One way homeowners can improve the look and health of their grass is by overseeding a weedy lawn. Learn the overseed definition, benefits and the step-by-step process of how to overseed. In this post, you’ll get answers to common questions, including How to Restore a Lawn Full of Weeds If your lawn is patchy and full of weeds, it will never be the envy of the neighborhood. What you’re after is a lush, green lawn with even grass and no How to Grow Grass in a Weeded Area. Trying to grow grass in a weeded area is a frustrating task that generally provides undesirable results. Weeds are aggressive and invasive plants that choke out grass and flowers. They quickly take over an area and are notoriously hard to get rid of. When you choose to grow grass in …
Overseeding Weedy Lawn: Homeowners Take Back Their Yards
When you look out over your yard, does the sight you see bring you a sense of pleasure and pride, or do you cringe with embarrassment? If you’re in the latter camp due to unsightly weeds and patchy, lifeless grass, don’t despair—and don’t give up! Your yard doesn’t have to be the neighborhood eyesore, and you don’t have to declare your neglected lawn a total loss.
Depending on the severity of your situation, it’s possible that you’ll need to re-sod the entire area, but a far easier fix might work just as well. The simple yet highly effective key lies in overseeding weedy lawns to reclaim the lush, green, beautiful grass that all homeowners desire.
Let’s find out how just a bit of time, care and know-how will help you resuscitate your ailing lawn into a thing of emerald, weed-free beauty.
Overseed: Definition And Benefits
The term “overseed” may sound technical and even intimidating if you aren’t familiar with the process, but it’s really a simple gardening concept: Overseeding is simply the process of planting new grass seed over your existing grass in order to create a revived, newly green and beautiful lawn that is lush and healthy.
When you overseed your lawn, you build on its current strengths while working hand in hand with nature against its weaknesses. With a bit of elbow grease, the result is a lush, weed-free lawn that your neighbors will envy.
But how do you know if your yard is a good candidate for overseeding? Grass that is looking tired, patchy or weedy is prime for this relatively easy option for homeowners who want to help their yards recover. If weedy patches and bare spots make up less than half your lawn, overseeding is an excellent option for you. It is certainly easier and more cost-effective than digging up your entire yard and laying down all new sod, which can be an expensive and painstaking process.
Our Answer To The Common Question: When To Overseed My Lawn?
Many homeowners ask themselves, when is the best time of year to overseed my lawn? No matter which region of the country you call home, there are two times of year that are best for overseeding: early spring and late summer (mid-August to mid-September).
The spring option is best for homeowners who use non-organic fertilizer products containing chemicals that would stop new grass seeds from growing. By overseeding in early spring, you’ll give your existing grass and soil the most time possible to shed all the chemicals that could impede fresh growth.
If non-organic fertilizer use isn’t an issue for your yard, you might opt to overseed in late summer instead. This is generally the time of year when weeds grow the least, making it the best time to address weeds aggressively and effectively. This is also a great time of year to facilitate new grass growth before your turf goes dormant for the winter.
Why Do I Have Weeds In My Lawn In The First Place?
Before we get into the step-by-step process to overseed your lawn, it’s important to discuss how your grass got so weedy and patchy in the first place. After all, you don’t want to put in a lot of work just to have the same issues develop again in the future. So why do you have weeds in your lawn? How do these pesky, fast-growing plants move in and take over?
There are many factors that can contribute to a weedy lawn, including watering too much or too little, setting your mower blade too low, not mowing often enough or having a yard with poor drainage. Essentially, weeds are opportunistic; they grow when and where they can. Grass that is less than thriving provides the necessary space and opportunity for weeds to move in.
When weeds do begin to pop up here and there, chemical weed killers might appeal in the moment, but these products can actually be dangerous for people and animals, not to mention for your grass itself. Plus, if you aren’t careful, you’re likely to find yourself relying more and more often on weed killers to spot-treat your problem instead of resolving it at its source: by growing grass that is dense and vigorous.
The simple truth is that a thick, thriving lawn is the best weed deterrent on the market. Savvy homeowners know that keeping weeds away for good isn’t about finding the right herbicide product—it’s about keeping your grass dense, lush and green, so weeds don’t stand a fighting chance at taking over your lawn.
