What is Idiot-Proof Fall Lawn Renovation?

Lawn renovations for cool-season grasses are the most successful in the fall. It’s important to watch the calendar and follow these ten steps for fall lawn seeding. When overseeding and renovating your lawn, timing is everything, and the earlier, the better for maximum root development to ensure winter survival. Cool-season grass seed sown in the fall will germinate quicker than grass seed sown the next spring. Warm soils, short days, cool nights, and the welcome rains of September promise lower water bills for fall renovations.

1. Measuring Your Lawn is Important

The first step to any lawn renovation is to measure your lawn. Measuring the size of your lawn is important for calculating the right amount of grass seed and fertilizer. A simple way to measure is to walk the perimeter, counting your steps. An average pace is about three feet. Multiply length x width and write it down.

How to Choose the Right Grass Seed for Your Lawn

2. Choose the Right Seed

The next step is to figure out what kind of grass you have growing in your yard, or what type of grass you’d like to grow. Here in the mid-west, cool-season grasses tend to perform the best and stay green for the most prolonged period. The best grass seeds for overseeding include our Blue Wave bluegrass and Heat Wave fescue, both of which have excellent germination rates.

If you need help identifying your grass type, bring grass samples into any Grass Pad location or attach detailed photos on our Ask Uncle submission form at the bottom of this page.

All Grass Seed is Not the Same

Grass Pad acquires only the best quality grass seed for the midwest with the best performance. Over the last 60 years, our grass seed buyers have developed a reputation in the industry for being the most demanding for seed quality and performance. If you choose to buy seed from other sources, read the label and look for things like the amount of weed seed, other crops, and inert matter. To learn more about the differences in grass seeds, come on down to the Grass Pad and speak to our green team of grass experts. Learn more about making the right decisions when buying grass seed from Uncle’s Idiot-Proof guide on buying grass seed.

3. Mow the Lawn Short

When you are ready to start overseeding, mow the lawn 1 or 2 notches lower, careful not to scalp the lawn. For a fescue or bluegrass lawn, this is about 2.5-3″ tall. Remove any debris from the yard, including any grass clippings. Grass seed needs contact with the soil, so remove anything from the lawn that’s in the way. (Bagging your grass clippings will help to remove debris.)

Mow Your Lawn Short Before Overseeding

4. Rough Up Bare Spots in the Lawn

Rough the surface of the soil giving special attention to bare spots. (For large areas, verticutting will greatly improve your seed to soil contact, but not required for good fall seed germination. Soil should be moist, not wet, when verticutting.) A metal rake or a Garden Weasel work well for scratching up the surface. Don’t dig too deep – you just need to rough up the top layer of soil to help the grass seed make better contact.

5. Spread the Grass Seed

The next step is spreading grass seed using a rotary or hand cranked “spinner” type spreader. Special attention should be given to spots where the ground is bare. Extra seed may be applied by hand to these spots. This photo illustrates how the bare ground should look after seed is applied.

How Thick Grass Seed Should Go Down
Golf-Course-Starter or Renovator Bag

6. Feed the Lawn

Apply Loveland Golf Course Starter at a fall rate of 6 to 10 lbs. per 1,000 sq.ft. or Renovator at a fall rate of 3 to 5 lbs. per 1,000 sq.ft. Healthy turf needs to be fed regularly. In a low nutrition environment, weeds prosper. In high nutrition, grass will prosper. Turfgrass will also recover from summer stress more quickly  when using Golf Course Starter or Renovator at the above rates. They encourage root regeneration, bring rapid green-up and store energy reserves. 

7. Cover the Bare Spots

Grass seed is less likely to grow if it is not covered, so apply a light mulch of sphagnum peat or Primera Sports Field Conditioner as a grass seed cover. The sphagnum peat moss or Primera Sports Field Conditioner will both help keep the moisture near the grass seed, and keep the seed from blowing away. About an 1/8″ of cover works great – you shouldn’t be able to see the grass seed once it’s covered.

Top soil, black peat or straw contain noxious weed seeds and should never be used as a seed cover. 
Primera Field Conditioner - Weed Free Seed Cover

8. Water the New Grass Seed

The ground needs to be consistently moist for the grass seed to germinate. Continue watering lightly, so the soil does not become hard or baked. How often to water grass seed depends on the weather. On hot and windy days you’ll need to water several times a day. If you are keeping the ground consistently moist, you should see baby grass popping up in 7-10 days. If you do not see any germination in that timeframe, you may not be watering often enough so, increase your watering frequency.

9. When to Mow New Grass

Continue your normal mowing schedule and when the grass reaches a height of 3 to 4 inches. Mow to a height of 3 inches with a sharp mower blade at a time when the grass is not wet. Avoid making aggressive turns that may cause damage in newly repaired areas. Mowers moving straight across repaired areas should have minimal effect. Continue to mow your lawn as needed during the season.

Golf-Course-Starter or Renovator Bag

10. Feed it Again! 

Four weeks after the initial application, apply a second application of Golf Course Starter or Renovator fertilizer at the same fall rate. This booster shot of fertilizer has been formulated from over 60 years of experience on our sod farms. Our high nitrogen with potassium formulations are designed to encourage root building, cold hardiness, disease resistance, and wear tolerance in our sod fields and will work in your backyard. 

Snowman Winter Root Builder

Snowman Winter Root Builder

Uncle’s Secret Sauce!

Apply Loveland Snowman to the lawn in late October through December before the grass turns winter brown. Winter root builder with lower nitrogen plus elevated phosphorous and potassium formulation specifically for late fall application on lawns. New and established grass plants store food reserves to help resist winter injury, fight turf disease and stimulate grass root growth. After sixty years of research and development in our sod production, we can tell you that using Snowman will be the difference between having a good lawn and a Hall of Fame Lawn

 Improve winter color and boost spring green-up without stimulating excessive shoot growth, allowing grass plants to maintain energy reserves. Timing is important; the ideal application window is from Halloween to Thanksgiving before the ground has frozen.

More Related Articles on Idiot-Proof Lawn Renovation


Snowman is Key to Lawn Domination

How to Choose the Right Grass Seed for your lawn

How to Cut your Grass

Core Aeration vs. Verticutting

How to Control Weeds After Seeding

  • Hey Uncle, “I followed your fall lawn renovation program; I used your weed-free grass seed. Why do I have weeds in my yard?”  Learn more at this link.


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