The Hort Report: How to determine if your yard needs to be overseeded or to lay a whole new yard

Needs Grass Seed copy

If less than 50 percent of the yard is covered with weeds or is bare, then you can overseed with new grass seed. If more than 50 percent is covered with weeds or bare, then you need to till the whole yard and plant new seed. | Photo courtesy of Pat Greenwell

Hopefully many of you have received some much-needed rain during the last few days. The rain, with the above-normal temperatures, will help many plants start to grow. 

I have had some questions in the past few days about getting new grass to start to grow. Spring and fall are the best times to start new grass in your yards.

Decide if your yard needs to be overseeded or if lay a whole new yard.  This can be done in early spring by looking to see how much of your yard has good viable grass growing on it.

If less than 50 percent of the yard is covered with weeds or is bare, then you can overseed with new grass seed. If more than 50 percent is covered with weeds or bare, then you need to till the whole yard and plant new seed.

Start by removing all weeds, old grass thatch and other obstacles in the yard. In the spring you would pick up sticks and limbs, rake old leaves and level the ground, then rake the yard in two directions. This will help get things the first raking didn’t get picked up. It also will help to open the soil for new seed, fertilizer and other amendments. 

You should take soil tests to see what ratio of fertilizer you need to put on your yard, along with the other amendments on the yard.

After raking your yard and taking your soil test, begin to apply the fertilizer and other amendments to help your yard grow better. 

Apply a slow-release type of fertilizer with a 3-2-1 ratio of N-P-K. You should also apply the other amendments now, then apply your grass seed. Pick a mix of seed that is more insect and disease-resistant and has more vigor and is stress-tolerant. 

When reading a seed tag, look for:

  • The name of the mix.
  • The weight of the bag.
  • The varieties of different grasses in the mix.
  • How much non-noxious weeds and other foreign material is in the mix.
  • The percentage of pure seed in the mix.
  • The weight of the seed in the mix.
  • Date the germination of the seed was tested. This is important because the seed loses germination as it gets older. Seed older than one year of age will need to be put on heavier than 1-year-old seed.

Once you have put seed, fertilizer and other amendments on your yard, you hope for a rain or begin to water your yard. If you don’t get rain or begin to water it within a few days, you need to rake your yard to help cover the seed, fertilizer and other amendments with soil. You only need to have about ¼ of the soil covering everything. 

Once the seed is covered and the temperature is warm enough, your seed will start to germinate. The fertilizer and other amendments also will start to break down into the soil, becoming available for your new grass and any other grass that is in the yard from the previous year’s growth.

I will write about starting a new yard in a future Hort Report. 

Someone asked me about using a weed and feed fertilizer now. I said weeds starting to come up in their yard will die, but no grass seed can be used on their yard for at least 90 days. 

I appreciate your questions and look forward to them in the future. Call me at 573-588-2040, email me at sci63468@hotmail.com or check out Greenwell’s Greenhouse Group on Facebook.

Better yet, come and visit me at Shelby County Implement or ask me anytime you see me. Enjoy all the great weather we are having. 

Pat Greenwell is the owner of Shelby County Implement in Shelbina, Mo. He was a high school agriculture teacher for 11 years. He has taught adult vocational agriculture since 1987. He also is a research assistant at the Truman State University Ag Department Farm. 

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