Weekend Project: Overseed now for a lush lawn in spring

Consumer Reports News: October 01, 2009 04:05 PM

After dealing with insects, weeds, fungi, and the coming deluge of leaves, you're probably looking forward to a break from yard work. But there's another important project to do this fall if you haven't already. Called overseeding, this simple addition of grass seed to an established lawn will help your yard look its best next spring. Note that if you live in a northern state, hold off on overseeding until next year, but if you're in the Sun Belt, follow these steps:

Time it right. Before you overseed, remove leaves from the yard with a rake or leaf blower or mulch them with your mower or tractor.

Prepare the yard. Pros recommend a good dethatching and aeration during the fall, but if your lawn is in good shape, you can get away with a thorough raking. Give one last mow, with the blade set at a lower setting than you used in midsummer. It also helps to give bare spots individual attention with a hand rake before seeding.

Choose the right seed. Be sure to use the right type of grass for your region and the same type that's in your yard. Use plenty of seed—distributed evenly with a hand-held, drop, or other spreader—and work in some compost or topsoil, especially to bare spots. Refer to our " Guide to Common Lawn Grasses" to find the best grass for your area.

Feed for the winter months. You can add some starter fertilizer, though some experts advise waiting until the seed has sprouted to fertilize. Some fertilizers include preemergent weed killers. If you prefer to go the organic route, lay down corn gluten in the spring instead of a weed killer now. Corn gluten prevents seed from sprouting, so you can't do it while overseeding, but it can fend off crabgrass next year.

If you're using a drop spreader to lay down the seed or fertilizer, calibrate this equipment so you apply the proper amount.

Add the water. Water lightly but often, even in the middle of day if the sun isn't strong. A light spray to the overseeded areas is better than a straight stream to keep from disturbing the seed. And if leaves are falling, trying blowing gently over the grass, not toward it, to disperse them until the seed has sprouted. And try to stay off the lawn during this time. —Ed Perratore | | Twitter | Forums | Facebook

Essential information: Once you've done your last mow of the season, put your mower to bed for the season.

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