grabbed hay bales from nearby home supply store

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Overseeding the lawn is a yard care secret known to most landscape professionals, but many homeowners aren’t familiar with the technique for improving the growth of a lush, healthy lawn.

Over the past weekend, I found a dead goose beside my air conditioner. That was—thankfully—the worst that happened, since I actually managed to accomplish quite a lot in the yard (albeit, holding my breath at times—ick!). While I’ll need to wait for one more truckload before sharing the fantastic deal I got on gravel for the new fire pit (it’s looking so good!), I wanted to discuss the topic of overseeding the lawn.

If you’re looking for a green, thick, healthy lawn that’s the envy of the neighborhood, you need to know about this landscaping technique. Here’s the how, the when, and the why of overseeding the lawn.

What Does “Overseeding the Lawn” Mean?

The concept of overseeding the lawn is pretty much there in the name: it’s simply the technique of spreading out new grass seed over an existing lawn.

It took me a while to learn about the concept of overseeding grass when I first bought my house, so I assume that it may be a first to some of you too (or, at the very least, worth going into a little more detail). When done right, overseeding the lawn helps fill in bare areas, prevents weeds from taking over, and keeps lawns green when the temperatures change, and some grass varieties lie dormant (summer grasses vs. winter, for example).

You can think of overseeding the lawn, almost like getting bangs—the first change is the most dramatic. Still, regular maintenance is also pretty darn essential (although I’m pretty sure lawn care has far fewer selfies and regret involved).

Those of you who have been around the blog for the last year have seen me getting the backyard into shape, including gradingplanting new grass, creating a temporary fire pit to help get rid of old tree stumps, and more. It’s finally starting to come together, but overseeding the lawn has definitely helped it look greener and healthier.

My yard with bare dirt and very little patchy grass, before I overseeded the lawn.
Here’s the yard before with bare dirt and zero grass – clearly in need of some help!
Planting new grass seed this past spring was really successful thanks in large part to adding a sprinkler system. I laid down both fescue (a long-term, drought-tolerant seed known for growing well in Georgia) and perennial ryegrass (a short-term seed that eventually dies off but helps prevent soil erosion from undoing all my hard work).

After planting ryegrass and fescue, my lawn looks much better and healthier.
Here’s my lawn after planting the grass–MUCH better!

Now, as we’re approaching fall, the recent cooling of temps made me start thinking about the long-term goals I had for the yard in the spring. Some of the grass died off as expected (the ryegrass). Given that I had such aggressive weeds in the yard before planting grass, I knew that my seeding should be more of a marathon than a sprint.

So, I did some research on how to get a healthy lawn. The online expert lawncare gods seem to all agree that overseeding is a good practice to get thick, healthy grass. They also suggest that it’s best to overseed in the fall. I decided to give overseeding the lawn a shot to see if the yard looks even better when spring rolls around again.

Sprinklers are essential for watering a healthy lawn.
Watering the lawn to help fill in those bare patches!

The Best Time for Overseeding the Lawn

In truth, my timing for overseeding the lawn might be slightly early for my region. It’s supposedly better to overseed in September/October in parts of Georgia, but since I’m traveling and have other goals in mind for this fall, I decided to go for it. I figured that if I completed the overseeding now when the temperatures are in the right range, then I’m better off than where my inevitable procrastination would likely lead to (as in, no seeding at all).

My overall plan is to first reseed with my year-round grass (fescue) and later, follow-up with the seeding of winter rye (to keep color and again, to help with weeds and erosion). I’m not following every healthy lawn step recommended by experts, but I’m doing a few of the grass seeding basics that are already working for me.

Spreading Soil and Raking it In

I wish that a lush, gorgeous lawn was as simple as buying a bag of seed and throwing it into a broadcast spreader. Honestly, for a long time, that’s all I did… which clearly didn’t work since I’m still trying to grow my grass!

One of the big perks of having a temporary fire pit in my yard over the last year is that a lot of burned yard debris, ash, rainwater, and vegetation has turned into a dark, rich compost (and by accident!). I was thrilled when I discovered the compost (and all of the lively activity from worms, bugs, etc.) because it meant I already had a source for awesome, healthy soil to spread around the yard in preparation for my new grass seed.

Loading up dirt in a wheelbarrow for growing my grass.
The dirt is ready to nourish my fledgling grasses!

In addition to spreading the compost around my yard, I spent a little time raking up “thatch.” Thatch is a general term for the little bits of un-decomposed yard debris from mowing, twigs, and leaves that get stuck in the grass above its roots. Spreading the compost and raking primed the yard for the next step of the overseeding process.

