The Basics of Lawn Care: Aerating, Overseeding, and Fertilizing

On Page Seeding

Like many people across the country, Mr. Roy wondered how to reclaim his thin, bare lawn after an especially harsh winter, so he sought the advice of Spring-Green’s authority on lawn care, Harold Enger. Read below to see how you, too, can thicken up your grass and get your lawn back.

Question:

“My lawn is very thin and has some bare spots after this hard winter. What do I do to thicken up my lawn and fill in the bare spots?”

Mr. Roy, thank you for sending in your question. I would not be doing my job if I didn’t tell you that you should contact Spring-Green and request a lawn evaluation. You can visit our website at www.spring-green.com or call (815) 436-8350. If you prefer to attempt to do the work yourself, here’s what I suggest:

Step 1: Core Aerate

Rent a core aeration machine from your local hardware store or rental center. This machine travels across the lawn, removing plugs of soil and thatch and leaving them on the lawn. This opens up the lawn to allow more air, water and nutrients to penetrate the soil, and it also helps to build the root system. The cores or plugs that are left will dissolve back into the lawn with rain or normal irrigation.

Step 2: Plant Grass Seed

Following core aeration, you’ll have a good site for seed germination. I usually recommend seeding cool season grasses in late August to early September, but if your lawn is thin, then you may want to consider seeding this spring. There are a few considerations that you have to keep in mind. First, you cannot apply a crabgrass preventer as this product will keep your grass seed from germinating as well. Second, you cannot apply a broadleaf weed control for dandelions, clover or other broadleaf weeds until the new seed has germinated and has been mowed three or four times. Light, frequent watering is the best for new seed. If you plan to seed your entire lawn, you may be disappointed with the results if it cannot be watered. I recommend a blend of 70% Perennial Ryegrass to 30% Bluegrass. Most hardware stores carry seed, and this is one area where you don’t want to look for the cheapest price. Buy good, quality seed.

Step 3: Fertilize Your Lawn

Applying fertilizer will help thicken up the lawn by stimulating new growth. As with grass seed, get a good quality fertilizer. Although there are regulations in Illinois that prohibit the use of fertilizer that contains phosphorus (the middle number on the fertilizer analysis) you are allowed to use it after seeding. If possible, use a fertilizer with an analysis of 14-14-14. Read the label that comes with the bag to ensure you are not over-applying the product.

Conclusion

In addition to following the above order, you want to follow good cultural practices, too. Mow at 2.5 – 3 inches in length, leave the clippings on the lawn after mowing and do your best to supply 1 inch of water to your lawn at least once every other week. In my experience, I usually try to talk customers out of seeding in the spring so that the weeds can be kept in check throughout the spring and summer, then, it makes sense to aerate and overseed in the fall. The fertilizer you apply now and throughout the summer will help to thicken the lawn and get it in better shape for the fall. Or, as I said earlier, contact Spring-Green and let us do the work for you!