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Prepare the Surface and Overseed It
In the North, the best time to overseed is in late summer and the early fall, although you may also try this technique in early spring. Starting then gives the young grass plants a better chance to germinate, establish strong roots, and store food needed for a head-start in the spring. In the South, the recommended time to overseed is spring or early summer.
Before you begin, choose the seed that's best for you based on the information in the section, "Choosing the right Grass." Be sure to select one of the new varieties bred to withstand the stresses your lawn faces. Then use the table "How Much Seed to Use When Overseeding" to help you estimate how much seed to buy.
You have several tool options for spreading seed evenly and at the recommended rates. They include your own hands, handheld and walk-behind spreaders, and slit-seeders, which are power machines that cut shallow slits in the soil and sow seed at the same time. Available at many rental stores, slit-seeders are the preferred tool, especially if you were not able to remove all thatch prior to overseeding. (See Appendix I for more details on these tools.)
If you will be spreading seed by hand or with a spreader, first use a thatching rake to roughen the exposed soil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Set the spreader to deliver the seed that's recommended by the seed producer for seeding a new lawn. If you were not able to remove all thatch, sow a little extra seed. Similarly, the higher the percentage of weeds in your lawn, the more seed you should sow. For sowing grass seed, the recommended approach is to apply seed to the edges of the area you are sowing first. Then divide your seed and apply half while walking in one direction, the other half while walking in a perpendicular direction. Spread extra seed on bare areas, lightly cover the seed with a mixture of compost and topsoil; then spread more seed on top.
Finally, follow up by rolling all seeded areas with a water-weighted roller that is one-third full to press the seed into the soil. These steps will help prevent the seed from drying out rapidly and consequently improve germination rates.
If you have a lawn with grass that spreads by stolons (aboveground runners), such as Bermudagrass, St. Augustine, zoysia or buffalograss, you may introduce new grass plants by inserting plugs rather than seed (see "Starting a Lawn from Scratch").
Terry Blackburn. Internet Marketing Consultant, living in South Shields in the North-East of England. Author and Producer of blog http://www.lawnsurgeon.blogspot.com Author of "Your Perfect Lawn," a 90 Page eBook devoted to Lawn Preparation, Lawn Care and Maintenance. Find it at http://www.lawnsurgeon.com
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