If your lawn looks thinner than it usually does or is starting to become overrun by weeds, overseeding could return it to its former lush, green glory. Overseeding is not too difficult, but it does require some basic lawn care tools, some knowledge of the process, and a bit of preparation. All you need are a lawnmower, some fertilizer, a spreader, and the right grass seed for your climate.
While it’s definitely possible to overseed your lawn yourself, most people will get better results by using a professional lawn care service like TruGreen. Letting lawn care experts overseed your lawn ensures you’ll have the best grass seed and fertilizer combo that meets your lawn’s specific needs and that it will get done at the perfect time to promote optimal growth.
What is Overseeding?
Overseeding is a way to bolster thinning, struggling lawns to help them grow thicker and healthier. The basic technique for overseeding is to add new seed to an existing lawn without tearing up grass and overturning the soil. It can be just the thing you need to bring a dying lawn back to life when done properly, and it’s one of the fastest and cheapest ways to improve how your lawn looks. The simplest way to overseed is with a handheld broadcast spreader, but using a slit-seeder—also called a drop seeder—often produces better results and is almost as easy.
Lawns with high weed activity are generally good candidates for overseeding. Adding grass seed can help deprive pesky weeds of resources, choking them out and leaving your lawn weed-free without the need for chemical treatments and herbicides. Thin, patchy lawns can also benefit from overseeding. Spreading seed throughout your lawn will help fill in bare spots and rejuvenate existing areas by replacing old, weak grass with new strong sprouts.
When to Overseed
The best time to overseed depends on where you live and what kind of grass you’re growing. Late summer or early fall is the best time to overseed the cool-season lawns found in the north, and spring or early summer is generally preferred for overseeding the warm-season grasses that thrive throughout the south. If you live in the north and missed the fall window for overseeding, don’t worry. Spring is the second-best time to overseed a cool-season lawn, and overseeding in the spring can still have a dramatic positive effect on your lawn’s health.
If you live in the transition zone or are unsure about the best time to overseed your lawn, your best option is to hire a professional service like TruGreen since they will know the right timing to get you the best outcome. It’s very common for transition zone lawns to be a blend of cool-season and warm-season grasses to make them less susceptible to the unpredictable climate. These lawns are more complicated to overseed and require greater horticultural skill and knowledge to cultivate.
How to Overseed Your Lawn
Before you can overseed your lawn, you need to make sure you have the necessary equipment. At the bare minimum, you need a lawnmower, a spreader, and a rake, although a slit-seeder is preferred over an ordinary broadcast spreader.
1. Mow Grass on a Low Setting
The first thing you need to do before overseeding your lawn is to give it a nice, low cut. Be careful not to mow it so short that it burns, but you want to go shorter than you normally would. You should use a bag rather than a mulcher and rake the lawn when you’re finished to remove stray clippings and debris. A clean, short lawn will make the soil more accessible to the new seeds, improving soil contact and promoting root growth.
2. Fix Existing Lawn Issues
Before overseeding, you should fix any pre-existing conditions your lawn may have. Overseeding can help control weeds, but you should do a round of weeding anyway, especially if your lawn is already thick with them. Removing competition from weeds and crabgrass is important to help new grass germinate. If you have crabgrass, make sure you choose the correct type of treatment for your grass type.
3. Pick the Right Grass Seed
Grass comes in many varieties. It’s common to divide the different types of grass into cool-season grasses that grow primarily in the northern parts of the country and warm-season grasses that grow mainly in the south.
Cool-season grasses prefer low temperatures between 65 degrees Fahrenheit and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and are found across the midwest, pacific northwest, and northeast. Some cool-season grasses can grow in the transition zone between hot and cold climates, although they don’t handle heat well and can easily die during a hot year.
The most popular cool-season grasses are Kentucky bluegrass, perennial and annual ryegrass, tall fescue grass, and bentgrass.
Warm-season grasses are the opposite of cool-season grasses, thriving in hot climates with temperatures in the 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit range. These grasses are well-suited for the hot and humid climates and higher soil temperatures of the south but can also do well in the southern parts of the transition zone.
Common warm-season grasses include St. Augustine grass, zoysia grass, Bermuda grass, and centipede grass.
4. Amend The Soil
Your soil’s pH and nutrient content are vital for your lawn’s health, so you want to make sure it’s properly tuned before overseeding. You can determine your soil’s pH using an at-home test. Healthy lawns have a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. If your lawn is too acidic—meaning the pH is too low—you need to spread lime or wood ash to increase it back to a healthy level. The opposite problem—the pH is too high—requires a sulfur amendment to make your soil more acidic.
5. Apply Grass Seed
There are three main ways to apply grass seed to your lawn. In order of increasing quality, they are: by hand, with a traditional spreader, with a slit-seeder. Although slit-seeders generally produce better results, most people are served best by a handheld or walk-behind broadcast spreader because they take less time.
Set your spreader to disperse seeds at the recommended density on the packaging. Most grass types will require a density of approximately 15 seeds per square inch, but it’s much easier to gauge the recommended coverage area per pound. Walk slowly across your lawn in parallel rows, taking care to make sure you have even coverage and don’t miss any areas.
