With the heavy rains and slightly cooler temperatures we had this past week no doubt people are thinking about overseeding. By the way, if your sprinklers are still set to on, turn them OFF. While the calendar says September 11th we’re still a few weeks away from having temperatures in the optimal window. Overseeding does not need to be a one day process. You can begin the process a little early and then when temperatures are in the 60’s at night you will just need to give your lawn one last haircut, drop the seed and begin watering.

Prepping for overseed is often a large ordeal, but starting the process gradually you can eliminate the headaches associated with trying to get it all done in one afternoon. I want to reiterate something I have said for the past few years. The height of the grass is not associated with a quality overseed. In other words scalping the grass down to the dirt does not guarantee good results, but opening up the turf canopy does. The shorter you mow your lawn the tighter the leaf blades become making it harder to get the ryegrass seed into the plant. If the seed is lying on the surface it will be slow to germinate and much of the seed will be lost. The seed needs a base to grow out of and getting inside the grass plant allows for perfect moisture, heat, and a solid growing medium. By looking at my last statement you can now understand why I have said without a good warm season grass base you will most likely have a poor ryegrass season. The seed will establish much faster inside a healthy grass stand than it will on bare dirt.

Since we’re still a few weeks out of actually dropping seed I want to discuss getting your lawn ready. Now is a great time to let your lawn grow up about 30% in order to provide more leaf density. Another bonus of maintaining your lawn at a higher height is that it will use less water, and when you scalp your lawn it will leave plenty of healthy new leaves for the spring. If you continue to maintain your grass at its normal height and then scalp it to the ground you risk serious injury to your warm season grass for next year. When you’re about 3-4 out from overseeding I would suggest renting a verticutter/dethatcher and opening up the turf canopy. This will eliminate all of the dead material between the leaves and will allow the seed to drop into the plant easier. You can wait to verticut until the day you seed or you can get it done a little early. If you go early make sure you verticut in a few directions so when you scalp for overseed the canopy is still open.

With the height of cut a little higher this will allow you to scalp your lawn to the height you have maintained it at all summer. If you keep your lawn at 1” you will need to mow it down to a ½” which most mowers are unable to do successfully. Most rotary mowers can go to ¾”at the very lowest setting. My recommendation is going to 1.25” and then scalping to ¾” versus maintaining at 1” and trying to scalp to a ½”. Remember the lower you mow, the tighter the grass becomes. Every time you make the grass canopy tighter you will need to come back through and verticut to open the grass plant back up. It is much easier to open the turf canopy on slightly longer grass than it is on ½” turf.

As you make your way through the hardware stores this weekend you will start to see ryegrass seed all over the shelves. It is extremely important to be vigilant when you pick up a bag of seed. Remember not all seed is created equal. Here are some tips to keep in mind when looking at a bag of seed.

  1. I highly suggest you only use perennial ryegrass. While it seems like the name annual ryegrass makes sense it does not have the vigor, color, or density of perennial ryegrass.
  2.  You will seed your lawn at the rate of 10 pounds of seed per 1000 SF. With that being said you will see bags all over the store that say this bag covers 10,000 SF or more. How is that possible if the bag is only 50 pounds? On the east coast where these bags were likely produced they overseed in the spring or fall to increase turf coverage, not change out their lawn for the season. Therefore to overseed there you only need 3-5 pounds per 1000 SF. Technically the bag is correct that it covers 10,000 SF for overseeding but not our type of overseeding.
  3. Germination Rate – The germination rate will tell you how much of the seed is viable. If you pick up a bag with a 60% germination rate then you need 40% more seed to put down the correct rate. You want to find a bag with over 85% germination.
  4. Weed Seed – This number should be zero. Any weed seed or inert matter is going to wreak havoc on your overseeded turf.
  5. Often times blended ryegrass seeds are cheaper because they put different grades of seed in the bag. The BOBSeed is a single source sod quality seed which brings the price up slightly from other brands. If the seed is cheap you have to wonder why since all ryegrass seed is priced by germination, weed seed, and quality of the seed.

So what do you need for overseeding?

  1. I recommend the BOBSeed perennial ryegrass (available at several Ace Hardware’s stores, Elgin Nursery, Silverbell Nursery, and directly from West Coast Turf). This is the same seed we use on our sod farms to bring you a high quality product each fall and winter. The 10 pound buckets retail between $29.99-$33.99 and the 25 pound bags retail between $44.99-$49.99 depending on the location. This is also nice if you buy overseeded sod because the seed will match up to the sod. Many people will buy a bucket of seed to repair pet damage through the year and you don’t want two different colored grasses.
  2. 2. Starter Fertilizer – When you pick up your seed why not pick up the fertilizer? We sell our own starter fertilizer called Soil Burst 5-15-10 that can be applied with the seed or you can pick up 6-20-20, 16-20-0, or 11-52-0 depending on what your stores carry. You can buy the Soil Burst from us online at www.westcoastturf.com or over the phone at 1-888-893-TURF.
  3.  Second Fertilizer – If you use the 5-15-10 then this will also work as a second application for the new seed or you can use 21-7-14, 11-52-0, or 6-20-20.
  4. All of your sprinklers should be working and properly adjusted. Check all of the nozzles after you scalp for any chips or dings that the mower may have caused by cutting shorter.
  5. Verticut/dethatch

I will go over the overseed directions in the next couple weeks, but I wanted to put out the prep instructions ahead of time so people could get started. Be cautious when you go to the stores to buy seed and make sure you get a high quality seed so you can make your neighbors jealous.