Winter in finally on its way out. The longer days and warmer temperatures are breathing new life into the outside world. However, your lawn might look like it needs a little help recovering from that long winter.
What does my lawn need?
Cool season grasses (Tall Fescue, Ryegrass, Bluegrass, etc) have two active growing seasons in the Mid-Atlantic; Spring and Fall. This means that these are the two seasons that your lawn need nutrients to grow and maintain a thick texture over your lawn. Most lawns should be fertilized once in the Spring and once or twice in the Fall.
In addition to fertilizer, Spring and Fall are the only times we recommend overseeding your lawn in an effort to regrow damaged areas. Overseeding is more effective in the Fall but can be done in the Spring as well if there are some problem areas in your yard where dirt is exposed.
When to seed and fertilize?
Most homeowners are unsure of when they should fertilize and overseed... Some will try to seed in a warm-spell in early February, while others wait until late May! The best time actually depends on your local average temperature.
There is no reason to seed or fertilize in the middle of winter in the Mid-Atlantic. Tall Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass (the two most common lawn grasses in this area) will not even germinate until ground temperatures reach above 50 degrees. This usually means consistent daytime highs of at least 60 degrees. As an example, here in Maryland this usually happens in Late March, but can vary from year to year.
Conversely, it is important not to wait too long to overseed. Seedings that are done too close to summer will almost surely die off once the hot temperatures arrive since the seedlings have a very shallow root system.
Selecting the proper seed and fertilizer
Seed: It is important to use the proper seed that matches your existing lawn. If you have a Kentucky Bluegrass lawn and overseed with Tall Fescue the texture will not look very attractive. If you do not remember which type of sod you purchased then give us a call or send us an email; we likely can look up your old order.
Be cautious when purchasing nationally branded seed. The seed that we have custom mixed here is specifically selected for best performance in the Mid-Atlantic. National seed brands that you might see advertised on TV or the internet are selected to perform marginally throughout the country and might not hold up to the tough challenges that the Mid-Atlantic region faces (hot humid summers and cold wet winters).
Also, be wary of "coated" seeds as the coating adds a lot of weight and acts as a filler. You are paying the same amount for a lot fewer seeds! The coating might help it to germinate a few days sooner but will not help it survive long term! In our experience it is better to use uncoated seed as nature intended!
We have the same blends we use for our sod for sale in our online store! We can ship directly to your door.
Fertilizer: Purchase a lawn starter fertilizer. Starter fertilizers will have more phosphorous than your standard lawn maintenance fertilizer which the seedlings need to grow. Additionally, starter fertilizer will not contain any weed control chemicals that would hurt the new seedlings.
How much seed and fertilizer do I need?
Step one is finding out the size of your yard. Try using our area measurement app to quickly measure your lawn right here from your web browser!
Once you know your yard size in square feet, use this table to determine the amount of seed you need:
|Grass Type||Recommended Overseeding Rate|
|Tall Fescue||3 lbs per 1000 square feet|
|Kentuck Bluegrass||1 lb per 1000 square feet|
|Perennial Ryegrass||4 lbs per 1000 square feet|
For fertilizer, use our handy fertilizer calculator. This allows you to stay within the Maryland law but is a good reference point for the entire region to prevent you from burning the lawn by over-applying.
How to apply?
First, mow your lawn fairly short, around 2 inches for Tall Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass. This serves several purposes:
- It removes the tall, dormant grass blades making your lawn green up sooner
- It allows more light and warm air to reach the new seeds which helps them to germinate
- It makes it easier to work in the yard. It is much easier to push a spreader over very short grass compared to tall grass!
Note: It does not matter which order you follow for applying the seed and fertilizer
Fertilizer: Use a broadcast or drop spreader and take a look at the bag setting. We actually recommend setting the spreader lower than the bag setting and passing over the area several times. Yes this takes longer but you will apply the product much more uniformally. (Think of painting with one heavy coat versus several light coats).
Seed: There are two options for seeding. You can use the same broadcast or drop spreader you use for fertilizing, or you can rent a slit seeder from a local store. The slit seeder is best if your soil is heavily compacted since it actually slices the seed into the soil instead of leaving it sitting on top of the hard groud. The broadcast spreader will still work on hard ground, but the germination rate may be lower.
OK I am done... now what?
Its time to let mother nature take over. It usually takes between 10-14 days for Tall Fescue to germinate and around 21 days for Kentucky Bluegrass, so don't worry if you do not see immediate results.
You can mow your lawn as needed... The mower will damage only a small fraction of the new grasses, and letting it grow tall will actually hurt them more due to the old grass competing for light.
If you did everything properly, you will be left with a beautiful lawn just in time for the middle of Spring!