Aerating and Seeding
Aerating and Overseeding is a very popular and easy way to renovate an old
tired worn out lawn.  If you have a pretty good grade on your lawn now, meaning
that you can mow it without hurting your back while riding your mower or without
scalping the top off of high spots, then aerating and over seeding is the method
for you.  Quick and easy and most anyone can do this seeding method
themselves.

First you will need an aerator. The
coring type is best, don't use a spike type
aerator, they just press the soil down and out to the sides making a hole. It
actually makes compaction worse, the core aerator will pull a plug or core out of
the ground and deposit it on top of the ground leaving a hole in the ground
about 1/2" by 2 or 3" deep.  These cores help to loosen the soil so it is
beneficial to aerate a lawn by itself, even without seeding. The more traffic a
lawn gets the more it needs aerating. Soccer fields, football fields and other
high traffic fields will get aerated several times per year, just to relieve the
compaction. Topdressing a field or lawn at this time is helpful too. Topdressing
is spreading a thin layer of sand over the lawn after you aerate, followed by
dragging a drag of some type over the lawn to pull the sand into the holes and
bust up the cores left behind by the aerator. For most home owner type lawns
you can aerate once a year, fall is best, and your lawn will benefit from it. Twice
a year is ok too, just don't over do it. There is a point where your aerator is
tearing out the existing grass and doing more harm than good.  For aerating
and overseeding you will need to really work the ground good though, so
different methods of aerating for what you are doing, seeding, or just aerating.

After you have gotten the aerator, rented or bought one, you can click the link to
Amazon.com below, they have a good core aerator for less than $200.00, mow
your grass very low. Normally you don't want to scalp your lawn, but now is the
exception.  We want to stunt the grass and slow down it's growth so the existing
grass won't be competing with the new seedlings too much for the first 2 or 3
weeks. You won't be mowing the grass for that period so you don't want the
grass to be 6" tall and shading out the new seedlings. After mowing the grass
close, if there is an abundance of clippings you should rake them up or to make
it easier if you have a grass catcher on your mower you could just use it to start
with. You don't want the grass clippings to be piled up in places, it will choke
out the grass.  

Now with the lawn nice and clean run your aerator over the lawn several times.
Some aerators will plug a pattern 4" X 6" some closer, some farther. You want
to aerate enough so that when your done aerating you can look down and the
lawn and not see any spot that doesn't have holes very close together.  Every
place there is an aerator hole, there will be new grass come up. The seeds are
going to fall into these aerator holes and germinate very fast. Grass will come
up later in between the aerator holes, but the holes come first. When your
certain you have aerated enough that it looks like little plugs and holes are
everywhere, your ready to seed.

Seeding Fescue or other Cool Season grasses should be done in Mar.15 -
Apr.15 in Spring, or best done in Fall from Sep.15 - Oct.15. Warm season
grasses like Bermuda or Zoysia are best seeded during warmer weather,
may15 - jul15, can be later but these are best dates.

Fescue seed should be seeded at a rate of 6 to 8 # per thousand square feet.
Again, you should have already measured your lawn to know how large it is,
everything you do to your lawn maintenance wise depends on how large the
lawn is. This you will need to know over and over.  So if you have a 10,000 sq. ft.
lawn you will need 60 to 80 # of seed. My method is to just buy in 50#
increments and use all of the bag beyond what my measurements say I need.
So since I am going to need 60 - 80# of seed for this 10,000 sq. ft. lawn, I am
going to use 100#.  Most of the time you can't put down too much seed. There is
a point of common sense though, using 300# in this case is a waste, the grass
will just be too thick and the seedlings compete with each other and don't do as
well as if you use the proper amount.  Spread the required amount of seed
down using a broadcast spreader. It is best to make two passes with the seed
at opposite directions to be sure you get even coverage with no bare spots. Set
your spreader on a medium setting and walk the lawn until you cover all the
lawn and use the seed up. Don't stop spreading just because you have walked
the lawn over and spread seed on all of it, use
all the seed.
After you have spread the seed, spread a starter fertilizer. Starter fertilizers are
called such because they help the new grass to
start, makes sense ?  The
name comes from the fact that starter fertilizers will have a higher middle
number on the analysis like 6- 24-6 or 6- 12-12 the first number is Nitrogen,
second is Phosphate, last is Potash.  The last number is helpful too, the first
number Nitrogen is not needed as much during establishment, but later when
your trying to push the grass to grow and  get green color. The Phosphate in
starter fertilizer encourages the grass seed to germinate and get growing.  After
the new grass is about a month old you will need to fertilize again with another
fertilizer that has a higher Nitrogen like 15-15-15.  The amount you will use is
usually going to be 1 to 2 # of nutrient you are trying to put down. In seeding we
are after Phosphate so a 6-12-12 fertilizer we would divide 100 by 12 = 8.33
pounds of fertilizer per thousand square feet of lawn area. 100 because we are
after 0ne pound of nutrient, or 100%, the numbers on the fertilizer bag represent
what percentage of the bag is that nutrient. 6% nitrogen, 12% phosphate, and
12% Potash.  Now for our 10,000 sq. ft. lawn, we will need 8.33 X 10 or 83
pounds of fertilizer, again just get 100# and use it all.  

