University of Maryland Extension

FAQ's - Lawn - Overseeding and Renovation – Fall

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I really want to improve the quality of my lawn this fall. I have been doing some reading up on the subject and I have a question. What is the difference between lawn renovation and overseeding?

My lawn was overrun by crabgrass this summer. What can I do now so that it does not invade next year?

How much sun does grass need to grow?

We have a fairly large area of our yard where the grass needs to be replaced. My husband wants to seed but we have children that play outdoors and I thought sod would be faster. So the question is should we seed or sod?

I am going to buy some grass seed this weekend. The last time I bought seed it was a mixture of tall fescue and perennial rye. I see on your website that perennial rye should not be planted. What should I be looking for?

I really want to improve the quality of my lawn this fall. I have been doing some reading up on the subject and I have a question. What is the difference between lawn renovation and overseeding?

Lawn renovation is the process of improving a poor quality lawn. Overseeding is one lawn renovation method. Overseeding improves the over-all appearance of a grass stand and helps to fill in a thin lawn. Sometimes it is necessary to do total lawn renovation especially if your lawn has been invaded by a perennial grass weed like bermudagrass or is more than 40-50% weeds. The process begins by killing off the existing vegetation and then reseeding. This can be a large endeavor, so take the time to evaluate your lawn before you begin your project.

My lawn was overrun by crabgrass this summer. What can I do now so that it does not invade next year?

Crabgrass is one of the worst turf weeds in Maryland. It is best controlled by applying a crabgrass preemergent herbicide in early spring. If crabgrass pressure is heavy, a second application may be necessary 6 weeks after the first. Make sure you are applying a product that does not contain fertilizer.  Treating young crabgrass after it has emerged is possible if you use an herbicide labeled for crabgrass control. Once it matures and becomes larger herbicides are not effective.  Overseed now to increase the thickness of your lawn. Begin by setting your mower at the lowest setting and mow the lawn.  Then either use a core aerator or vertical mower so that the grass seed reaches the soil. Keep the seed bed moist and mow when the new grass gets 4 inches tall.

How much sun does grass need to grow?

Turf type tall fescue is the recommended grass species for Maryland and it needs about four hours of direct sunlight for proper growth. For shadier areas you can sow a fine fescue (e.g., creeping red, hard or sheep fescue) or a mixture of tall fescue and hard and sheep fescues. Fine fescues can grow in less sun but it does not handle foot traffic well. It is a very low maintenance grass and requires only one application of fertilizer in the fall. Mowing it during the hot, dry part of the summer is not advisable. This is not a type of grass for a manicured lawn but it does look attractive in a low maintenance areas.

We have a fairly large area of our yard where the grass needs to be replaced. My husband wants to seed but we have children that play outdoors and I thought sod would be faster. So the question is should we seed or sod?

The biggest advantage of sod is that the lawn will become established faster. Although, foot traffic will still have to be restricted until the lawn becomes fully established. Sod is much more expensive and you do not have a choice as to which grass seed cultivars you plant. However, you do have a longer window of opportunity to lay sod. The timing for sowing grass seed is pretty specific, late summer through early fall. If you choose sod you should purchase Maryland certified sod,(PDF) http://mda.maryland.gov/plants-pests/Documents/certified_sod.pdf

I am going to buy some grass seed this weekend. The last time I bought seed it was a mixture of tall fescue and perennial rye. I see on your website that perennial rye should not be planted. What should I be looking for?

We advise homeowners to purchase a blend of turf type tall fescue seed. For a list of recommended cultivars see the following publication,(PDF) TT 77. For full sun areas you can also choose a mixture of tall fescue and about 10% Kentucky bluegrass. We advise against planting perennial rye because it has disease problems and performs poorly in Maryland.

Please send us a question at Ask the Experts if you have a lawn question you would like answered. Digitial photos can be attached to your question.

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