6. Fertilize & Water the Lawn
It’s important to know how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (commonly abbreviated as “NPK”) your lawn needs before purchasing fertilizer. Make sure you match the fertilizer’s NPK content to your grass type. Load the fertilizer into your spreader and walk at a moderate speed following your usual mowing pattern. If you’re using a handheld spreader, be careful to avoid clumping seeds together or missing spots.
You should water the fresh grass seed immediately after spreading it. Grass seed needs moist soil on a constant basis, so water your entire lawn twice per day for 5 to 10 minutes each time for the first few weeks or three times a day for hot climates. After new seedlings start forming, you can resume a more traditional watering schedule.
Pros & Cons of Overseeding
- Produces a full, green lawn that looks greener and healthier, especially from a distance.
- Makes your lawn more resistant to wear and tear from pets and children.
- Reduced weed activity.
- Can be a long-term solution since you might only have to overseed once every few years.
- Helps improve drainage and eliminate pooling.
- It increases your water usage.
- It’s not suitable for some types of grass (e.g. St. Augustine grass)
- You may have to mow your lawn in the winter if you overseed in the fall (mostly a problem in the transition zone).
- Increases the amount of fertilizer you need.
- May not revitalize your lawn in some circumstances (e.g. undiagnosed disease).
Overseeding is a great way to bolster flagging lawns, but it’s not a lawn care panacea. Some lawns should not be overseeded and attempting it will make the situation worse. There is also a significant cost associated with overseeding, making it unrealistic for people on tight budgets even if it is cheaper than alternatives. Here is a breakdown of the main pros and cons of overseeding.
The Two Methods For Overseeding
We mentioned before that you could use either a traditional broadcast spreader or a slit-seeder to overseed your lawn. A slit-seeder is the best option if you value the results more than anything else, although purchasing a slit-seeder is prohibitive for most homeowners, so most people opt for using a regular spreader for overseeding.
Using a Mechanical Slit-Seeder for Slit-Seeding
Slit-seeders produce better results by cutting slits in the turf and placing seeds at the proper depth for optimal seed germination. This makes it much easier to get excellent results with a slit-seeder since you don’t have to worry about controlling the spreading density or consistency by hand. If you don’t own a slit-seeder, you could rent one from your local hardware store or garden center, but the best option is to hire a professional service.
If you have access to a slit-seeder, you should use it. Fill the slit-seeder with the appropriate amount of grass seed to cover your yard as per the instructions on the seeds’ packaging. Walk the slit-seeder across your lawn in rows, following your usual back-and-forth mowing pattern. When you’re finished, repeat the process in the other direction, walking across the rows you just made.
You’ll have an even grid of freshly sown seeds at the proper depth for growing when you’re finished.
Using a Drop-Style Seeder or Cyclone for Broadcast Seeding
The next best option for overseeding your lawn after a slit-seeder is a regular drop-style or cyclone broadcast spreader. Using these spreaders requires more attention to detail to get the right density and to avoid missing spots. Still, they’re a better option for most people since most homeowners are more likely to have one on hand than a slit-seeder.
Fill your spreader with enough seed to cover your yard if you can. Otherwise, fill it to maximum capacity and be prepared to mark your place when the spreader empties so you can restart where you left off after refilling the spreader. Walk in straight, evenly spaced lines, overlapping the rows slightly like you do when mowing.
Benefits of Overseeding Dying Grass
Overseeding dying grass can save you from having to tear up your lawn and reseed a new lawn from scratch, making it well worth the effort. Preparing your lawn for overseeding can also help you identify potential problems like soil quality, soil compaction, and leveling issues. Turning a critical eye on your grass before overseeding can help you eliminate the core issues that are killing your grass.
If you have a type of grass that benefits from overseeding—like fescue, ryegrass, or Kentucky bluegrass—overseeding will make your lawn thicker and greener, and more resilient against pests and diseases. It can also combat bigger problems like soil drainage and compaction.
Professional companies like TruGreen can introduce new grass varieties that complement your current grass, making your lawn more robust and keeping it healthy year-round. This is especially effective in transition zone lawns where the weather is more volatile, and temperatures fluctuate across a wider range. To reap the full benefits of overseeding, you’ll have to purchase or rent an aerating machine and a slit-seeder, which makes the price comparable to having it done professionally.
Hiring a Professional Seeding Service for Overseeding
Overseeding a lawn is a delicate business that takes significant amounts of time and effort that most people simply don’t have. If you are an avid DIY-er with lawn care experience, overseeding your lawn is not that difficult. But if you just want a healthy lawn that looks good from the curb and feels plush under your feet, consider hiring a professional service.
Best Professional Lawn Care Service: TruGreen
TruGreen is the number one professional lawn care service when it comes to overseeding. The company has several decades of lawn care experience and employs experienced, knowledgeable technicians that know the best way to overseed your lawn. Hiring TruGreen takes all of the guesswork and analysis out of overseeding, so you can sit back and relax knowing your lawn is in good hands.
