The Scotts Way
How to Reseed a Lawn
When your “lawn” is really just a collection of weeds and bare spots, it’s time to take action.
You’re walking down your block, enjoying the smooth carpet of lawns, all looking like they could double as fairways at a country club. You turn to look at your own struggling yard full of used-to-be green and aren’t surprised to see a lawn service guy attaching a pamphlet to your mailbox. After all, your grass is clearly fighting a losing battle, with weeds and bare spots ready to claim victory. At this point, there’s only one way to reclaim your lawn: Hit reset and reseed it.
When You Should Reseed Your Lawn
When the weeds far outnumber the grass blades in your lawn, it’s time to take action. A little clarification first: Reseeding is different from overseeding, which is when your lawn is thin with a few spots that need to be filled in, but is still mostly grass. With overseeding, you simply thicken up and improve the lawn you already have. With reseeding, you’re looking at a total do-over by going back to bare dirt and planting new seed.
Don’t worry—it’s not hard! Just follow these simple steps for reseeding your lawn.
How to Reseed Your Lawn
1. Kill existing grass and weeds
The easiest and fastest way to do this is to use a weed killer such as Ortho® GroundClear® Super Weed & Grass Killer, making sure to follow all package instructions carefully. Put on protective clothing, apply it on a dry, wind-free day, and wait the recommended amount of time before planting new seed.
Got time to spare? If so, another option is to harness the power of the summer sun. Mow the grass as low as you can, soak it with a sprinkler, then cover it completely with clear plastic sheeting. Overlap the edges so grass can’t grow up in between the rows. Hold the plastic down with bricks or heavy stones, then sit back and let the sun do its work. The heat and moisture will destroy your existing “lawn” in about 6 to 8 weeks, leaving the soil ready for reseeding.
You can avoid all the plastic by covering your lawn with 7 to 10 layers of overlapping newspaper, instead. Wet it down, then cover that with 5 to 7 inches of mulch, grass clippings, or compost. (Try not to walk on it.) Without access to sunlight, the grass and weeds will wither and die, and in about 6 to 8 weeks, your soil will be ready for its makeover. Bonus: As the newspaper and other materials decompose, they’ll add valuable nutrients to the soil.
3. Prep the soil for reseeding
Once the old grass and weeds are gone and it’s safe to lay down new seed (check the label if you used weed killer in the first step), it’s time to prep the soil.
Remove any large debris, then use a garden rake to level the ground and break up any large clumps of dirt. (If you’ve got a big yard, you may want to borrow extra rakes from the neighbors and get the whole family to join in.) If the area is covered with mulch or compost, lightly work it into the top couple of inches of soil.
If your soil is compacted, you may also want to aerate it at this point. (Find out how by reading our How to Aerate & Dethatch Your Lawn article.) After aerating, rake the area level and loosen the top ¼ inch of soil. As a final step, spread a 1-inch layer of Scotts® Turf Builder® LawnSoil™ evenly across the entire lawn. It’s specifically formulated with a blend of rich, composted materials to provide an excellent growing environment for young seedlings, and also makes it easier for them to sink their roots in.
4. Spread the grass seed
It’s seeding time! Just fill up your Scotts® spreader with grass seed, adjust the spreader settings according to the label directions—use the “New Lawn” coverage rate—and apply. The Scotts® Whirl™ Hand-Powered Spreader is an extremely easy-to-use choice for small lawns (it holds enough seed to cover 1500 square feet), while the Scotts® Turf Builder® Edgeguard® DLX Broadcast Spreader brings exceptional precision when you’re applying seed to larger lawns (up to 15,000 square feet). For really big lawns (up to 20,000 square feet), the Scotts® Elite Spreader, with its 6-foot spread pattern, will help you get the job done quickly.
5. Fertilize right away
After you’ve spread your grass seed, apply Scotts® Turf Builder® Starter® Food for New Grass to deliver much-needed nutrients to your lawn’s young root system. If you just laid down Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, fine fescue, perennial ryegrass, or centipede grass, opt instead for Scotts® Turf Builder® Triple Action Built For Seeding. This will jumpstart seed development and protect the grass (AKA, your hard work) from high heat while keeping any weed seeds from sprouting. At this point, you may also want to place small stakes at the corners of your lot and run string around them as a reminder not to walk on the new seed.
6. Water daily
This is important! It’s critical that you don’t let your newly seeded lawn dry out, so keep the ground evenly moist until the seedlings reach at least 2 inches tall.
7. Give your new lawn continued TLC
Once your new lawn reaches mowing height, go ahead and cut it at the highest setting ideal for your grass type (find out more by reading Lawn Mowing Tips & Tricks). Remember, only remove the top 1/3 of the grass blades. After the first mowing, cut back on watering to twice a week, applying about ½ inch of water each time. Six to eight weeks after planting, you can start fertilizing your new grass regularly with Scotts® Turf Builder® Lawn Food to keep it thick and green.
Now, the next time the lawn guy comes to your neighborhood, you can rest easy knowing your mailbox will be flyer-free. The best part? You did it yourself!