tend to thrive better in the Transition Zone than warm-season grasses, but there are certainly exceptions to the rule (such as Bermuda grass). Below are some types of grass popular for the Transition Zone:

  • Zoysia
  • Fescue
  • Bermuda

As well as the region of the country where you live, you should think about factors such as how much foot traffic you tend to have on your lawn, how much sun or shade your lawn enjoys, the altitude of your property, and how available water is.

You should consider all of these when deciding on the best kind of grass for your lawn.

Grass Varieties and Soil Types

As mentioned earlier, do a soil test before you plant grass seed. Your soil’s pH is an important factor in determining whether a certain kind of grass will thrive.

If you don’t have the right kind of pH for the type of grass you want to use, you can adjust it. As long as the grass seed is suitable for your region (and will deal with the other conditions of your lawn), this should do the trick in many cases.

Below is a chart setting out information on some of the most popular turfgrass seed varieties. It tells you the soil type and pH in which the grass does best, its level of foot traffic tolerance, and the height at which you should mow it.

Choosing the Best Grass Seed for Slice Seeding Your Lawn

Type of GrassSoil Type / pHFoot Traffic ToleranceIdeal Mower HeightSun RequiementsType of Grass (region)
Zoysia GrassSlightly acidic, with pH of between 5.8 and 6.5HighBetween 1 ½ and 2 inchesPartial to fullWarm-season
St. Augustine GrassDoes best in sandy soilHighBetween 2 and 3 inchesPartial to fullWarm-season
Bahia GrassMost soil types appropriateMediumBetween 2 and 2 ½ inchesModerate to fullWarm-season
Centipede GrassCan tolerate acidic soilLightBetween 1 ½ and 2 inchesPartial to fullWarm-season
Bermuda GrassDoes best in light textured soilHighBetween 1 ½ and 2 inchesFull sunWarm-season
Tall Fescue GrassDoes well in most soil typesHighBetween 2 and 3 inchesPartial to fullCool-season
Kentucky BluegrasspH of between 6.5 and 7 is usually bestLightBetween 2 and 2 ½ inchesFull sunCool-season
Fine Fescue GrassDoes well in most soil typesLightBetween 2 and 3 inchesCan do well in full sunlight, as well as shadeCool-season
Perennial RyegrassDoes well in most soil typesHighBetween 2 and 3 inchesFull sunCool-season

Ways to Adjust Soil pH in Your Lawn

Your soil’s pH is created by different factors. These include the specific parent materials that led to the creation of your soil.

If you have soil that has basic rocks as the main parent material, it will probably have a higher pH. If its parent material is acid rocks, however, it will have a lower pH (a lower pH means more acidic).

Understanding Your Soil And Adjusting its pH Before Slit Seeding

The pH of your soil will also be impacted by rainfall, as well as the kinds of fertilizers you use.

Rainfall affects pH because when water makes its way through soil, basic nutrients (such as magnesium and calcium) can end up removed from the soil.

When this happens, acidic elements (examples are iron and aluminum) will take their place. If soil is formed when there is a lot of rainfall, it will probably be more acidic than it might be otherwise.

If you have used fertilizers that have urea or ammonium, acidity will develop at a faster rate. This can be used as a way of increasing acidity. If you want to sweeten your acidic soil, you can spread lime to quickly accomplish that.

But starting with a good soil test is so important – it will provide a roadmap of what steps you need to take to create conditions for your grass to thrive. Often, it will save you money on expensive fertilizer that you may not even need.

Final Thoughts About Using a Slice Seeder

There are a lot of steps you can take to improve the appearance of your lawn, but for most homeowners, overseeding and making targeted fertilizer applications informed by a soil test will be enough to thicken and feed their turfgrass.

Benefits of Using a Slit Seeder

A slice seeder is a great tool that can save you some labor when overseeding your yard, and it’s one piece of rental equipment I can recommend to many homeowners.

It’s effective, and for most of you, the $100 or so it costs to rent it for the day from Home Depot will be money well spent.

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.

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