How To Overseed: The Step-By-Step Process, Explained
The first consideration, before you start overseeding your lawn, is choosing the right variety of grass seed. The best options are perennial varieties that will do well both in your geographical region as well as in your particular yard. If you have a yard with large trees and lots of shade, for example, a shade-tolerant variety like fescue might perform better than a different, sun-loving variety like Bermuda. Another thing to consider is how damp or dry your region is, and what type of drainage your yard has. If you live in a wet area or your yard tends to collect moisture, a grass like St. Augustine might fare better than it would in a hotter, drier or sunnier area.
Once you’ve chosen the right grass seed for your yard, it’s time to prep your existing lawn and soil for overseeding. Here are the easy, step-by-step instructions for overseeding your lawn:
- Before you start your overseeding project, it’s important to water your yard deeply. In the days leading up to when you plan to spread your new grass seed, give your lawn a good soaking, allowing water to penetrate up to six inches below the surface. This will give your turf a couple of days to dry out a bit before you begin overseeding.
- Pull up or otherwise remove any large weeds in your existing grass. Bigger weeds can simply be pulled up by hand, preferably from the roots. You can also use an herbicide if you choose; if so, just be sure to follow up with a second application three weeks later to ensure that any new weed growth is also killed off.
- Mow your existing grass. Using a collection bag attachment if your mower has one, mow your lawn as short as possible, preferably to about one and a half inches. Yes, this will make whatever healthy grass you have look bald and terrible for the moment—but don’t worry! There’s a method to the madness. Your new grass seeds are going to need access to sunlight and water as they take root and grow, so it’s very important to facilitate that by getting the existing grass as short as possible. Once you’ve finished mowing, rake up any leftover grass clippings and dispose of them in lawn bags.
- Remove thatch. Thatch is the criss-crossing layer of dead grass roots and stems that lies on top of the soil, just beneath the greener blades of grass. Thatch must be removed so that new grass seeds can reach the soil along with compost, fertilizer and water. In smaller yards, thatch can be removed effectively with a hand-held rake, but homeowners with larger yards may want to rent a power dethatcher from your local garden center to do the job. Also called power rakes or vertical mowers, these machines will leave clumps and piles of grass and thatch; be sure to rake debris up when you’re finished with this step and dispose of it in yard bags.
- Aerate your grass. You can rent an aerator from your local garden center or, if your yard is small (or you simply don’t like the loud noise and gasoline stench of an aerating machine), use a manual aerating tool. Be sure to rake up and dispose of any soil plugs that are dislodged as part of the aerating process.
- Spread a half-inch thick layer of compost over your lawn. Once you’ve got your compost spread evenly, rake it lightly so it can mix with the soil and blend into the aeration holes.
- Fertilize your grass. Grass fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium—the three most important ingredients in a healthy lawn. You can use either a hand-held spreader for smaller yards or a drop spreader for larger ones to distribute your fertilizer evenly all over the yard.
- Apply grass seed. Using a hand-held broadcast spreader, apply your chosen grass seed over the entire lawn area. The goal is to have about 15 to 20 seeds per square inch, which typically results in several pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn. You can move in parallel lines as you spread the seed and then, if needed, go back over the area in perpendicular lines to ensure proper, even spreading.
- Use a rake to work the seed very lightly into the existing grass and soil. Be gentle—you don’t want to damage your seeds or interfere with their even distribution.
- Water generously, but not too much, and voilà—you’ve just overseeded your yard!
Over the next days and weeks as your grass begins coming in, be sure to water lightly once or twice a day, making sure the area doesn’t get sopping wet. This will give your lawn just the right amount of moisture until seedlings sprout. Let your new grass grow at least three to four inches before mowing for the first time. Once you’ve mowed the first time, you can switch to a deep-soaking watering pattern. To keep your grass its healthiest over time, be sure to fertilize twice every year, each spring and fall.
ABC Can Keep Your Yard Healthy And Green
Keeping your lawn healthy isn’t just a source of beauty and pride; it is also a practical measure for keeping weeds away. At ABC Home & Commercial Services, we know all about creating and maintaining dense, healthy lawns for our satisfied customers. If your lawn is becoming an eyesore and the overseeding process described above sounds like a little too much for you to handle, ABC is here to help. Our lawn specialists can reclaim and revive tired, weedy, patchy lawns and maintain thriving ones so your yard stays beautiful for years.
