When To Seed:
September in Michigan is usually the best time to repair a lawn, establish a new lawn, or simply fix minor damage and thinning. Except in shady areas, seeding can be done successful during the rest of the growing season for small repairs. However, seeding larger areas usually comes at a far greater cost, is more intense labor, and quite often does not yield the best possible results. Whereas in September, the weather is naturally beginning to cool, and rain is far more likely and in greater amounts during fall (September through November). Sprinkler systems are already up and running so you do not have to wait for that to be done. Pre-emergents will have dissipated and weeds should have been controlled properly so that they are not a concern. Fall fertilizer can help the seed take off without worry that weed controls will harm the immature grasses. Insects like grubs, crane flies, and web worm should also have been killed off/prevented so that they will not destroy the newly establishing areas. In spring it is also impossible to know which areas actually need repairing as summer grasses have not woken yet, root systems have not fully branched out and spread yet, and pockets of clay and sand naturally stay cooler so that even cool weather grasses may have a harder time waking. In these areas you may be trying to fill in/repair something that simply needs to come out of dormancy.
It is extremely important to note that for mostly shaded lawns fall is the ONLY time seeding is recommended. If you attempt it in spring, you will find that all the new grass will die between June and August as it will not reach full maturity before the trees fully leaf out and block the sunlight which is vital for new grass maturity.
Before beginning this project please call us for the proper seed blend to match your lawn. Though no one can match grass types and blends exactly, we can provide the closest match available with one of our own blends of Kentucky blue and Rye grasses. Unlike store bought or grain elevator supplied brands, our seed mixes contain no weeds, no cardboard filler (aka “water saver”) and no other invasive grass types like those found in the major store bought brands. Additionally, we can estimate the amount needed for best results and deliver it right to your doorstep within 2-3 business days.
When and Where To Use Grass Killers
In areas where invasive/unwanted grasses persist, dig out the areas completely or use grass killer to kill them off. If using a grass killer, treat the area as directed and apply 24-36” around it as well, to get all of the unwanted growth. If these areas were damaged by insects, the insects will need to be killed off first or they will destroy the new grass as well.
Grass killers can take up to 10-14 days to activate. DO NOT apply more than directed the first application, more is not better, and too much can leach into other areas of the lawn or poison the area for months. If the grass is still healthy at 12 days, reapply lightly and wait a few days. All of it should be dead/dying by then. Do not dig out the treated grass until it resembles straw or you will be leaving behind live grass tissue that will re-sprout very quickly.
Be sure not to walk through or water treated areas for 72 hours or it will track and leach into other areas.
Once dead grass has been removed, lightly spray the bare areas with grass killer (I recommend diluting the mixture by 50%) again to kill off leftover roots and rhizomes. Wait 3 days and then replace it with fresh clean topsoil.
If using any type of pesticidal grass killer, be sure to follow the directions and pay special attention to recommended safety/personal protection. There are some YouTube videos of vinegar and salt water mixes that work great without having to resort to glyphosates. Keep in mind that even vinegar and salt water should not be ingested and precautions should be used to protect yourself from skin, eye, and oral contact, as well as breathing in the vapors.
Small areas or small bare spots: For small areas, use Miracle-Gro Topsoil. Other cheap brands contain too much clay and weed/invasive grass seeds. Do not use “Lawn Soil”, garden soil, potting soil, peat moss, etc. as these contain all kinds of debris that are not conducive to growing grass. Topsoil needs to fill the bare area and be mounded 1-2” above the surrounding soil to ensure it levels off after settling.
For large areas and/or new lawn establishments: : Grass killer and/or pre/post emergent needs to be used to kill off unwanted weeds, grasses, and respective seeds. Wait 3 days to put down soil to ensure the weeds are dying.
For heavy clay-based soil lawns: Use 50/50 mix of topsoil/Michigan peat mix (NOT PEAT MOSS). This will provide proper drainage and an excellent seed bed with ample micronutrients for feeding new grass. I have found that Landscape Direct in Washington Twp and Orion Stone Depot in Lake Orion usually have excellent soils.
For sandy or normal soil-based lawns: Topsoil (cleaned and sifted) works great. DO NOT use fill-dirt under any circumstances. If possible inspect the topsoil before you buy it. This is especially helpful if you have to use a provider not listed above. “Topsoil” that has excessive rocks, is not black/very dark gray in color, or has other debris mixed in like sticks, bark, etc. is not topsoil. These are compost mixes or fill dirt and should never be used to establish turf grass.
How To Complete The Project And What To Expect
Level soil and then apply seed so that it covers soil completely (12-21#’s/1000’). Very lightly run a flat rake over the area so that about ½ of the seed is covered no more than ¼” deep.
(For sloped areas more than 10 degrees, do not rake in seed at all. Cover it with sterilized seed blankets. Be careful not to overlap them by more than a couple inches. Remove the blankets if grass folds over/is trapped underneath them after 3-5 weeks).
Water daily for 4-6 weeks in the morning between 5 and 10am for 10-20 minutes and again in the evening between 4 and 6 pm for 5-10 minutes. If water pools or soil is muddy still at 9pm, decrease watering times by 5 minutes. If the soil is completely dry at 9pm increase watering by 5 minutes.
During this time DO NOT mow, heavily fertilize or use any type of herbicides on the new area. Mowing, can begin after lawn is 5-6” high. Fertilizing and broad leaf weed control can begin after grass has reached 4” high or 5-6 weeks whichever is first. Light fertilizer at any-time will not harm it.
No matter the soil blend, expect ¼” rocks to surface after spreading it. This is normal as sifting cannot filter anything smaller than 1/3”. The small stones will not affect the seed and will sink over time.
Topsoil often contains unwanted weeds and grass types. If necessary, a liquid post emergent should be used between 6-8 weeks after seed is planted (or as soon as it is deemed able to handle a strong pesticide) to kill these off so they do not go to seed and/or spread.
Reseed any bare/sparse areas once the lawn has been cut. By 8 weeks the lawn should be 70-80% established and should fill in completely over a 2-3 month period. If this process is done in fall (highly recommended), full results should be seen by the end of May.
Please keep in mind that the best seed blends take longer to germinate than the cheap store bought blends that promise quick results. Kentucky blue grasses take 21-28 days before germination begins. Rye grasses take 10-21 days to germinate. This means that you will not see new grass sprouts until it has been down approximately 2-3 weeks and Kentucky blue will not sprout for 3-4 weeks.
Over-seeding is meant to fill in a thin lawn that has minor damage or is thin. It should be paired with an aeration for best results. Proper over-seeding should be applied at a rate of 3-4#/1000’. Weed controls, pre-emergent, and fertilizers should not affect the seed as the existing grass shields the new grasses from most harm and aerations break the pre-emergent barrier allowing for germination to take place. Cutting will not harm the new grass coming up if the proper cut height is maintained (3.5-4”). Cutting below this height will kill off new growth and severely damages even established turf. Watering normally or slightly more than normal should be fine for proper fill in to occur.
Contact us: If you have any questions or need further assistance please contact us at:
(This article is an original work authored by and proprietary to Scot Atyeo Jr., Owner of Greens Master Lawn and Pest Service LLC. Its use for any other purpose than those expressly stated herein, and/or distribution in part, or in its entirety, is not authorized without prior written consent by the author or his directed agent)