How to keep seed alive

We're in the sweet spot in terms of fall seed work. Aerating and Overseeding is one of our favorite fall activities. There is a reward to repairing, rejuvenating, or just bringing new life back to a lawn that has grown weary. Even nice healthy lawns benefit from overseeding and aerating services.

Recently, one customer reached out with a question. I think this question was brilliant and very relatable for other customers and potential clients in our area.

He wrote, "My concern on aerating and overseeding is that we don't have any practical way to water the entire backyard. Any thoughts on that? Can this process work ok if new seed waits for rain?"

There are a couple of ways to navigate this. I'm going to speak below through a lense of "Some seed is better than no seed."

In nature, grasses and plants naturally produce and reseed without a sprinkler system. While they absolutely do help, it isn't 100% necessary. Below is a food plot of Alfalfa planted in the fall two years ago. I certainly don't have a sprinkler system running over it, but it sure looks healthy!

Ultimately, when seeding, not every seed will root. Normally we spread 5lbs per 1000sq ft when overseeding an established lawn during the fall or spring. So, seed can be hedged. What I mean by hedged is an increase in the seeding rate. For dormant seeding, we increase the rate to 8lbs per 1000sq ft and on bare ground we apply seed at 10lbs per 1000sq ft.

In general we recommend keeping seed moist for 7-14 days after seeding. In normal conditions 10-14 days is about the time that germinate and new sprouts can be seen. Maybe a little longer if temps are cooler. From there, a few times a week or rains should take over. The key is once seed is watered, to keep it wet. If it were distributed and no moisture fell for a few days... that's ok as it hasn't been watered any. But again, once it does receive the first bit of moisture, then it is off to the races and needs to be kept wet.

On large properties(acreages) we have shifted to performing dormant seeding. This would be done post Thanksgiving and on into late winter. Timing a seeding prior to a snow or cold rain give the seed a chance to settle in place through the freeze/thaw cycles. The downside to this is that the seed would not germinate until spring. As a result, the first wave of pre-emergents would need to be delayed. If we use pre-emergents too early, it can prevent the good grass seed from germinating. Therefore, there can be a bit more of a challenge controlling some of the grassy weeds at the start of the season. Still, year over year, a thicker lawn will choke out weeds and is safer for the environment than leaning into herbicides to control the unwanted pests.

With most properties, we do think it is helpful to have aerating and overseeding services performed. If watering is a concern, there are ways to get around that. Without overseeding, where else will need seed come from to help repair and thicken your lawn?

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