How to Restore a Lawn Full of Weeds
If your lawn is patchy and full of weeds, it will never be the envy of the neighborhood. What you’re after is a lush, green lawn with even grass and no dandelions poking their way through. That may sound hard to achieve, but it isn’t too difficult if you follow these steps.
If you only have a few pesky weeds punctuating your lawn, you may be able to dig them up by hand—paying careful attention to make sure you get them roots and all. But if your lawn is overrun with weeds, you may need to start from scratch. Here’s our how-to guide on restoring a lawn full of weeds.
Once your lawn is nice and green, we recommend hiring a professional lawn care company to help you maintain it to keep it weed-free. Our top recommendation goes to industry leader TruGreen.
Restoring a Lawn Full of Weeds in 10 Steps
Step 1: Identify the Weeds You Have
In order to make a successful game plan, you’ll need to know just what kind of weeds you’re dealing with. Weed treatments are designed to target specific weeds, so what may work on your broadleaf weeds may leave your grass-like weeds A-OK.
Weeds come in multiple categories, either broadleaf, grass-like, or grassy.
- Appearance: Broad, flat leaves
- Common types: Clover, ground ivy, dandelions, chickweed
- Appearance: Similar to grass, with hollow leaves in a triangular or tube shape
- Common types: Nutsedge, wild garlic, wild onion
- Appearance: Resembles grass, grows one leaf at a time
- Common types: Foxtail, annual bluegrass, quackgrass, crabgrass
Weeds can be broken down further into categories based on their life cycle—annual, biennial, or perennial.
- Annual: Produces seeds during one season only
- Biennial: Produces seeds during two back-to-back seasons
- Perennial: Produces seeds over many seasons
Step 2: Select a Proper Herbicide
Next, it’s time to select the proper weed treatment based on both weed classification and the stage in their life cycle. Pre-emergent herbicides tackle weed issues before they spring up. Post-emergent herbicides target established weeds.
Keep in mind that herbicides can kill whatever plant life they come into contact with—even if the label says otherwise—so handle with care. If your aim is to re-establish your lawn, as we recommend, killing your existing, thinning grass isn’t a big deal, since you will need to start fresh anyway.
Step 3: Apply the Treatment
For this step, it’s crucial that you follow the directions to the letter. Make sure you apply the proper product at the proper time. It’s a good idea to check out the forecast beforehand, since you don’t want any storms to wash away your herbicide.
*First application. See quote for terms and conditions.
Step 4: Wait It Out
How soon you can plant seed depends on the type of weed treatment you choose. Pre-emergent herbicides will prevent grass seeds from growing just as much as weed seeds, so it would be no good to sow seeds immediately after.
Depending on the type of weed treatment you choose, you may need to wait for up to four weeks. You can ask your local garden center for information about when it’s safe to plant.
Step 5: Rake and Till
Once the weeds—and grass, if applicable—turn brown, it’s time to bust out your rake. Rake up as much of the weeds as you can. Use your tilling fork to pull any extra weeds out and till the soil to prepare it for your amendments and seed.
Step 6: Dethatch and Aerate
Aerating your lawn can help break up thatch, the layer of decomposing organic matter between your lawn’s soil and grass blades. Thatch can be beneficial, since it can make your lawn more resilient and provide insulation from extreme temperatures and changes in soil moisture. But if it gets over a half-inch in thickness, it can cause root damage, including root rot.
Your raking and tilling from the previous step can help with dethatching, but you can also use a dethatching rake if the layer is too excessive.
Aeration improves your grassroots’ access to air, nutrients, and water. Use a spike or core aerator to break up the soil. If you use a core aerator, be sure to make two to three passes in different directions. Allow the plugs of soil you remove to decompose on top of your soil layer rather than remove them.
Step 7: Amend the Soil
Now, you can apply your soil amendment to ready your soil for the grass seed or sod.
Step 8: Lay Down Seed or Sod
You have a choice ahead of you. Do you want to lay down seed or sod? There are pros and cons to each.
