We are quickly approaching the best time to overseed your lawn, but I also know that many people don’t have a choice and need to get their lawn done sooner than later. This can present a few potential problems, but I will give you a few ways to help you get healthy turf if you need to drop seed this weekend. The best time to seed is when night time temperatures dip into the high 60’s, and we start to cool off a little bit during the day. It is always nice to be out of the 100’s before beginning the overseed process, but it’s okay to start prepping now in order to get ready for the season. A couple weeks ago I gave you the easy 1,2,3 fertilizer and seed steps, and today I want to talk a little more about what needs to be done with the prep work.

Just like when you put your initial lawn, the prep work is actually more important than the grass itself. If you skimp on this step or try and go the cheap route it will come back to haunt you. If you read my previous blogs I suggested that you let your summer lawn grow up a little higher than normal so when you verticut and scalp the grass down you are actually just taking the lawn to a normal height versus digging into the dirt. You don’t do yourself or your lawn any good by continually scalping it down to the ground with the expectation that it will come back strong every spring. While it seems like it should, you could end up with a year like we just had that was horrible for the transition process. If you want to know what made this year so difficult for so many golf courses, landscapers, and homeowners it was the inconsistent spring temperatures. We never really had the hot weather early and it allowed the ryegrass to stick around much later than normal shading out the underlying summer grass. As I have said quite a few times, shade is the biggest enemy for your summer lawn and ryegrass is just like having a tree on top of it if it is still strong in late May and early June.

Once you let the lawn grow up to the longer height run a verticut or dethatcher (very high setting) if you cannot find a rental place with the verticut. This will open up the grass plant and allow the seed and water to get down into the grass. Every time you scalp the lawn you close the turf canopy and it makes it tougher and tougher for the seed to get down into the thatch layer. The next crucial step is to gradually lower your mowing heights so you can reduce some of the top growth. You are actually just mowing to a height a notch or two below your normal summer height. Now run the verticut one more time over the lawn in the opposite direction to put grooves in the soil and give the seed a place to go. You can clean up the verticut debris by doing another clean up pass with the mower.

Many of you are going into the overseed season knowing that your lawn is so compacted from years and years of traffic, or just the amount of clay in the soil and it is a great time to aerify the lawn. This can be done now prior to the overseeding process to open up the soil and allow for better water infiltration and it also aids in the efficiency of the roots taking up fertilizer. This is a job that is best hired out, but before they start make sure all the sprinkler heads have been marked (flagged or painted) and they go around those areas. If you have already planted ryegrass and compaction and standing water are clearly an issue wait until mid November and aerify the lawn before we get any heavy freezes that would keep the tines from getting good penetration into the soil.

Now many of you have already dropped seed or will be dropping seed this upcoming weekend and the biggest concern you are going to have is with the bermudagrass or paspalum coming back and filling in the space between ryegrass leaf blades. It is often pretty difficult to tell what is bermudagrass and what is ryegrass if you have a finer type turf, but once we get out first freeze it will be pretty evident with the little brown golf ball sized spots all over your yard. The warm season turf is still so strong at this time of the year that it is important that they are really put in check before you start overseeding and the best way is with a growth regulator such as Primo. This is not something you are going to buy over the counter at your local store, but an irrigation or turf specialty store may carry their brand. Primo is a brand name and there are several growth regulators out there but it is the most widely known one. Can you still have a good overseed without using Primo? Of course but it is all dependent upon using the correct fertilizers and pushing the growth.

In my previous blog I gave you the 1, 2, 3 steps to an easy overseed and these really should be followed when it comes to fertilizers. The ryegrass needs to be at its peak prior to the first frost so it can fill in any voids caused by warm season turf that hung around too long. Ryegrass is a bunch grass, but it does tiller and will get thicker as the season goes along with the right fertilizer program. Again here is the fertilizer program I recommend and these products can be bought from select Ace Stores, Sprinkler Worlds, Silverbell Nursery or direct from our website (shipped to your door or picked up at our Scottsdale farm). If you didn’t put down a starter fertilizer with the seed it isn’t too late and you should do so as soon as possible to get optimal growth out of the seed and get better germination.

I mention the type of seed we use on our sod farms mostly because of the high quality seed that comes in the bucket. There are so many cheap ryegrass blends out there that will grow quickly, but inevitably they will have poor color, wear tolerance, or have weed seed in the mix as filler. You don’t ever want to buy a seed that has any weed seed what so ever so make sure the bucket or bag you pick up is 100% clean. The germination rate should be over 96% or you will need to factor that into how much extra seed needs to be put down to get 9.5-10 pounds per 1000 SF. If a bag only has 85% germination you are losing 15% of the bag to seed that isn’t viable and it needs to be accounted for when planting. A normal loss would be around 3-5% and I would worry about anything below that amount. That is typically why you see a cheaper cost of seed between the good, better, and best mixes. Spend now, save the headaches later. The last thing you want to do is incorporate weed seed into your lawn and allow it to fill in the voids caused by frost or wear. Since a weed is a plant out of place we all know they have a big tendency to find voids in turf.

