I overseeded our lawn this morning and I thought I'd describe the process for anyone who hasn't done it before. First, some background– We planted our lawn from seed last July. Before, it was just a patch of dirt and weeds.
Here's the before picture at left…the lawn before the overseeding. The trees haven't come in yet, so it looks sunny right now, but by the end of May it'll be almost in full shade.
While the growth of the grass last summer actually exceeded our expectations and looked quite nice, the winter has left it looking patchy and weak. My husband and I aren't trying for the perfect green golf course lawn but we do want it to be a little thicker. We decided to overseed it to have a fuller lawn, which will help keep the weeds at bay.
You can see how patchy it is, especially closer to the camera. And to the right is a close up shot of a patchy part with almost no grass. (I've already put the seed down so you can see the seed on the patch).
Here's the process that I followed for overseeding the lawn–it was pretty easy.
First, if the grass is more than 1 or 2 inches you're supposed to mow it down to 1/2 inch or so and remove the clippings. This was obviously not a problem for us, so we skipped this step.
Next, give the yard a hard raking to loosen the soil and remove leaves, thatch (dead grass that has built up on the lawn), and anything else that has accumulated on the lawn over winter. Clear all the debris from the lawn.
The third step is to fertilizer the lawn. Many will recommend a "starter" fertilizer which is high in nitrogen and phosphorus. For example, Scott's Starter Fertilizer has an NPK ratio of 27-20-5. That's an awful lot of nitrogen and phosphorus to be dumping on your yard, in my very humble opinion, during two of the rainiest months of the year. What happens when you do that is that usually the grass can't use all those nutrients all at once. The excess will hang out in the soil until the next big rain, when it will wash out of the yard, into the street, down the nearest storm drain, and in my case, straight into the Woonasquatucket River and into the Narragansett Bay. This is NOT A GOOD THING.
So instead I chose a slow-release organic fertilizer from North Country Organics that has a more balanced NPK ratio of 5-3-4. That's a much lower nitrogen level so I'm not going to have that fast green lawn, but that's a tradeoff I'm willing to make.
Back to the overseeding….I fertilized the lawn using a hand-held broadcast spreader. You're supposed to actually us a drop spreader which is pushed like a lawn mower, but I don't have one and I really can't afford to buy an extra tool, so I went with what I had and was careful to keeep the fertilizer on the lawn itself.
Then, I seeded the lawn. Since I have a limited budget, I decided to spend extra money on organic fertilizer (organics cost more than non-organics) instead of buying organic seed. It's more important to me not to pollute my watershed than to have organic seed. To me, that's more of a luxury than a necessity.
I bought an inexpensive (job lot brand) of shade seed composed primarily of ryegrass and fescues. I spread it using the broadcast spreader and, when it got too windy, by hand-scattering. To make sure that the seed was spread as evenly as possible, I raked over areas where the seed looked a little too heavy.
Last but not least, I gave the lawn a good soaking. This is important–the lawn must be kept moist for the next month until the seed germinates and starts to grow.
That's it. In 4-6 weeks, I'll post an update and a photo of the renovated lawn. Hopefully it'll be a lot thicker!