Seeding your lawn. What you need to know.
When seeding a lawn it’s important to choose the right seed for your application. Provided you have chosen the correct (quality) products all that will be required after the job is done is to follow the steps below. It’s your responsibility to ensure germination happens and that is proper care for the germination phase and basic maintenance after.
Why overseed? What is the benefit? And do I really need it?
There are many reasons one would need or want a overseeding service. Athletic fields, thin lawns, lawns that were attacked by insects or fungus, planting a new lawn and the list goes on. The major benefit in overseeding over conventional seeding is that your goal is to get direct seed to soil contact. When you overseed a lawn, broadcasting seed across the surface is a good idea in trying to thicken your lawn. However, you need to have good contact with the soil for the seed to germinate. There are many types of overseeding: Core Aeration & overseeding, Slice Seeding, verticutting and many more.
Best times to seed Choosing the correct time of season can make or break new seedlings.
Generally, the best time to over seed a lawn is in the fall time. We have cool season turf grasses in Maine and that means they like “cool weather”. Our lawns have two growth spurts, in the spring and fall. Summer and winter are dormant times of the year for turf grass. However, summer may be “if” adequate moisture levels are maintained. The best growth season of cool season turf grass is the fall. It’s the longest and most stable of the two. This is not to say that you can’t seed during the summer months. This is somewhat related to people’s ability to water their new seedlings. It’s not easy to water a new lawn due to the frequency that is necessary. Please see watering methods below. If you can provide the correct amount of moisture the correct way, then any time of the season is acceptable.
Preparation, Getting ready for overseeding
If you are having an overseeding service provided to your property, there isn’t much in the way of preparation that you need to do. Since overseeding is designed to expose preexisting soil in turf grass the only thing you should be looking to prepare for are debris in the lawn, large rocks that need to be removed and keeping the grass short. We recommend before overseeding is performed that you mow your lawn at about 1″ in height or shorter. It will give the new seedlings a head start as you will be “shocking” the existing grass by mowing it so short. This will stunt the growth of the existing grass and allow the seedlings more of a chance to grow by themselves before you have to mow the existing grass plants. Beyond moving debris and mowing your areas to be seeded short, you are ready!
After Seeding, Minimize activity
Simply walking across new seedlings can be enough to dislodge the shallow roots and stop the new growth completely. It is extremely important that you wait as long as possible before walking or disturbing the new plants. KEEP THE DOGS AWAY! Dogs will surely destroy the new seedlings and it is your job to protect your new grass plants until they have time to mature. It might be a good idea to cordon off the sections of lawn that were seeded in an effort to keep people and animals away.
Your grass will not germinate without water. If you don’t water, you won’t have grass!
All plants need 3 things. Food, Sunlight & WATER!!!! Do not underestimate the need for water when growing grass. Your number one priority should be setting up methods to provide adequate moisture to your grass while it’s in the establishment phase. This will generally be for the first 3 to 3 1/2 weeks. At that point, you should be able to slowly back off your watering schedule frequency. What does this mean? Ok. let’s put it this way. When you are establishing turf grass you are looking for LIGHT FREQUENT watering. That’s 3 times a day (morning, noon & evening) for approximately 10 – 15 minutes in each spot. When you are watering already established turf grass you are looking for HEAVY INFREQUENT watering. That’s 1 or 2 times a week watering to a depth of 4 – 6″. This could mean watering each spot for around 45 minutes. It will depend upon your soil type and most importantly how dry the lawn really is. If we are in a drought, you’d need to ensure that you drench the soil to that depth at least 1 time weekly to keep the plants alive and healthy. But your goal here is new grass and that requires gentle watering frequently for short periods of time. If you water too long, then you risk the chance of water pooling on the surface and dislodging the seed that is trying to root into the ground. Your goal should be focusing on keeping the soils moist all day long. If you can do that for at least most of the day, then you are ensuring your grass will germinate. If you do not keep the soils moist then you are ensuring that the grass seed that was applied will burn out and die. That means you just wasted your money, time and hopes for thickening your lawn. If there is any one thing that you do, please let it be watering properly. This is the most common complaint with folks who try to seed anything. What am I doing wrong here? Why doesn’t the seed grow? Well…. If it has water it will grow. It will grow better with warm temperatures, adequate sunlight, water and food.
Make it easy on yourself and setup a timer!
This Orbit watering device costs around $50. Here is a link. There are many different types you can get but for larger areas this is the best bang for the buck. Simply screw it on to your faucet attach 4 or less hoses and sprinklers on the end of each hose. Set them up in the areas that were seeded, set the timer and you are set. Walk away and know that your lawn will be watered exactly as it should be. The only work you’ll need to do is remove and reset the sprinklers when you mow. The small investment upfront will save you money and frustration in the end. Larger areas are more difficult to water and these little devices make the headache go away. When you set your timer, you’ll want to set it for around 6 am, 12 am and 6 pm. Make sure you set each of the 4 zones (if you use this model) for approximately 15 min per zone. After that you can set the daily schedule to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Your grass doesn’t take weekends off so make sure your timer is set for each day of the week. After watering like this for around 14 days, you should really start seeing the seedlings now. Keep going… if the grass blades are above 1″ you can back off to two times a day. Once they reach 3″ you should be able to increase your watering time to 25 min in the morning and a quick 15min soaking in the afternoon. Now the roots are getting deeper and are not going to dislodge as easily. After you mow for the first few times, you can then back off watering to once every 2 or 3 days. Just make sure the soil is moist at about 2 – 3 inches deep where the roots are.
Mother Nature knows best. Try to mimic natural rainfall.
The type of sprinkler this woman is using is what we recommend. It’s a gentle rain like pattern that slowly rocks back and forth across a rectangular area. DO NOT USE THE SPIRAL TYPE SPRINKLERS. The ones that spin around and then back to the start position will “pressure wash” the seed away and push it off the soil surface. You may end up getting grass to germinate but you will definitely have a ring around where the majority of water hits the ground where nothing will grow. Just remember, you are looking for as natural as possible.
When to make your first cut? Not too long.. Not too short…
Mowing should not be performed until the new grass blades are at the correct mowing height. This means 2.5″ to 3″. When the blade reaches around 4″ you should be mowing it back to approximately 3″. Never remove more than 1/3 of the total blade length. If you do you are robbing vital nutrients from the plant and putting it into crisis mode. If you remove more than 1/3, what you are doing is forcing the plant to use food that is being stored in the crown (just above the soil surface) to be used to produce new blade length. If you continue to let the grass grow to let’s say… 6″ and then cut it back to 3”, you are killing your grass. Don’t do that. DO NOT MOW BY THE CALENDAR! Only mow by the growth rate of your lawn. In the spring this could mean once every 4 or 5 days during the spring rains and beyond. In the summer, you can cut it back. If the lawn dries out stop mowing all together. Don’t mow at high noon during temps above 85 degrees. If your lawn is really dry stop mowing until your lawn can receive some moisture and begin growing again.
Following these simple steps will save you time, headache, money and give you satisfaction that you will have a thick healthy lawn for years to come. Ensure your lawn’s health by signing up for our Magic Carpet Gold Program and you will be feeding your lawn all summer, keeping weeds from choking out your grass and protecting against all turf damaging insects.