How to Seed your Yard (Overseeding)

backyard in 2018
Spring 2018 (before aerating and overseeding)

Happy Friday everyone! (And, Happy St Patrick’s Day!) I hope your weather is as nice as it it is here in Northern Virginia! I had breakfast outside on our porch this morning and Sadie chased her ball until she could chase no more. Unfortunately, it’s supposed to rain and then drop back to the 40s and 50s by tomorrow, but I’ll take this glimpse of Spring while I have it! To continue on with Tuesday’s post on the importance of overseeding your yard, today I’m going to talk about exactly how to seed your yard. This is something we’ve done twice a year for the last two years that we’ve lived at our house, and it’s made such a huge difference in our yard. We still have a ways to go to be able to use the word “lush” to describe our grass, but we’re getting there!

backyard in 2019
Spring 2019 before overseeding–so much better, right?!

If you’re using an aerator, I’d plan on saving about 4-5 hours of a Saturday for this project (that includes an hour on each end of the project to rent and return the aerator). Otherwise, all you need is about 2 hours (more or less, depending on the size of your yard) to give your yard a jumpstart this spring!

Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I earn a small commission if you click the link and purchase the item. I’ve only linked items I’ve used in the past and would use again (unless otherwise noted). 

Supplies

You don’t need a whole lot for this project. Below are the things I used last week when I overseeded our backyard:

  • Grass seed (duh)
  • Fertilizer
  • Rake (not a leaf rake, but a garden rake like this one. This is not the rake I have but looks almost identical.)
  • Optional: Aerator (see the benefits of using the aerator in my last post)
  • Spreader (either a handheld one like the Scotts Wizz, or a push one)
  • Sprinkler & Hose
  • Gardening Gloves
  • Lawn Mower (hopefully, if you have a yard, you already have this)

That’s it! Not too bad, right? If you have a yard, I’m betting you already have a lot of these things in your shed. We had to buy the rake, spreader, fertilizer, seed, and sprinkler when we started, and I think that cost us about $100 total. If you decide to rent an aerator, we spent around $80 on a full day rental. They have a 4 hour rental window as an option that’s cheaper, but the Home Depot that had it in stock was 30 minutes away, so we didn’t want to feel rushed when we had the aerator at home.

Ok, let’s dive on in!

Step 1: Aerate/Rake up Dead/Bare Spots

As with any project, you need to start your project by prepping your space–in this case, your yard.

Pick up any sticks, dog poop, rocks, sandboxes, or anything else sitting on your grass.

Then, set your mower to the lowest setting, and cut your grass. Make sure you have your lawn mower bag attached, or you pick up the clippings afterwards. Cutting your grass allows the sun to get closer to the soil and the roots, so your soon-to-be baby grass seedlings can get the sun it needs to grow into a beautiful yard.

Next, if you’ve decided to aerate it, great! Run the aerator over your yard once clockwise and once counter-clockwise.

man pushing aerator
Steve took aerating very seriously last year

Otherwise, any spots that are bare or have dead grass, you should rake up so the dead stuff is pulled up and the fresh dirt is exposed. This is the most labor intensive part of the whole process, so don’t get discouraged when you’re exhausted after this step, like I was.

raked lawn
This spot was mostly bare, but a little grass had grown. I raked up all around it to give the new seed the best chance this year.

After you’ve taken care of the dead spots, make sure you lightly rake up the rest of the yard. The goal is to break up the ground so your fertilizer and seed can penetrate the ground to grow (otherwise, when it gets wet, the seed and fertilizer will just run right off). You are going to pull up a little of your healthy grass, and that’s ok. Just try not to pull a ton of it up.

Step 2: Fertilize

Once you’re done raking or aerating, the rest of the steps are pretty easy. The first thing you want to do is apply your fertilizer with your spreader.