I will get off my soapbox now and onto the next subject of seeding. How much seed should be applied to cover your lawn, do you need mulch, how do you keep the birds away, and how much does it cost to overseed the average lawn?

How much seed should be applied to cover the lawn adequately?

You want to put down 8-10 pounds per 1000 SF of turf area. Remember to account for seed that will not germinate so you may be applying more. There is no need to go over this rate because it will grow very clumpy and choke itself out after a few weeks.

I have so many birds that cover my lawn after I seed, should I be putting down mulch?

I personally don’t ever put down a seed cover or mulch and you would be hard pressed to find a golf course that is going to cover 60-90 acres of turf with a seed cover to keep the birds away. The truth is the birds are going to eat a certain amount of seed anyway and that number is factored into the 8-10 pound per 1000 SF rate.

How much does it cost to overseed a lawn?

I will break this down into approximate numbers and if you are hiring this out make sure you are accounting for dump fees, labor, machinery and profit.

Verticut Rental -$45 for 4 hours or $80/day

Aerifier $45 for 4 hours or $80/day

BOBSeed perennial ryegrass $29.95 for a 10 pound bucket (treats 1000 SF)

Soil Burst starter fertilizer 5-15-10 for a 9 pound container is $19.95

Soil Burst liquid program consisting of 7-7-7, 16-0-4, and 4-0-6 is $14.95 x 3 = $44.85

This is enough fertilizer and product to get you a healthy lawn for 4 months and it costs less than $150 to do it yourself and I would figure around $250-$350 per 1000 SF to have someone do this for you. If you can get it done for this price it is well worth it, but I just want to give you the breakdown if you want to do it yourself.

I hope these tips have helped you this week and I will keep you updated on what to do as we move deeper into the overseed season. If you don’t need to seed your lawn yet, sit back turn on Michigan football and wait for it to cool down a little.

College Football

It has started off as a great football season and luckily for me Michigan managed not to stub their toe on any of the cupcakes they played early on. I have been pleasantly surprised with the schedules most of the teams have played so far because there is actually a little competition out there and I am seeing very few North Dakota states on the schedule. I would mention Appalachian state, but even four years later it makes me want to cry and I am reminded daily when Jim Rome plays the “it’s blocked, the kick is blocked” sound bite from the game. As most leagues move into conference play this week I will be picking some of the better matchups. Here are my locks for the week and you can take them to the bank, well maybe that’s not the best idea.

Here we go!

Minnesota +19.5 @ Michigan – This will not be your year Gophers, and even though you are playing for the little Brown jug don’t forget just how bad you are. You were just blown off the field by FBS (Division II) North Dakota State 37-24. I like Denard Robinson to finally find his arm in the passing game and he will throw for 250 yards and rush for 200 more.

Michigan State + 3.5 @ OSU – this may be the surprise line of the week unless the wise guys know something I don’t but the Buckeyes are not a very good football team and MSU is coming off a thrashing at ND a couple weeks ago and is looking to run up and down the horseshoe. I haven’t heard if there latest suspended players were reinstated for the game but I still like MSU by 10. Take the money line and make some cash.

Alabama -6 @ Florida – while this game is being played in the swamp the bad news for Florida is that they have been nothing but an average team since the almighty Tim Tebow left campus. Florida may have a few tricks up their sleeve but don’t expect Saban to play it safe. I like Bama to run up the score and try to catch LSU in the polls.

Arizona +11.5 @ USC – The Wildcats always play out of their minds one game per season but unfortunately it always happens at home. USC is battered, has no confidence and is playing for nothing more than bragging rights but they will annihilate the Cats this weekend. The Wildcats have a QB and are missing the other 21 players that make up the team, take USC and don’t stress about the points. 34-14.

Oregon State – 17.5 @ Arizona State – Devil fans if there was ever another must win game it would be this one. Very few times in Coach Erikson’s tenure has he managed to follow up a good win with a second one. Betting Oregon State is not going to save his job at the end of the year but it will keep him from losing it. This game shouldn’t even be close but I see a huge letdown. Take ASU to win the game but they will not cover 17.5.

Nebraska + 7 @ Wisconsin – A battle of the big boys and a cold welcome to the Big 10 or 12 or whatever they are this week. Nebraska has played solid football and possesses a game changer in Taylor Martinez, but they are in for a long day in Madison. Life was easy in the former Big 12 when you played teams with 250 pound lineman but wait till the 310 average of the badgers gets a hold of the corn fed boys. This line has been as high as 10 and I would take it up to 10. I like Wisconsin to pull away in the second half and cover the spread. Sorry Cole family, sorry Husker nation, but I just don’t think Saturday night will be good for you. Watch the first half and then take the wives to dinner because the half time adjustments will put this game out of reach quickly.

Please let me know if you have any questions on overseeding or want to comment on my picks. Hit the “Ask Jay” button to the right of this page!

Until next time,


P.S…..if you would like to follow my Ultra Running blog, please go to www.mcdowellmountainman.com. My latest blog is “We all want to be just a little faster!”