Featured Maintenance for September: Aerate and reseed your lawn

Labor Day generally marks the end of Summer and the beginning of Fall.  The first few weeks of September are a critical time for those of us who have cool season lawns with such grasses as Fescue, Bluegrass and Ryegrass.

In order to give your lawn a boost going in to the cooler months of the year, most experts recommend aerating and overseeding.

Aerating is the process of poking holes in the soil to allow air and water in while also loosening up compacted soil.  The most common form of aerating is done using a Core Aerator, which will lift out half-inch diameter plugs of dirt  A core aerator can be rented from most home centers for about $50 to $75 a day.

If possible, it helps to aerate after a rainfall when the soil is most and will come up easily.  However, you don’t want it too wet or else you just create a lot of mud in your yard.

Here’s how you aerate:

  1. Mow your lawn down to about 1 inch tall.
  2. Get an aerator.  Be warned that these machines are quite heavy, so you’ll need assistance loading and unloading from  your vehicle.  Many also have solid steel weights that attach to the machine to give it extra traction.  Do yourself a favor and take these out before trying to lift it into the back of a pickup.
  3. Plan for a severe forearm workout.  Aerators are not the most nimble of lawn machines, so plan for a battle.  Most are self propelled, so going in a straight line is no problem, but when it’s time to turn around and go back the other way, you’ll definitely exert some effort.
  4. Run the aerator across all areas of your lawn.  There’s no real need to overlap the passes, but be sure to get good coverage.  In areas that have more compacted soil, you may need to make an extra pass or two to get good penetration.

Once your lawn has been aerated, you’ll be ready to overseed.  The extracted cores will give a lot of soil in which the new seed can germinate.

Seeding an existing lawn will require less seed than establishing a new lawn.  A general rule of thumb is 1 to 2 pounds of seed for every 1,000 square feet of lawn.

You can spread seed by hand or with a broadcast or drop spreader.

After spreading the seed you can gently rake over the lawn to make sure there is good contact with the soil.  Then it’s time to water.

Newly laid grass seed needs to stay moist for about the first week until it germinates.  After that, you need 1 inch of water per week, and it’s best to do that in a couple applications.  Grass loves deep watering, so rather than a little bit every day, do a deep watering twice a week.

In a few weeks, as the temperature cools, you’ll find your lawn to be fuller, greener and ready to carry through the winter.

Other Notes:

  • if you have a warm-season lawn such as bermuda or zoysia, you can overseed with Annual Ryegrass in order to keep some green while the lawn goes dormant for the winter.
  • topdressing, or laying down new composted topsoil, is also helpful during overseeding.  You only need 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch of new soil after spreading seed to help add organic material to the soil.

Need helpful maintenance reminders?

Derek Smith

Derek is the co-founder of HomeSpot HQ, and uses it to manage the seemingly never-ending list of projects and maintenance tasks around his suburban home.