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Lawn Reseeding - Grass Revival In the Works

Updated on November 2, 2009

Many homeowners struggle with keeping a nice-looking lawn. To most in the know, a “nice lawn” is the one where the grass is that perfect shade of emerald green, and has not a single blade out of place or above the uniform level. It usually is the yard that you would love to take your socks and shoes off and just walk around in the grass barefoot if you thought the owner wouldn't run you off. If you are the type of person who thinks that green is green in the lawn and whatever grows goes, this hub may not help you much. I am speaking directly to those who obsess over grass...the legal kind.

The way to start the road to a beautiful, homogenous carpet of lush grass is to reseed it. Some lay sod, and there is something to be said for the ease of establishing a sod lawn (it's almost instant). But, in today's economy seeding is cheaper, and saving money is good for the environment or something like that.

You may want to start with a whole lawn renovation project. This is a little more in depth, but if your lawn is too far gone, taken over by crabgrass and tough perennial weeds, it's the best hope for success. If you aren't in too bad shape, but just have different patches of weeds with little patches of grass to make it lively, then you may be able to spray some selective weed killer and start laying seed.

Reseeding isn't the same thing as “overseeding”. Overseeding is a a term used to describe a supplemental dose of grass seed to encourage thicker growth in your lawn. Most fescue lawns require periodic overseeding to keep them thick and free of patches where weeds can take hold. Warm season grasses like bermuda and zoysia may need overseeding to patch worn spots, but these grasses spread and self repair better than most cool season grasses.

Your first step after killing weeds or renovating the lawn should be to give a good landing place for the seeds. Unless you renovated the lawn down to tilled soil, you will likely want a rake (thatch rake is perfect) to pull out dead weed material. It is better to get rid of it than to chance it coming back. If taking the renovating path, another good thing you can do is solarize the lawn by putting plastic down over the ground. Clear plastic is good and black is as well. This will heat up in the sun, and kill weeds, organisms and destroy most of the weed seeds as well. This last part is important, since you don't want weed seeds competing with your grass seeds.

The next step is to start planting seeds. You can do this by hand, throwing them about, but the best method is to use a spreader. There are the walk-behind spreaders used for fertilizer and such, but there are also hand-crank spreaders that do an effective job of distributing seed equally.

Fertilizing with a good starter fertilizer is essential to get the seeds off to a good start. This step can be done before or after the actual seeding process. I placed it here because the walking around on top of the seeds can help press them into the dirt and increase the odds of successful germination. You will want to use a spreader for the fertilizer and follow the directions on the package for the amount to use. Most types have the settings for the popular spreaders labeled right on the packaging, so you won't have to guess which setting on your spreader is giving the correct distribution.

Some people like to rent a yard roller to go over the ground. This step is optional, but it may help keep seeds from blowing away if your area is windy. You can usually rent these from a local hardware store, but some people buy them. It's not really necessary since this item isn't something you will need to use much if at all.

Your next step, especially if you've done a complete renovation with bare soil is to put down some sort of mulch. This is to give the seeds some cover and a little shade to help with moisture retention as well as protection. Birds may eat your seeds, but if you've spread a good amount enough should germinate and sprout so this won't be a big issue. The best thing to use for mulch for grass is straw. You can use pine straw or the yellow straw. Both will decompose eventually leaving some good stuff for your soil, but don't use hay as it usually contains seed. It will compete with your new grass, and you don't want that. When applying the mulch, do not cover every square inch. You want sunlight to be able to reach the soil, so a very light covering of straw is all that is required.

The final step is to apply water and give it some time. You want to have a frequent and regular watering schedule, but short duration. What I mean is to water, say, morning and late afternoon for 15-20 minutes each cycle. This keeps things moist, but not saturated. You do not want your seed to dry out as it may not germinate, or if it has the sprout will be very sensitive to drying out and dying. Likewise, too much moisture can cause fungus and rot, so balance is key.

Depending on the type of grass you selected, it can take anywhere from 5 to 28 days for your seeds to germinate and sprout to where you see a lot of tiny green grass plants. For a bare lawn, do not mow until the grass has grown tall enough. For patch repair or overseeding, you should have mowed the grass before starting as low as you can. You do not want to mow over seeded areas until the seedlings are at least 2 inches tall as many mowers are powerful enough to pull the seedlings right out of the ground with suction.