Use a rake to bring up thatch before you overseed your yard.
Raking up all the loose debris or “thatch” before I start to seed the lawn.

How to Overseed the Lawn

I know that eventually, I’ll probably downgrade my expensive grass seed choices to the type that doesn’t include fertilizer. For now, though, I still gravitate toward the stuff that can basically grow on a concrete block if you throw it there. There are several different brands of grass seed that include fertilizer, FYI. Most of the grass seed is available at any home supply store.

On the package of the grass seed I purchased, the instructions said to spread the seed three separate times, so that’s exactly what I did. After spreading out all the grass seed on top of the lawn, paying attention to the bare and thin spots, I gave it another quick raking to mix the soil and seeds (another recommendation on the seed packaging). The overseeding process was smooth and didn’t take long.

Grass seed on a dirt patch in my yard.
Grow little grass seeds, grow!

Add a Layer of Straw

For the first time, I also tried shaking out a thin layer of straw over the top of the newly laid grass seed. Lawn care experts recommend this step to prevent moisture from evaporating too quickly (allowing the warm, wet soil to germinate the seeds). Straw also keeps the loose dirt and grass seed from blowing or washing away, and it helps shield the delicious grass seed from hungry birds. The straw gives the seed extra time to take root and thrive.

A layer of straw over the grass seed helps protect the seedlings from moisture loss, weather, and birds.
A layer of protective straw defends my growing grass.

Mowers & Lawn Tool Tune-Ups for New Grass

Don’t panic, but you’ll want to avoid mowing the newly overseeded lawn for a while to allow for seed germination! I temporarily decommissioned my mower while I wait for the grass seed to start growing and filling in.

The good news about taking a break from lawn tools is I have time to give my lawn tools some desperately needed TLC. For the last year and a half, I’ve hired a neighborhood dude to maintain my lawn. Our deal worked out really well—until it didn’t. He mowed the lawn regularly, and thankfully, I avoided a task I loathe and I didn’t have to deal with fixing my yard tools. However, there were several lawn mishaps such as smothered plants, favorite tools accidentally buried in yard debris and added to the burn pile, and so on.

After putting in all of this renewed effort to focus on fully upgrading my lawn care by overseeding my lawn, I realized that my hands-off approach wasn’t cutting it anymore (ha! unintended pun—get it?). Once I started using my own tools again, I realized they needed some care after languishing unused in the garage for so long.

Take a break from mowing the grass for a while after you overseed the lawn.
Time to recommission my trusty mower once again.

Not to worry about DIY lawn care, though—I’ll still have a helping hand (or two). One is in the form of a handsome bearded guy, who at least has enough genuine interest in yard care to share his expertise (like figuring out what was wrong with my mower when it broke this spring).

Another helping hand comes in the form of a new resource for DIY repair guides and partnership with Sears PartsDirect. Despite all of the home repair guides I’ve written over the years, anything mechanical is pretty intimidating to me. Partnering with them is a no-brainer since they already have DIY guides on mower repairsharpening mower blades, and all that mechanical stuff. There are a few other items in my house that have broken down, so I’ve got a nice long list to fix (and parts I need) next!

My lawn sprouts are popping up, and my lawn is starting to fill in. In a few weeks, I’ll lay down lawn starter fertilizer and decide if I’m going to lay down some winter rye (I’m heavily leaning toward yes, but we’ll see). I can already hear the sprinklers going too. (I have them set to run at night—it’s way too late/early in the morning right now!) I know if I continue overseeding the lawn to fill in patchy areas, I’ll have a lush, healthy yard in no time!

So what are your go-to secrets for keeping your grass healthy? Got any of your own overseeding lawn care tips to share?

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  1. I’ve never heard of this, but it makes complete sense! Interested to see how it goes for you.

  2. Well, what a great idea. Just like winterizing your garden, you are winterizing your lawn. perfect. Gotta make more grass to mow. :))))

  3. Hi Sarah.
    Mowing my lawn is such a hated task for me too.
    So I installed a robotic lawn mower last year (a husquana) and I will never go back.
    It even improves your grass, because the cuttings remain and fertilize it again…
    Best of luck with your yard!

  4. This is also the time to kill those weeds. We all know that weeds manage to survive through almost any condition and if you can get rid of them now, winterizing will be much simpler. Thatching your lawn is also an important step; this process removes the dead and mulched grass from your weekly mowing. This gives more oxygen to the soil which allows the grass a jump start on.