Summer Lawn Care: Overseeding and Feeding Your Lawn

Summer weather and activity can cause problems for your lawn. The sustained heat can stop growth and cause your grass to go brown and dormant. Grass gets trampled down and may die where people congregate or play. Family pets tend to use the same spots outside and the chemicals in their urine can kill your grass.

Even if bare spots start to appear during the hot weather, there is still time to fill them in and get them back to being full and green before the summer is over. Follow these tips to find out the best way to overseed your lawn and to feed it with fertilizer to get it looking lush and green again.

Overseeding

Overseeding is an easy technique you can use to fill in the bare spots on your lawn, adding seed to new soil directly on top of the spots where you want your new grass.

To start overseeding, decide which areas you want to fill in. Overseeding can be used for bare spots and spots with dead grass. In these spots, take a rake and clear out all of the dead grass, disturbing the soil slightly. Clear away sticks, stones and other objects from the areas you want to seed. These items create barriers to your seeds’ proper germination.

Once all your areas are prepped, spread a thin layer of new topsoil on the bare spots, working the new soil gently with the existing soil. This will provide an optimal bed for the new seeds to start germinating. Use a soft rake to even out the topsoil, making sure that there are no low spots where water can pool. After the soil is level, you can start seeding.

If the spots you’re treating are small, you can toss the grass seed by hand. If the area is larger or there are more than a few small spots, drop (or handheld) and broadcast spreaders will help you maintain consistent coverage over a larger area. Whichever method you use, it’s important that the entire area is covered evenly. Too little seed coverage will lead to more bare spots and too much is wasteful because only the seeds that make contact with the ground will grow.

Once your seeds are down, use the soft rake to gently tamp them into the soil. Don’t bury the seeds, but some light dirt coverage is fine. If your seeds are trying to sprout under the beating sun, water isn’t enough to keep them alive. They need protection from the heat if they are going to make it through germination and the first weeks of growth. The best way to protect your seeds is by lightly covering them with straw. Hay is not recommended as it may contain weed seeds. Spread enough to cover the area you seeded but thin enough that you can see the soil through the straw. Afterwards, water the area. The straw protects the seeds from being washed away and retains water. It’ll also protect from wind, rain, and birds looking for a snack. As your grass grows, the straw will decompose into your lawn so you don’t have to worry about raking it away and possibly hurting your new grass.

Feeding

Now that you’ve gotten your grass seed down and protected, it’s time to help it flourish. The best way to do this is to apply a lawn starter fertilizer to your seeded area. Lawn starter fertilizer is manufactured to encourage seedling root growth.

It’s important that the correct type of fertilizer is used. Fertilizer meant for fully mature lawns doesn’t contain enough of the root growing ingredients that your seedlings need. Also, make sure the fertilizer you choose doesn’t have a weed control ingredient. Though the weed control products can be helpful on established lawns, the chemicals are too strong for seeds that are just starting out.

Inconsistent coverage can lead to burning in areas where too much fertilizer falls. Using a spreader is the best way to achieve this consistency. You can use the same spreader for fertilizer as you did for your grass seed. Fertilizer packaging has a recommended spreader setting that you can follow for best results. After setting your spreader and filling it, walk back and forth and spread the fertilizer onto your seeded area. Make sure to step around the actual growing areas.

Once your grass has started to establish itself, in about four to six weeks, you can do another pass with regular fertilizer to encourage blade growth. After this application, you can set up a regular fertilizing schedule for every six to eight weeks to ensure that your grass is as green and lush as possible for the rest of your summer and beyond.