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Overseeding your lawn can restore its greenery

Carol Chmielewski

Last fall I noticed that my lawn, although green, was comprised of a mix of grasses that were not as attractive as they could be.

I realized that when my house was built almost a hundred years ago, the owners most likely did not plant grass seed but just mowed whatever was growing in this location.

Mowing any field will eventually turn it into a lawn of sorts. Grasses grow from the base of the plant and therefore can withstand constant mowing (or grazing), whereas other plants that grow from the top cannot thrive with routine cutting.

Replacing the random grasses growing in my lawn with more desirable cultivars was something that needed to be done. Last fall, I overseeded my lawn and now have an improved lawn from my efforts.

Follow these steps to overseed your lawn and visit the Penn State Extension links to learn additional details.

Overseeding a lawn involves sowing grass seed into an existing lawn. This relatively simple, inexpensive procedure brings quick results and satisfaction.

The best time to overseed a lawn is in early fall, although if weather conditions are favorable, anytime during the planting season can be successful.

After the heat of summer though, the fall rains allow the new grass seeds to germinate and grow quickly without competition from the germinating annual weeds that are problematic in the spring.

One of the keys to successful over-seeding is thorough site preparation.

Site preparation includes soil testing, mowing, dethatching and aerating the lawn.

Begin the over-seeding process by sending a soil test to Penn State for analysis and recommendations for amendments. Understanding the soil results will help improve your final planting outcome.

Next, mow the lawn to a height 2 inches or lower. Mowing first allows more time for the new grass to establish before the existing grasses grow too tall.

The use of dethatching equipment may be needed next. Thatch is a tightly intermingled layer of partially decomposed grass stems and roots that develops beneath the actively growing green vegetation and above the soil surface. Too much dead material prohibits the new grass seeds from being able to settle into the soil and can prohibit germination. For large lawns, dethatching equipment can rented or purchased to help reduce the amount of thatch.

Aerating the lawn is the final preparatory step. Aeration involves mechanically removing many small plugs of soil over the entire area to de-compact the soil and allow the grass seeds, fertilizer, oxygen and water to reach deeper into the soil. Motorized aerators are useful for medium to large lawn areas.Once the lawn is prepared, calculate the area of the lawn to be overseeded. Take this calculation with you when purchasing grass seed. Visit a reputable local nursery or lawn care center that carries grass seed mixtures appropriate for your lawn's location and needs, such as full sun, shade or high-traffic areas.Read the seed label and notice they contain a specific mixture of grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass or creeping red fescue, in varying percentages.A suitable mixture of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fine fescue do well in this area for most lawns. Seek assistance when deciding upon the type and amount of grass seed to purchase.Follow the instructions on the seed bag for the rate of application for overseeding the lawn. Once spread, gently rake over the area to ensure the seeds are in contact with soil.Keep the grass seeds constantly watered for the first few weeks. Maintaining this moisture level is important in the germination process. Water daily and as needed to keep the soil moist. Within two weeks the seedlings will be established.Newly seeded areas should not be mowed until the tender grasses are long enough to mow. Use the soil analysis results to apply fertilizer as suggested.Overseeding a lawn can improve the overall quality of an outdoor space by creating a dense and consistent stand of turf pleasing to the eye and preventing unwanted annual and broadleaf weeds.This summer, evaluate your lawn's performance and consider overseeding for a fall project.Penn State Extension offers further information about renovating and managing home lawns visit these web links:; To learn more about soil testing, visit If you have questions about lawn overseeding, call the Butler County Master Gardener Garden Hotline at 724-287 4761, Ext. 7, or email the Master Gardeners at Chmielewski, MSc, is a Penn State Extension Butler County Master Gardener.

The perennial beds frame the texture and density of the lawn.