Do you have a love/hate relationship with your lawn? Right now our front yard looks great, but rewind a few years and it was a completely different story. The sod that our home builder had put down was hard to maintain and died so easily.
In 2016 my mum and I went away for a few weeks and Chris decided to completely reseed our front lawn. Want to know how he did it? Well, you’re in luck – he wrote his first blog post and outlined his entire process!
Enjoy! xo Casey
How I reseeded with grass and microclover
The process of reseeding our lawn was pretty straight forward, it just took a bit of time and a lot of raking. Our lawn had died from lack of water and I was dealing with a dirt patch. There was nothing left but weeds. But the same steps apply if there is still some grass left.
Aim to reseed your lawn in late summer/early fall (August/September) when temperatures drop and you have reliable rain (hopefully). I reseeded our lawn in September 2016 and after 3 years it still looks great.
The first step was to decide what type of seed to use. I knew I wanted to change the type of grass because it died. Previously we had a cool-season grass and I knew I wanted a warm-season grass, which has thicker blades and is more drought-tolerant. I also wanted to add clover for drought resistance and nitrogen-fixing.
I shopped around to see what was sold in the area and was advertised as drought tolerant and made a spreadsheet. Because most grass seeds are a mixture of different varieties, it’s good to know what you’re getting. My spreadsheet included the name of the mix, the stores that carry it and the grass included. I flagged any mixes that included grasses I did not want or included anything that would not mix well with the clover. In the end, I decided on ProMix All Conditions Grass Seed (Canada Only) which contains Kentucky Bluegrass, Creeping Red Fescue, Annual Rye Grass, and Perennial Rye Grass.
Then it was just a matter of estimating how much I would need (the coverage details should be on the bag), and waiting for a sale.
I bought the microclover online from OSC Seeds and, because I was mixing it with grass seed, only needed one 125g bag.
When I had all my supplies and was ready to start reseeding it was time to rake.
Next, rake. And then rake some more.
I spent hours raking. And killing the weeds there were spreading because they no longer had to compete with the grass.
Raking removes the dead grass, exposes dirt, and softens the ground so it’s easier for the grass seed to germinate. I used a garden rake and a metal leaf rake. Everything was dead so it didn’t matter, but if you are adding seed to a lawn that still has living grass just use a leaf rake (maybe a plastic one at that).
I can’t stress so much raking there was. Over multiple days. I really disturbed the duff layer (where the grass grows up from, and the roots down from), it was coming up in chunks because it was all dead. Most of that I just left figuring it would eventually become nutrition. I don’t think there were any negative side effects from it.
At one point our 3-year-old neighbour asked his dad what I was doing and our neighbour told him I was now a dirt farmer. You will be a dirt farmer too.
After I was finished all that raking, it’s was time to add soil.
For our area (about 130 sq. m. or 1,400 sq. ft.) it worked out to about 25 or 30 bags of soil. Most of the soil I used was a special lawn soil with fertilizer added but a few other bags were thrown in if they were on a great sale.
It was a lot of soil. I thought it was important because the topsoil we had was pretty thin and compacted. I wanted to give a better chance to the grass seed. The soil did a pretty good job of levelling out with more raking. The big pieces of the dead sod took a bit of work to level out but it was fine.
With existing living lawns, adding soil would still be important, but you probably would not need nearly as much.
The same day I put down the soil I also spread the seed.
Because this was a small area I just used a hand spreader, giving extra attention to the sides. If you have a large area to cover you might be able to rent a large seed spreader from your local hardware store.
Mixing by weight, I added in 5% of the microclover seed to my lawn seed mixture.
Then water. Everything.
Later in the evening, I rolled the seed using a drum roller I rented from the hardware store. You just fill it partially with water and roll over the seeds. Apparently grass seed is more likely to germinate if it has been pressed into the soil.
Time for more watering. When I did our lawn the temperature went back up the day after I put the seed down which meant I was watering in the morning, in the afternoon when I got home from work, then again in the late evening. Every day. For about two and a half weeks.
Water. Water. Water.
I just went over everything with a hand-held spray nozzle attached to our hose, not a sprinkler.
After about two weeks the blades started to show. Another two weeks or so and the clover could be seen. This photo was taken less than one month after I reseeded:
The grass was very patchy, to begin with, but by the following spring it had filled in. I used a special fertilizer for a newly seeded lawn the following fall (about one year after seeding). We didn’t do any aeration, I wanted to give the grass a full growing season before it went through that stress.
For the first full growing season, I was still watering a lot as I wanted the grass to grow a strong and deep root system. But now I am watering much less and our lawn looks great.
The clover won’t last forever. After four or five years I expect I will have to reseed again. But I would just spread it after light raking without adding soil. If you’re interested in learning more about microclover in lawns check out this article from the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State.