Uncle’s Tip: 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. Grass seed sown in the fall season will germinate quicker than grass seed sown that next spring. Warm soils, short days, cool nights and the welcome rains of September promise lower water bills for fall renovations.
1. Measure Your Lawn
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.
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 in to 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
We encourage you always to buy your grass seed from the Grass Pad. Grass Pad does the research for you, we acquire only the highest quality grass seed with the best performance in the mid-west. 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, be sure to read the label and look for things like the amount of weed seed, other crops, and inert matter. To learn more about grass seeds and how much grass seed you need for overseeding, read our 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 being 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.)
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.
See Related: Verticutting vs Core Aeration
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.
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 recover from summer stress more quickly when using Golf Course Starter or Renovator at fall rates to encourage root regeneration, bring rapid green-up and store energy reserves.
7. Cover 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 PrimeraFC 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.
8. Water the New Grass Seed
How often to water grass seed depends on the weather. 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. 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 5-7 days, you may not be watering often enough so, increase your watering frequency.
9. When to Mow New Grass
Most people don’t know when to cut the grass after overseeding, but it’s important to mow when the grass seedlings reach a height of 3 to 4 inches. Typically that will be at about 30 days. Mow to a height of 3 inches with a sharp mower blade at a time when the grass is not wet. Continue to mow the rest of your lawn like you normally would.
See Related: Mowing Height for your Lawn
10. Get a Hall of Fame Lawn
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 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 own backyard. 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 own sod production, we know a little about growing grass and this booster shot will be the difference between having a good lawn and a Hall of Fame Lawn.)
(Late Oct to Nov) Before the grass turns winter brown, apply Loveland Snowman to the entire lawn. Winter root builder with lower nitrogen plus elevated phosphorous and potassium formulation specifically for late fall application on lawns. (Improve winter color and boost spring green up without stimulating excessive shoot growth, allowing grass plant to maintain energy reserves. Timing is important, the ideal application window is from Halloween to Thanksgiving; before the ground has frozen.)