I love my Scotts Wizz handheld spreader. As I’m sure you can tell from the pictures, our yard is pretty small. So, I was planning on hand spreading the fertilizer and seed. When we were picking up our fertilizer, we walked by the Wizz, and gadget-loving Steve had to bring it home. After using it the first time, it’s worth every bit of the $15 it cost us. You fill your fertilizer or seed into the top part.

handheld spreader

Then, look on your bag to see what setting it should be at (every bag of Scotts fertilizer and seed has the setting for the Wizz right on the bag).

back of fertilizer bag

Then you just turn the dial to the correct setting, and go!

handheld spreader

It disperses the fertilizer or seed in an even layer, just by holding the trigger. It requires 2 double batteries, so don’t forget those when you buy it. (This isn’t a sponsored post–just a product a really and truly love and highly recommend!).

Ok, back to fertilizing. You should go around your yard once clockwise and once counterclockwise to make sure you’ve covered the whole area, and then you’re done!

Step 3: Water

If it’s not going to rain in the next few hours, you should water the yard to help the fertilizer work into the soil. Use your sprinkler to soak the yard for a good 20 minutes. After that, you’re set.

A Note on Timing: A lot of experts recommend waiting 1-2 weeks before putting seed down after fertilizing, so I normally but my fertilizer down on the first nice day in February or March, and then put my seed down on the next nice day (usually for us, they’re a few weeks apart at that time of year, so it works well).

Step 4: Apply Seed

Ok–your 1-2 week wait is up, so now it’s time to put down your seed. If your grass grew a whole bunch in the last two weeks, cut it again on the lowest setting and rake up the clippings. (If you’re doing this in the early spring, it shouldn’t have grown much because it’s not warm enough. But, if you’re doing this a little later and the weather’s a bit warmer, you may need to cut your yard one more time).

Then, lightly rake up your yard again so the dirt is ready to take your seed. If you have any uneven spots in the ground (some spots higher than the others), use your rake to help you even those spots out.

Once you’ve raked, you’re ready to apply your seed. Using your spreader, spread seed, once clockwise and once counterclockwise.

Step 5: Water

Once your seed is down, you need to water with your sprinkler immediately. Again, I turn the sprinkler on for 20-30 minutes to allow a good soaking and help those seeds start germinating ASAP.

Step 6: Protect your space

For me, this is the hardest part. You want to give your yard a break for a few weeks-1 month to allow the seeds to start growing and establish a good root system.

Some people swear by applying straw (as our previous owner did), but then you have to remember to pick it up when the seed starts sprouting. That’s one too many steps for me 🙂

backyard with straw
This was our backyard when we moved in–straw everywhere! And do you think we picked that up? Not til we raked up the leaves in the fall.

Our biggest challenge is our dog, so during these few weeks we take our dog for more walks and play with her ball in the dog park, instead of the back yard. There’s no way I’m going to keep her from going outside, but at least I try to limit her racing and back and forth over the new grass.

If you have anything that stays on your yard, like kids toys or chairs, keep them off until the grass seems to be pretty hearty.

Step 7: Water Daily Until Sprouting

This is a super important step–so don’t skip it. You need to keep the ground damp to allow the seeds to germinate. So, you need to water daily (unless it rains that day). I normally run the sprinkler for 20-30 minutes while cooking dinner, which seems to be enough time to soak the yard, but not have puddles of water anywhere.

Once you have consistent grass throughout the yard, I back my watering off to a few times a week. And, when all the grass looks like normal grass, I water weekly.

Step 8: Enjoy!

That’s it! Now you can put your chairs etc back on the grass, and enjoy your new yard! This really is an easy project, but it makes such a big difference in your yard.

As I talked about on Tuesday, if you can do this twice a year, you’ll notice a huge difference in your yard in the longterm. Here’s our house when we moved in and our house this spring (after two rounds of seeding and a long winter)–not perfect, but oh so much better!

P.S. Don’t Forget Normal Maintenance!

After you’ve put all this love and care into your yard, don’t forget the normal maintenance you have to do while it’s growing–watering, moving, picking up dog poop, rotating stationary items, and raking up leaves. Anything that sits on the yard will kill the grass if left for too long, so make sure you’re picking up things that don’t belong (poop, leaves, stones) and rotating the spots of your chairs and toys.

That’s it for today. I hope this post helps get you motivated to show your yard a little love this Spring! Let me know if you have any questions. I won’t be posting on Sunday (we’re having our big St Patrick’s Day party tomorrow, but I’ll see you all back here on Tuesday)!

~Lauren

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