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How to overseed your lawn

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During this gardening season the weather has been tough on Baltimore lawns. First, the extreme heat of July left grass looking brown and crispy. Now, the recent rains are making the weeds grow as fast as the grass. If this is the case, you may need to repair your lawn. Fall is a good time to overseed your lawn as the weather is milder and we usually have more rain. You do not have to dig up the whole lawn but you do have to prepare it and may need to rent a piece of equipment or two.

First, go buy some grass seed. In Maryland we typically use cool season grasses like Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Ryegrass. These grasses are so named because they may go dormant in hot weather but then flourish in cooler weather. These can all be grown from seed, as opposed to some warm season grasses, which must be grown from sod. Determine if you need a sun or shade grass and then carefully read the labels of the grass sees at your local lawn and garden center. Some lawn grasses can be slow growing and are often mixed with “nurse” grasses (usually rye) which sprout earlier and protect the other grasses.

Next, check the package for an overseeding rate recommendation. For example, Kentucky Bluegrass is usually overseeded at 1 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet. This will tell you how much grass seed you need to buy for your lawn. (Hopefully if you don’t know how big your lawn is you will measure it before you go to the store.)

When you have your grass seed ready to go prepare your lawn by mowing it. The existing grass needs to be short enough to get sunlight to the new grass seedlings, so cut it about 1 ½ to 2 inches tall. Next, rake the area well. Get in there and dig. This will both remove the thatch and rough up the soil so that the seeds can have loose soil to put roots down into. Use a spreader to broadcast the seed over the lawn. Or, broadcast small areas by hand according to the package directions.

While the grass seed is newly laid you should water it every day. Once the seeds sprout you can give it one inch of water per week. (This is the usual recommendation for most types of lawns.) Growing new grass in fall is easier because the weather is milder and hopefully it should not become dried and scorched at this time. If it is sprouts in early fall it will have plenty of time to take hold before the cold weather sets in. Then, next spring you will have a nice green lawn for the new season.

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