Everything You Need to Know About Overseeding Your Lawn

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Reviewed by Tara Dudley
Updated January 27, 2022
A young couple relaxing in their garden
Photo: wavebreak3 / Adobe Stock

Even the most attentive gardener's lush lawn can go through a rough patch

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Whether the neighborhood pets are causing dead spots on the lawn or a drought year has your grass looking anything but lush, overseeding is a great way to restore your yard’s natural beauty without incurring major costs. But when should you overseed your lawn? Find out below.

What Is Overseeding?

Overseeding a lawn is about as straightforward as it sounds—you literally add seeds over the existing lawn. While that statement may seem overly simple, the truth is for most homeowners with patchy lawns, overseeding will prove to be the right solution.

When Should You Overseed a Lawn?

You should consider overseeding your lawn whenever you have thin patches of grass or completely bare or brown patches. However, if more than one-third of your lawn is struggling or already dead, you may need to start from scratch and reseed your lawn.

What Time of Year Is Best for Overseeding a Lawn?

While you can overseed your lawn anytime during the growing season to repair patches, in general, the best time to overseed your lawn is late summer to early fall. Overseeding during this time is ideal because:

  • The soil will be warm enough to support seed germination.

  • Weeds won’t be growing as rampant, so your new seeds won’t have to compete.

  • There will be enough time for the grass to grow before the first frost.

  • There tends to be more rain, meaning better chances of germination.

You can also overseed in early spring as part of your spring lawn care routine.

How Do I Overseed a Lawn?

A man overseeding the lawn using a reseeder
Photo: The Toidi / Adobe Stock

Overseeding a lawn is easily achieved using tools most homeowners have on hand and by following a few simple steps:

1. Evaluate

How much of your lawn needs to be repaired? Are there problem areas you need to address, such as places your pet favors or an area that doesn’t get enough sunlight?

2. Test Your Soil

Find out if your soil is too alkaline or acidic with a simple testing kit you can get at any garden center or hardware store. You can also check for any kind of disease, like a fungal disease.

3. Mow

Give your lawn a good, short haircut with your lawn mower on its lowest setting.

4. Rake

Clean up your lawn with a regular garden rake, then follow that up with a heavier thatch rake—a metal rake that will help you break up the dead, thicker parts of grass.

5. Aerate

Using a simple aeration tool, put holes in the soil where you want to reseed.

6. Amend the Soil

You can add amendments to balance the pH of your soil with products like wood ash and chicken manure. You will also want to add some rich compost or planting mix to give the seeds a place to germinate.

7. Plant the Seeds

Spread the seeds evenly (you may want to use a seed spreader). Use the right kind of seeds for your growing conditions.

8. Water

Water thoroughly but do not flood the seeds. Consistent, even watering is critical to seed germination. It should be kept evenly moist for two weeks. By this time you will begin to notice germination and the grass starting to fill in.

9. Skip Mowing

Avoid mowing the areas you’ve patched until the grass has grown in completely. “I recommended avoiding these areas for at least two to four weeks,” says Tara Dudley, owner of Plant Life Designs.

What Other Tools Do I Need to Overseed a Lawn?

To overseed your lawn, you will want a few common yard maintenance tools on hand:

  • Landscape rake

  • Thatch or turf rake

  • Seed spreader

  • Grass seed

  • Sprinkler or a hose

  • Lawn aerator

How Much Does It Cost to Overseed a Lawn?

Overseeding a lawn costs an average of $0.10 to $0.20 per square foot. Some of the factors that influence the cost per square foot include what type of seed you use, labor costs, and the condition of your lawn.

What Is the Difference Between Overseeding and Reseeding a Lawn?

While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, technically they are quite different. 

Overseeding a lawn requires just a few simple steps to repair and patch smaller areas of a lawn that have become thin or bare. Overseeding involves raking, aerating, thatching, and seeding over these patchy areas of the lawn to encourage the lawn to regrow. It is easily done in an afternoon. 

Reseeding a lawn is a more drastic step you may need to take if your lawn is diseased, more than one-third dead, or heavily overrun with weeds. It requires killing most of your existing lawn and essentially starting from scratch and is a much bigger undertaking than simply overseeding. However, it can provide the best results for restoring a lush, green lawn to its former glory.

Not sure what to do about your lawn? Find a local lawn care professional near you to get an experienced opinion.

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