TruGreen offers several comprehensive lawn care packages, including everything from reseeding and overseeding to regular fertilization, maintenance, and weed control. The best part is that you can pick and choose individual services—like overseeding—if you don’t need a complete lawn care package. The company will also determine whether you need special treatment like herbicide or crabgrass preventer.
What TruGreen’s Overseeding Helps with
TruGreen’s overseeding service can help take your lawn from the brink of becoming a dirt patch back to being the kind of lawn you can be proud of. Its service is more involved than just sprinkling some new grass seed around your yard and can help fix a variety of issues. The overseeding service can help with:
- Thinning lawns
- Dying grass
- Bare areas
- Weed infestations
- Weather-related problems (drought, heat, etc.)
- Soil quality
- Soil compaction
- Soil composition
- Drainage issues and pooling
BEST CUSTOMIZABLE PLANS
- Plans customized to fit your exact lawn needs
- All natural ingredients
- Subscription service deliver right to your door, right when you need it
Overseeding is one of the best ways to rejuvenate a lackluster lawn but it’s a deceptively complex topic. To benefit fully from overseeding, you need to analyze your soil, understand the needs your specific type of grass has, and purchase or rent expensive equipment like aerating machines and slit-seeders. This might not sound like a big deal if you’re passionate about lawn care, but it’s overwhelming for most people.
Hiring a professional service like TruGreen to overseed your lawn for you is the way to go for most busy homeowners. TruGreen’s technicians are experts that know what your lawn needs to grow to its full potential. They choose the type of seed, fertilizer, and soil amendments for you as well as determine the best overseeding timing based on your local climate. They also use top-of-the-line equipment that will produce a better result than you can get by purchasing or renting off-the-shelf gear, especially if you’re inexperienced and using an aerator or slit-seeder.
The bottom line is that TruGreen is the best overseeding option for most people. Unless you are a lawn care professional, TruGreen’s results will be better than what you can achieve on your own, and it won’t cost much more than purchasing the supplies and equipment yourself.
Learn more: TruGreen Review
Compare TruGreen to Other Lawn Care Services
- TruGreen vs. DIY lawn care
- TruGreen vs. Sunday Lawn Care
- TruGreen vs. Weed Man
- TruGreen vs. Lawn Doctor
Frequently Asked Questions
How much grass seed do I need?
How much grass seed you need depends on the size of your lawn and what kind of grass you have. Most overseeding estimates fall around 3–6 pounds of grass seed per 1,000 square feet.
Which seed should I use?
The best type of seed depends on where you live and what kind of grass you already have. If you live in a cold climate, cool-season grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass, fescue, or ryegrass are excellent choices. If you live in the south, warm-season grass like zoysia or Bermudagrass is more appropriate.
How should I prepare my soil?
Preparing your soil for overseeding requires testing the pH at the very least. If your soil pH needs adjusting, a lime or sulfur treatment is necessary, depending on whether your soil is too acidic or too basic.
What should I keep in mind when overseeding?
Using more seed won’t make your lawn thicker. Only use as much seed as the packaging suggests; usually between 14 and 16 seeds per square inch.
Does my lawn need overseeding?
If your lawn is thin and patchy it could benefit from overseeding. Overseeding isn’t great for bare spots where spot seeding is more effective and it may not be able to save a lawn that’s too far gone.
What's the difference between reseeding and overseeding?
Reseeding is a much more labor-intensive project than overseeding and requires tearing up an existing lawn and planting entirely new seed.
Today's Homeowner Rating & Methodology
At Today's Homeowner, transparency and trust are our most important values for the reader. That’s why we took the time to create an objective rating system and score each lawn company/service according to our methodology.
Our research team dug deep into the fine print of contracts, combed through more than one hundred customer reviews, and thoroughly investigated all of each lawn care service’s services, costs, and products. We’ve done the homework for you by researching nearly all of the lawn care companies on the market so you can have the information you need to make the best choice for your home.
We developed a formula to objectively determine the best lawn care companies and give each a score out of 100 based on the following criteria:
- Plan Options (30): Do they provide a variety of plan options? We looked at the number of plans each company offered and the flexibility of adjusting the plan.
- Services offered (20): How many services are offered in each plan? We looked at the number of lawn care coverages, including weed control, seeding, irrigation, aeration, dethatching, and more.
- Trust (10): What do customers say after their lawn has been serviced? Does this company offer a guarantee? We considered how satisfied customers are post-service if the company does what it says it will, BBB accreditation, and service guarantees.
- Prices (10): How reasonable are the costs of the plan or service in comparison to the industry average? We compared the costs of each company to competitors that offer the same lawn services.
- Unique perks (10): Does the company offer discounts or special services such as organic treatments, pest control, or a mobile app? We looked for perks each company offers that set them apart from the competition.
- Customer Service (10): How is the customer experience when contacting the company? We considered the speed of response, weekend/holiday availability, and ease of communication through phone calls, email, and online chat functions.
- Nationwide availability (10): How many states does the company offer its services? Companies that operate nationally and in all zip codes are favored over those with limited availability.