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How to Reseed or Overseed a Lawn in 6 Easy Steps

Man reseeds his lawn during the spring
welcomia / Shutterstock

Your lawn may look healthier at certain times of year than others. Some grass goes dormant during the winter or summer, and some lawns may battle insects, fungus, or high usage, which thins them or creates barren areas. To deal with these situations, some homeowners may consider overseeding or reseeding their lawn. Learning how to overseed a lawn or reseed a lawn isn’t difficult, but it does require some planning and research. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to help you.

Overseeding vs. reseeding: What’s the difference?

First, it’s important to understand the difference between overseeding and reseeding. People sometimes use the words interchangeably, as there are some similarities in techniques and preparation, but they are ultimately different applications serving different needs.

Overseeding your lawn

In simple terms, the act of overseeding is merely spreading seed over an existing lawn. If done right, overseeding can keep your lawn looking great for years to come. Overseeding is generally done to either remedy or stay ahead of a grass thinning problem, whereas reseeding directly addresses barren or dead spots in the yard.

The type of seed used is important, but you’ll want to weigh your goals for the project first. Some homeowners may want to reinforce their thinning, warm-season grass with a cool-season seed in the late summer to keep the grass green through its usually dormant winter months. Others may just want to fill in some thinning areas right in the middle of the prime growing season for the existing grass using the same grass seed type that’s in place.

General rules for when you should overseed say that spring and fall are for cool-season grasses and late spring through mid-summer are for warm-season grasses. If at least 50% of the grass is in good condition and the rest is only thinned, not barren, overseeding is a good option.

Reseeding your lawn

Those who are reseeding the lawn are doing so to remedy dead spots. Unlike overseeding, whose primary purpose is to thicken the lawn, reseeding is more of a reset button for specific areas of your lawn.

When you notice you have dead spots, you’ll want to address them as soon as possible. Just as with overseeding, you need to know if you require a warm- or cool-season seed and consult the package instructions for the best time of year to do the reseeding. It’s also a good idea to talk to an expert at your local nursery when making seed selections for either overseeding or reseeding situations. Because reseeding a lawn involves more than thickening, the job may also involve some soil testing, remediation, or some sort of amendment to support the new seed.

How to overseed a lawn in 6 steps

Here’s a simple guide for how to overseed a lawn:

Step 1: Establish goals

Before you begin, you need to evaluate your situation and set goals for your overseeding project. Are you looking to thicken an area to get ahead of thinning, or are you remedying a thinning area of your lawn?

Step 2: Pick your product and create a plan

Once you know your goals, you need to create a plan. That plan starts with understanding which seed is appropriate for your situation. Consult your local nursery and research the best type of seed to help you meet your goals. Once you know which seed to use, you can set a date to do the work.

Step 3: Prep your lawn

Address any soil situations or bare spots, first. Consider testing your soil for alkalinity. Some people even aerate the lawn as part of their preparation before overseeding. Right before you overseed, mow the lawn to the lowest setting and make sure to bag your clippings. Rake away any debris or dead grass to open up the turf for the new seed.

Step 4: Spread seeds

You can use a broadcast spreader for a larger lawn, although some people are confident enough to spread by hand, too. Follow the instructions on the packages for how much seed you’ll need in any given area. All seed types have different coverage rates.

Step 5: Water the lawn

Water immediately. You’ll want to keep the soil moist for the next two weeks to allow your seeds to move below the surface and germinate. You don’t want to overwater, as that could flood the surface and wash away your seeds.

Step 6: Limit mowing activity

While watering frequently, focus on getting the grass to grow and keeping the lawn moist. Avoid mowing until you start to see turf thickening, germination, and have cut back on the watering to your normal schedule. You can resume your mowing schedule after you’ve seen results. Mowing too early could disturb the seeds before they have the opportunity to germinate.

What you’ll need to overseed your grass

Here are some of the tools you’ll need to overseed a lawn:

How to reseed in 6 steps

To address barren areas, here are six easy steps for how to reseed lawn:

Step 1: Analyze the cause of barren spots

You’ll want to understand why you have barren spots. If it’s because of high traffic and pets, it’s probably pretty self-explanatory, so you’ll want to consider a turf seed known for handling high-traffic areas that can grow in your climate. However, if you’re not sure why you have dead spots, you may need to take a soil sample to find out if there is a fungus, disease, or insect issue.

Step 2: Choose the right seed

Do this by understanding your environment and analyzing your exposure. Find the right seed that can withstand full, partial sun or heavy shade, as well as the general climate. There are cool- and warm-season grass seeds, so it’s important to determine which type suits your needs.

Step 3: Prep the soil

Rake up the site and work up the dead matter. You’ll also want to deal with any weed issues, if you have them, before reseeding a lawn. To prep soil, you can also put down a pre-fertilizer, or a light layer of soil or peat moss, to promote germination.

Step 4: Apply seed

Be sure to check the seed package for the rate of seeding and apply as directed.

Step 5: Make sure the seed is covered

Ideally, you want something organic, such as compost or mulch, raked over the applied seed to protect it. Some seeds even come with their own mulch. Rake it in to make sure it has contact with the ground.

Step 6: Water immediately and maintain your new lawn

As with overseeding, the ground needs to stay moist until germination has completed, which for most seeds occurs within a couple of weeks. Some, however, can take up to a month. Again, check your seed instructions to understand germination time for your specific seed. Once you start to see germination, you can cut back on watering. Don’t overwater, as you could potentially wash seeds away. Hold off on resuming your mowing schedule until you feel you’ve reached the point where germination is complete.

What you’ll need to reseed your grass

The bottom line

When reseeding barren areas of your lawn or overseeding to prevent or remedy thinning, you’ll need to set goals and create a plan. Selecting the right seed for the situation and doing the job at the right time of year is also key when it comes to overseeding or reseeding a lawn. Ultimately, everyone’s situation is unique. Some jobs will require soil remediation or amendments, and others won’t. And as with any lawn, you’ll want to take note of what works and what doesn’t from year to year. It’s not uncommon to have to reseed or overseed more than once to get desired results. With practice, your results will only improve over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you just sprinkle grass seed on lawn?

Yes, however, it’s not a good way to address lawn issues. It’s best to investigate why a grass is performing poorly or is worn and remedy it with a plan that involves choosing the right seed and planting it correctly at the right time of year.

How do I start over my lawn?

If you’re thinking of “starting over,” you’re probably dealing with heavy barren spots and need to reseed your lawn. Reseeding requires a plan, appropriate seed selection, and the right timing for planting that seed. You may even need to amend or treat the soil to address the underlying cause of the dying grass. A soil meter and testing kit can help you make that decision.

How much grass seed do I need to overseed?

Once you’ve chosen the correct seed for your climate and goals, consult the seed package to see how much you need. Different seeds have different coverage rates.

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