Every Fall I seem to have the same problem; I’m enjoying an unseasonable warm October, getting my last swim in, enjoying mild nights on the patio, and just generally thinking no place can be better than Fall in New England. Just as I’m about to lay down some grass seed to fill in some lawn that has been worn away by summer foot traffic, we get an early and unexpected New England snow storm. I then curse the forecasters, wonder why I live in a place where it snows before Halloween (!?!), put away my mower and get out the shovel. The bare spots will have to wait for a good Spring grass seeding.
So, while most lawn experts agree the best time to plant grass seed is in the Fall, Spring also offers a great opportunity to make improvements. In my opinion, Spring may actually be more convenient because it’s not quite warm enough to start using the lawn and I can incorporate seeding into my other Spring clean-up activities. To ensure success, we’ve put together some guidelines for getting the most out of your spring grass seeding efforts.
Spring Seeding of Bare Patches in Your Lawn
- Figure out what type of grass you have – you can take a chance on a sun/shade mix for your region, but if you really aren’t sure or think you have a special type of grass, you can bring in a picture of your lawn to your local garden center and ask a lawn specialist what you should buy
- Remove any weeds that have invaded your bare spot
- Rough up the spot with a steel rake or cultivator
- Aerate the spot — this simply means poking little holes, about 1-inch deep every few inches into the lawn. Aerating helps loosen compacted soil and improves drainage
- Consider adding a thin layer of compost – not a requirement, but if your soil is bumpy from worm castings or compacted from foot traffic, the compost can help smooth out the surface and provide a fertile bed for the grass seed
- Spread some starter fertilizer - starter fertilizer is designed to provide food for your grass seedlings. Many starter fertilizers also contain crabgrass prevention as an added bonus
- Spread your seed – follow the directions on the seed mix package to determine how thickly to sow the seed
- Cover your seeds lightly with screened compost, straw* or a seed cover product like Seed Aide Mulch — by covering your seed you are helping the seed stay moist, which means less watering and faster germination.
- Water, water, water! – Water at least once daily to ensure the seeds remain moist. Once the seeds have sprouted, you can water twice a week until the grass is established. You may also want to consider using a product like H3O to reduce your watering needs. One of the biggest reasons grass reseeding fails is due to failing to water sufficiently. Surfactant products like H3O are a little bit of insurance against under-watering
- Fertilize and mow — three weeks after installation, apply another dose of your starter fertilizer. When the grass has reached 2-3 inches, it is now safe to mow. Try to keep kids and pets and general foot traffic off the reseeded spots for at least a month!
So don’t let that bare spot get bigger or fill with weeds. Get out there before it’s Fall again and another unexpected snow storm foils your grass seeding plans.
*When using straw as a seed cover, be careful to select weed-free types such as oat, barley, and wheat straw or aged pine straw.