You will want to apply some more fertilizer 45-60 days after the initial application, but you should go a little lighter on the amount as the young grass will be susceptible to burning. You also should gradually reduce the watering schedule to equal about 1 inch of water per week, but don't do it all in one session. Also, if it has rained, you do not need to apply as much water. It is best to allow the grass to dry out a little between watering cycles to encourage deeper root growth. This will give it better drought tolerance.

Well, that is how it's done. Now I hope you get out there and create another beautiful lawn!


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    • TheNerdyGardener profile image

      TheNerdyGardener 5 years ago from Brisbane, Australia

      I neglect my lawn and unfortunately here they get full of an annoying little weed called bindis that have sharp spurs on their seeds that stick into your feet. They make walking around barefoot in early Summer almost impossible without constantly looking out for and removing them.

    • ellahall2011 profile image

      ellahall2011 6 years ago

      Really like this hub, I am glad to discover this page.

    • Jeffrey Neal profile image

      Jeffrey Neal 7 years ago from Tennessee

      Lahai, you can use purchased seed to overseed an existing lawn or to fill in areas without grass. The variety may be different and with grasses like bermuda and zoysia, it is typically more course. The fine-bladed varieties tend to only be available as sod.

    • profile image

      Lahai 7 years ago

      Can I reseed a bermuda sod lawn with bermuda grass seeds purchase from lowe's? Thanks

    • profile image

      Lawn Grubs Queensland 7 years ago

      Great tips to a beautiful lawn. Just wanted to add that straw although can be a good mulch but if decays it can ruin the lawn.

    • Jeffrey Neal profile image

      Jeffrey Neal 7 years ago from Tennessee

      Dorsi, thanks for your comments. I have always heard straw, but I think a leaf mulch will work well also. Just chipped up leaves partially composted (I usually run over a leaf pile with a lawn mower to get the right consistency).

      The main thing to keep in mind is you actually do NOT want to completely cover the seed as they need the light to reach them and a heavier layer of material will sharply reduce your germination rate wasting your efforts. Straw is recommended because of how loosely you can distribute it and it decomposes into your lawn rather quickly.

    • Dorsi profile image

      Dorsi Diaz 7 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

      Jeffrey, Thanks for the tips. We are about the start a whole new lawn from seed. What other type of mulch is good besides straw? I would like to cover the seed some to protect it but don't want to use straw. Thanks for your informative hub!

      Thumbs up.

    • Jeffrey Neal profile image

      Jeffrey Neal 8 years ago from Tennessee

      Donald, I believe it should be okay. Too much fertilizer is polluting as the excess runs off during watering or rain, so you should be fine with your proposed strategy.

    • profile image

      Donald 8 years ago

      Neal, once I dethatch my lawn in the spring I plan to reseed and put down starter fertilizer. Since most of the original lawn will still be in place, will the starter ferilizer be sufficient to feed the grass?



    • Jeffrey Neal profile image

      Jeffrey Neal 8 years ago from Tennessee

      Hey, habee! Good deal. I'll be happy to help however I can if you have any more questions.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      I'm trying to improve my lawn with your hubs! Thanks!

    • Jeffrey Neal profile image

      Jeffrey Neal 8 years ago from Tennessee

      Mike, you are correct in what you say. We have a love affair with our grass, and I've been bitten by the keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to my yard. I got so tired of all the extra mowing and fertilizer and water, so I installed zoysia. It was tough, but now I barely have to water it (of course we usually get more rain in this area of the country than you probably). I only use Milorganite for fertilizer. It is made from composted sludge from water treatment, so it's less polluting than most other fertilizers. I only use it twice a year for zoysia since it grows slower as opposed to bermuda which is the most popular in my area and needs fert up to once a month as well as mowing every 5 days or so.

      My lawn has less of an impact on the environment than my neighbors, but you are right, it's not the most natural thing. I'm sure I would have been better off throwing out some wildflower seed and just leave it be, but I'm sure some "good neighbor" would figure out a way to make trouble for me. Truth be told, I really like that thick carpet of green grass out there, and I made my beds larger as well as a new walkway so there is less grass overall. :)

    • MikeNV profile image

      MikeNV 8 years ago from Henderson, NV

      Penn and Teller did a show on lawns and they came up with an interesting stat. There is enough lawn to cover the entire state of Michigan. Lawns look nice, but they are not natural to the environment.

      But the real problem is they use so much water and Penn and Teller pointed out that the chemicals that are available to you and I to "feed" and maintain our lawns require hazardous materials permits to industry choosing to use them. All those chemicals get absorbed into the environment and who knows how much into the water system. Kind of make you think about the purpose of lawn beyond mere cosmetics.