- Pros: Less expensive, more variety
- Cons: Takes longer to germinate, can only lay at certain times of year depending on grass type
- Pros: Instant grass, can lay any time of year, requires little maintenance
- Cons: More costly, less variety in grass can mean less healthy lawn overall
To prepare the soil after either method, make sure you till it down to roughly 6 to 8 inches.
First, you need to choose the right type of seed for your lawn. That will depend on the region you live in—one that needs cool-season grasses, warm-season grasses, or a transition zone that allows more flexibility. After you determine which category you need, you can select specific grasses that may have attributes you’re after, like heat- or drought-resistance.
To seed your lawn, lay down approximately 1 inch of topsoil, then use a spreader to apply the seed to the soil.
We recommend using two different types of spreaders. For the majority of the work, you should use a broadcast spreader because they distribute seed evenly, allowing for thorough coverage. But you’ll want to use a drop spreader around the edges of garden beds to make sure you don’t inadvertently drop seed into them.
Always set the spreader to half the recommended drop rate and spread the seed in one direction, then one or two more in different directions to make sure the coverage is nice and even. You don’t want your lawn to have weird patterns or stripes.
Applying the right amount of seed is key. As a general rule of thumb, apply roughly 15 seeds per each square inch, then rake over the seed.
Top the seed with top dressing no greater than ¼ inch thick.
Then, it’s time to add starter fertilizer. Your best bet is to use a starter fertilizer high in phosphorus. However, due to concerns about water pollution, many states prohibit the use of phosphorus in fertilizers. Some states may allow phosphorus in fertilizers for establishing new lawns. If so, you’ll find fertilizers labeled “new lawn” or “starter fertilizer.”
Step 9: Water Your Lawn
Deep, infrequent watering can help establish your lawn by allowing it to grow deep roots, which can compete against weeds. Try to water your lawn about twice a week, in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. Lawns typically need about 1.5 inches of water per week, but that could vary based on the climate you live in and the type of grass seed you chose.
Step 10: Maintain Your Lawn
Proper maintenance is critical if you want your newly established lawn to stay weed-free. Mow at either the highest or second-highest setting. Vigorous grass won’t be choked out by weeds. Fertilize your lawn as needed to help it thrive.
How to Grow Grass in a Weeded Area
Trying to grow grass in a weeded area is a frustrating task that generally provides undesirable results. Weeds are aggressive and invasive plants that choke out grass and flowers. They quickly take over an area and are notoriously hard to get rid of. When you choose to grow grass in an area overrun by weeds, you essentially have to start fresh by establishing new turf.
Remove the weeds from the area by either manually pulling them out of the ground or applying weed killer to the area. Hand-pulling weeds is safer for the soil, but removing all the roots can be difficult. Chemical weed killer kills the weeds and their roots, but may damage grass seed and leave pesticide residue in the soil, if you plant the seeds too soon after the herbicide application. If you choose to use weed killer, wait 2 to 3 weeks before planting new grass seed.
Till the top 6 inches of soil with a soil tiller. You can rent or purchase soil tillers at home improvement centers and rental yards. After the tiller turns under the dead weeds and soil, rake the soil with a garden rake to level the area as much as possible. Remove large rocks and break up clumps of soil.
Cover the soil with the correct grass seed for your location and the amount needed to cover the area. For example, some parts of the San Francisco Bay area work best with warm-season grasses — such as St. Augustine, buffalo or zoysia grass — while other Bay areas thrive with cool-season grasses such as tall fescue and perennial rye. Use your gloved hands to distribute the seeds evenly over areas smaller than 150 square feet. For larger areas, use a seed spreader.
Apply a thin layer – about 1/4 inch – of high-quality topsoil over the grass seed. Applying too thick and the seeds have a hard time germinating. Attach a garden hose sprayer with a mist option to a water hose. Dampen the top 6 inches of the soil with the water hose set on mist. Using a mist of water instead of a stream will prevent the seeds from washing away.
Continue watering the soil two to three times a day until the seeds have germinated and the grass is about 1/2-inch high. After germination occurs, you can cut back watering to once every day or two. Never let the seeds dry out.