Bringing in Reinforcements: The Overseed

Baseball teams are similar to our lawns. Need proof? MGG’s Ryan Anderson elaborates in his look at the crucial step of overseeding.

Disclaimer, I’m a Cubs fan and I an avid watcher during the playoffs.

Recently in the playoffs, the stats have pointed towards the importance of pitching for success, specifically the pitching reinforcements (i.e. the bullpen).  In Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon pulled starter Kyle Hendricks with two outs in the 4th inning and used four more pitchers to get to the end.

Similar to playoff baseball teams, your lawn needs reinforcements to beat its competitors. A dense lawn provides the best defense against weeds. The lawn care season pokes a lot of holes into that defense due to its length, environmental stresses and regular weed and pest pressures, much like how a seven game series tires out the pitching staffs of many playoff teams.

To fill these holes, you need reinforcements to ensure a dense lawn next spring. You will need to overseed.

Proper overseeding requires knowledge of three main factors: (1) Grass seed mixture, (2) Timing and (3) soil conditions. Take the time to understand these factors, and your defense should be set for the next growing season.

  1. Grass seed mixture- What grass seed predominates in your lawn? You probably have one of two types (or a mixture of these types): Kentucky Bluegrass or a Tall Fescue. Kentucky Bluegrass spreads easily by rhizomes and may grow dense enough to not require an overseed. For bare spots or spots left open from controlling or pulling a weed on Kentucky Bluegrass, fill those areas with a mixture of compost and overseed. You should continue using Bluegrass seed for these bare patches, unless these areas spend the majority of their time in the shade. Tall Fescues excel in shade, while Kentucky Bluegrass excels in sun. Tall Fescues require more frequent overseeding, but can succeed if that overseed includes a mixture of fescues and bluegrass that most seed companies offer.
  2. Timing– You want to give the new seed two or three months to establish its roots before the bitter cold of the winter, preferably in late summer or early fall. The cool temperatures and more frequent rains of the fall should provide ideal conditions for grass growth.
  3. Soil conditions– You want as many entryways to your lawn’s soil for seeds as possible. This means low soil compaction and leaf/organic material cover. You can start by cutting 2 inches or lower, followed by a core aeration to reduce soil compaction. If you find excess thatch greater than a ½ inch, then consider a dethatching tool or machine.

Once you have prepped your lawn and planned out the type and timing of your overseed, you’re ready for the application step.  Any standard fertilizer spreader can carry out an overseed.  For Kentucky bluegrass, set the seeding rate to 2 – 3 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft of lawn. Fescues, between 5 to 8 lbs per 1,000 sq. ft.  See this resource for more information on seeding rates.

Grass seeds need moist conditions to germinate and grow. For the first few days after your overseed, water your lawn lightly two to three times per day.  After you see some grass sprouting, return to the one inch per week rule.

The new sprouting grass indicates your lawn’s preparedness for the winter. The time to let your lawn, and yourself, rest approaches.

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