After the fertilizer is down take a drag of some sort and drag behind your mower
to bust up all the cores left behind by the aerator, it will also pull seed and
fertilizer into the holes and cover them up with soil.
Perfect conditions for
germination!
We use a section of chain link fence with a board nailed to the
back of it to weight it down a little. A board would work, I have even seen people
use a set of bed springs. If you have a very small lawn you can just take a leaf
rake and rake over the whole lawn.  This is a very important step! Dragging the
lawn will increase your germination rate a great deal. Dragging the seed into
the holes and busting up the plugs will cover the seed which is one of the three
primary things you must have for seed germination.  Seed to soil contact,
Moisture, and the correct temperatures for your seed type, is what is required
for seed germination. Cool season grasses will need around 3 consecutive
days of soil temps in the 55 degree range to germinate.  Warm season
grasses will require around 85 degrees soil temps for a week or more. If you
have any  spots that are completely bare from no grass or you aerated them
until you made it just dirt, spread some straw on these spots. You don't have to
spread straw on the areas where there is still grass, the grass will do the same
thing the straw does which is retain moisture and keep the seed from washing
away.
Warm Season Grasses
Aerating and seeding warm season grasses is just the same as seeding cool
season grass only the time of year is different. They are called
warm season
grasses because they grow best during the warmest time of the year. In our
area of Tennessee, being Paris, Tn. we seed Bermuda from May until Jul. This
is optimum timing, doesn't mean you can't do it in Aug. it just means the earlier
you get the seed in the ground the faster the grass can develop a root system.
The key to survival is a deep root system, the deeper the roots the better it will
survive a dry period. The summer of 07 in our area was the driest, worst
summer on record back 120 years, people in southern Tennessee and
Alabama, Georgia even had it worse. So there is a lot of reseeding going on
around here now. Follow all the directions above for seeding Cool season
grasses if your doing Warm Season and your results will be the same.

The last thing on your Aerating and overseeding list is to
water, water, water,
and water some more.
Just as soon as you get done with your spreading
straw and seed, fertilizer, etc. get out the sprinklers and start watering.
Remember that seed will not germinate if it doesn't get wet and stay wet. Water
the first time until the ground is muddy, water puddled up, etc.  After this initial
watering you will need to water as much as it takes to keep the ground moist. It
doesn't have to stay muddy, just wet. If it is hot and dry outside you will need to
water every day, if it is fall and cloudy and raining every few days you may not
need to water at all, use common sense and keep the ground wet.
No water, no
grass!
By now you have spent a lot of money and time on this project, the
results of it will be determined by how much you keep it watered. Water until the
grass is around 3" tall, at this time you will mow it for the first time.  Stop
watering for a day or so to let the grass dry out, and mow the grass with a sharp
blade, set your mower up high, 3 or 4". All you want to do is cut the top off of the
existing grass to cut it down and let some more light in on the new grass which
will only be about 1 or 2" tall. DON"T cut the grass below 3", you will pull up and
kill the new seedlings. After you have mowed, go back to watering for another
week or so until the grass has completely filled in. Then set up a watering
schedule for Maintenance instead of Establishing grass. Refer to our page on
Irrigation for more watering instructions.
Watering Instructions
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