Doing your own seeding isn’t difficult, it’s just time consuming! The absolute best time to seed a bare area or overseed existing fescue is mid-September to mid-October. We would advise September, because you never know what kind of weather you’ll get into later than that. You can seed in the spring, but results won’t be as good. Fescue is a cool season grass and its growing season starts in the fall. Most of our service area (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee) is in a transition zone where it technically gets too hot for fescue. If you seed in the spring, DO NOT apply pre-emergents to those areas, or your seed won’t germinate. If you have a lawn care company, you must tell them that you are going to seed, no matter when you’re doing it.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Approximate square footage of the area to be seeded (length multiplied by width will give you the sq ft of the area.)
- GOOD grass seed (label will advise how much you’ll need per/1000 square feet)
- Mechanical aerator or slit seeding machine – you can rent one at most equipment rental stores – OR something like a Garden Weasel if you have just a very small area (or if you like physical work and sweating and have lots of time)
- A spreader – a small hand-held one is fine.
- Watering capability and the time to do it (required even if someone else does the seeding)
STEP BY STEP
- Call your lawn care company (if you have one) and advise them you are going to seed. If you are seeding late, be sure they haven’t applied a pre-emergent recently to the areas you plan to seed. If they have, don’t waste your time.
- Pick a day you’re going to do it and rent an aerator machine in advance for that day. Most rental companies carry aerators and some may have slit seeding machines. Either will work. You must use a machine (or a Garden Weasel for small areas) in order to incorporate the seed into the soil. Just throwing the seed out there will yield very poor results.
- Water the areas to be seeded several days before you seed. Water heavily and deeply, so that running the aerator will be easier – you want to be able to easily push a screwdriver into the soil. But do it in advance, so you aren’t dealing with mud.
- Buy your grass seed. There are many different varieties of fescue on the market. We believe a blend is best, because different grasses have different resistance to different things. For example, you may get a blend of 3 different fescue grasses, one resistant to disease, one resistant to insects, maybe one more drought resistant than the others. Rather than recommend a certain type, we feel you should check with your local sod producers and ask them what to plant. Sod stores know what types grow best in your area, because that’s what they do for a living. If you go to a large chain store, there will be all sorts of varieties and you won’t know what to choose. Read the label for the amount of seed to use. Generally, you’ll need 6-8 lbs per 1000 sq ft for bare areas or 4-6 lbs per 1000 sq ft if you’re overseeding existing fescue areas. Also read the “ingredient” label. Some may list a percentage of weed seeds, and you don’t want weeds! We don’t recommend seeding rye blends.
- Mow your existing fescue fairly short. You won’t be able to mow again until your seed has germinated. If you are going to seed bare areas, save some grass clippings (see step #8.)
- Run the aerator over the area to be seeded. If you’re using a Garden Weasel, run all over the area to be seeded.
- Using your spreader, spread the seed evenly. Walk in a north-south direction and also an east-west direction to get best coverage, especially if you're using a drop spreader as opposed to a rotary spreader.
- If seeded areas are bare, you might want to spread a light cover of grass clippings over them so that seeds don’t blow away.
- Water – Please keep your newly-seeded areas moist for 3 weeks. Water lightly (5-10 minutes) at least once per day, up to 3 times per day. If it’s windy and/or still warm, it will dry out more quickly. If the seed dries out, it will not germinate. If newly-germinated seedlings don’t get water, they will die quickly. After mowing, you may return to a normal watering schedule.
- Germination – Seed should begin to germinate in about 7-10 days. All of the seed will not germinate at once. Maximum germination will not occur until mid-February of next year.
- Keep the leaves off – Fescue must have sunlight to do well next year. When the leaves are off the trees in the winter, fescue is busy using sunlight to build carbohydrate reserves (by photosynthesis) to get through the hot summer coming up. Please keep leaves off of the seeded areas (and all fescue areas,) before germination and after. A blower is best for this until the seed is up and it’s been mowed a few times. Please do not use a rake on new seedlings. With all the watering, they will just come out of the soil.
- Keep traffic off – Please keep heavy traffic off your newly-seeded areas. If dogs and children are present, you may want to rope off the area until it is established.
- Mowing – When your new grass is about 2 to 2 ½ inches tall, it’s okay to mow. Be careful, so the wheels aren’t gouging in when you turn. You might want to bag the clippings to more easily keep the leaves off.
- Apply a light fertilizer, high in phosphorus, after your fescue is up and mowed.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call and speak with one of our managers or email us.