Fall is our favorite time to seed lawns. The ideal seeding window is from mid-August to mid-September. Whether you’re overseeding or starting fresh, the cooler, more consistent temperatures will make tending to young grass seedlings much easier. Our seed mixes have been selected specifically for southeastern Nebraska, and they’re updated yearly to include the most disease-resistant, drought tolerant, hardy grasses available on the market. Sod is also available seasonally at our 40th street store. We’ve put together this beginner’s guide to seeding lawns, if you have questions give us a call or stop by one of our garden centers to talk with one of our turf grass experts!
Start by preparing the soil, this is an important step for the long-term health of your lawn. Aerating or power raking existing lawns should be done shortly before overseeding. Aerating can be done in the fall to loosen soil compaction, and improve water, air, and nutrient movement through the soil. Power raking can be hard on the turf and soil, so only use this method with heavy thatch that has built up to more than half an inch.
If you’re starting over and have applied RoundUp, wait 10-14 days before seeding. When you’re ready to seed, use a steel rake to loosen the top layer of soil. Densely compacted soil (like soil found in newly constructed developments) may need to be rototilled. If the soil is poor, consider mixing compost in with the top layer of soil.
Match the seed to your site needs. Monitor sun and traffic levels, and decide how much maintenance you’re willing to put into your lawn. Turf fescue is the most popular seed choice in our stores. It fits a wide range of environments and withstands short periods of drought well. It can handle traffic and varying levels of shade, depending on the varieties in the blend. It also germinates quickly, usually within a week. Bluegrass has the best winter tolerance for our area, but can be susceptible to diseases. These cool season grasses can go dormant in the summer with long periods of drought. Perennial ryegrass is used as a quick groundcover, but dies after a few years. It is a good choice for mixing in with bluegrass, keeping weeds down until your bluegrass stand is healthy (our Campbell’s Supreme selection is already mixed for you!). Cody Buffalograss is a warm season native with low maintenance and water needs, but has a long winter dormant period so it greens up later than other varieties and goes dormant earlier. Stop in and talk to one of our turf experts if you need help deciding which grass fits your needs.
Consider the timing for the type of seed you selected. Turf fescue should be spread early, between mid-August and early to mid-September. Bluegrass can be seeded a little later in September. Buffalograss is best seeded in the spring to give it plenty of time to root in before its early dormancy.
Remember that with seed, you get what you pay for. Cheap seed often uses less hardy grasses and contains fillers that detract from the look of your lawn. Our grass seed blends evolve with new breeding. We’re constantly upgrading to the most disease and drought resistant varieties available that can blend into your lawn and replace older varieties that die off from these stresses.
Start by spreading a seed starting fertilizer. Doing this first will prevent the wheels of the spreader from picking up freshly laid seed, which results in spotty seed coverage. If you are using a seed covering that contains fertilizer, you can skip this step. While soil is loose, fill your spreader with half the amount of seed needed for your area. Walk in parallel lines across your lawn to spread the seed. If you started walking north-south, then walk east-west with the second half of the seed to criss-cross your lawn for the most even coverage. Cover the seed to help hold the seed in place and conserve moisture. Straw is a good choice, but make sure you aren’t using hay, which contains weed seeds. We like to use Greenview Grass Seed Accelerator, which consists of pellets that expand with stores of water. The pellets contain a seed starting fertilizer, so you don’t need to spread the initial application of fertilizer separately.
Grass seed needs light to germinate, so seed will sit shallowly on the soil. It needs to be kept moist during germination, which can take between 5 and 21 days depending on the type of seed used and the temperature. This can be difficult when our August and September days are hot and windy. Covering the seed will make a big difference in the amount of water needed to keep germinating seedlings moist. Plan on watering two to four times each day for the first couple of weeks to keep the top layer of soil moist. Sprinkle lightly for a few minutes each time.
As the grass begins to come up, slowly start backing off on the frequency of waterings, but water a little deeper to encourage root growth.
Start to mow the grass when it reaches three or four inches. Mowing a couple of times before winter will help harden off the grass. Give it an extra boost for spring by fertilizing in late October or early November.