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Overseeding or Reseeding a Lawn

If you have bare spots or thin areas on your lawn—which you likely will—you can overused those areas with the correct type of grass to thicken them.

Grass seed  Photo: Canada Green

Grass Seed      Photo: Canada Green

Check with your County Cooperative Extension agent or your local garden center if you don’t know what type of grass you have. If appropriate, try some of the improved varieties that don’t need as much fertilizer and are naturally disease-resistant. Some types don’t even grow as fast.

In the North, the best time to overseed is in late summer and early fall, although you may also try this in early spring. Starting then gives the young grass plants a better chance to germinate, establish strong roots, and store food needed for a head-start in the spring. In the South, the recommended time to overseed is spring or early summer.

Before you begin, choose the seed that’s best for you, and consult with your nursery person about the correct amount for your site. Be sure to select one of the new varieties bred to withstand the stresses your lawn faces.

Handheld seed spread broadcasts seeds in a consistent pattern. Photo: Scotts

Handheld seed spread broadcasts seeds in a consistent pattern. Photo: Scotts

You have several tool options for spreading seed evenly and at the recommended rate. They include your own hands, handheld and walk-behind spreaders, and slit seeders, which are power machines that cut shallow slits in the soil and sow seed at the same time. Available to rent, slit seeders are the preferred tool, especially if you were not able to remove all thatch prior to overseeding.

If you will be spreading seed by hand or with a spreader, first use a thatching rake to roughen the exposed soil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Set the spreader to deliver the specific type of seed you have purchased. If you were not able to remove all thatch, sow a little extra seed. Similarly, the higher the percentage of weeds in your lawn, the more seed you should sow.

For sowing grass seed, the recommended approach is to apply seed to the edges of the area you are sowing first. Then divide your seed and apply half while walking in one direction, the other half while walking in a perpendicular direction. Spread extra seed on bare areas, lightly cover the seed with a mixture of compost and topsoil, and then spread more seed on top.

Finally, follow up by rolling all seeded areas with a water-weighted roller (available at a tool rental supply) that is one-third full to press the seed into the soil. This will help prevent the seed from drying out and consequently improve germination rates.

If you have a lawn with grass that spreads by stolons (aboveground runners), such as Bermuda grass, St. Augustine, zoysia, or buffalo grass, you may introduce new grass plants by inserting plugs rather than seed.

Courtesy Yardcare.com

Choosing Plants for Your Yard

Once you’ve identified the style of your landscape and the primary functions it should fulfill, it’s time to examine a diversity of plantings.

Trees bring majesty to your landscape and highlight your yard’s vertical dimension. Shrubs help to define open spaces and facilitate transitions. Perennials provide texture and depth, while annuals and bulbs give a splash of seasonal color. Ground covers lend continuity and give your yard a finished look.

Rhododendrons

Size matters when selecting plants. You will want to make choices that are in sync with the scale of your house and yard. Soaring trees and substantial shrubs will add to the grandeur of a large house but may be too imposing for a single-story bungalow. A rambling ranch house will look best with small trees, low-profile shrubs, and other greenery stressing a horizontal axis.

Always take into account a plant’s full-grown size when making any additions to your yard. Guidebooks and nursery tags list maximum heights mature plants will reach, as well as the ideal ground space required. If your ground space is limited, seek out “columnar,” or “fastigiated” varieties, which will grow tall and narrow.

Choosing Plants That Will Thrive

Picking plants that work well in your particular climate will help keep your landscape looking beautiful. Plants that are ill-adapted for your area will require plenty of upkeep—if they even survive. Consult your local nursery or county cooperative extension office to identify native plants or other greenery that will thrive in your locale.

You should also choose plants according to the sun and soil conditions of your yard. Research the sun and shade preferences of the plants you are considering, and follow the recommended requirements.

Perform a soil test, either through a do-it-yourself kit or a lab, to identify your soil type and see if you will need to add amendments. Do not overlook this step; soil quality is the most important factor determining whether your plants will fail or thrive.

As a final note, to achieve year-round color, consider when individual plants will bloom. And don’t neglect the drama that vivid fruit, foliage, tree bark, and ornamental grasses can add to your garden’s overall tapestry.

Mixing Landscape Plant Selections

After choosing plants that evoke the style you want and that meet your sun and soil needs, think about how to link these selections.

One technique is to repeat one or more plants in several places to create a unified design and draw the eye from one area of your yard to the next. Another way to achieve a harmonious look is to utilize different plants with similar leaf shapes or forms. Be sure to draw from a similar color palette to avoid a disjointed or garish effect.

When mixing plants, make sure that they are in proportion to one another. Foundation plantings, at the base of your house, should rise up to the structure in layers, with short plants in the front and tall plants at the back. Tall plants serve to frame and accent your house, and low ones encourage the eye to travel.

Front Yards with Curb Appeal

Your house’s facade is in tip-top shape, your lawn is impeccably maintained, and your white picket fence is charming. If something still seems to be missing, consider your landscaping. Well-chosen plantings can accent your home and give it true curb appeal.

When thinking about your landscaping, keep in mind the basic principles of good design: proportion, balance, diversity, and harmony.

Pay attention to scale; plantings should be appropriately sized in relationship to each other and to your house. Choose a focal point, such as your entryway, for your design, and bank similar plant groupings on either side.

Unless you are intentionally going for a stark, uniform look to create a bold effect, be sure to include a mix of plants in your beds and juxtapose contrasting shapes, textures, and colors. But be wary of a garden that is too eclectic; your selections as a whole should work together to create a unified design that complements your house’s architecture.

Generally, symmetrical homes, such as Colonials, look best with a formal, even design, and casual styles, such as country cottages, call for more natural plantings.

Whatever style you choose, seek out plants that share similar watering, sun (or shade), and soil needs. For a show-stopping display year-round, try to stagger the flowering season of your plants and choose shrubs that will retain attractive foliage in the cold season.

Foundation plantings soften the boundary between yard and home. The classic grouping for this area comprises broad shrubs, trees, and a flowerbed. Hardy perennials serve as the backbone of these beds, while annuals add seasonal color. Keep in mind the view from both the street and from inside your house, so make sure that plantings do not completely obscure your windows.

If you’re going for a casual look, allow your foundational beds to curve gently, and create some divergence in shape on either side of your focal point.

Your selections for both beds should generally be similar, but you can experiment with ordering the two areas slightly differently—as long as they harmonize in terms of color, shape, and mass. For formal styles, plantings should appear as mirror images bordering the entryway and be set in straight, unwavering rows.

Ancillary beds are those that flank sidewalks, walkways, or your yard’s perimeter—or those that simply float in the middle of your lawn or ground cover to surround trees or other points of visual interest.

You should include at least a few of the plants used in your foundation beds to give your landscape a seamless appearance. If your ancillary bed falls at the foot of a tree, be sure to select primarily shade-loving plants.

If your landscaping plan calls for major tasks that would be too difficult to accomplish on your own, or you are simply overwhelmed by the prospect of redesigning your yard, think about hiring a landscape architect. If your budget does not allow for such professional help, browse through magazines, websites, and books to gather ideas, and take a trip to your local nursery to garner specific planting ideas.

If you approach your landscaping job with a careful plan—and a lot of patience—there’s no reason you can’t make the journey to your front door truly memorable.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Landscape Designer or Installation Pro

Practical Landscaping

When designing your home’s landscaping, be sure to keep your practical needs in mind. If you want a garden that is easy to maintain, keep it simple, using ground covers, mulch, or features such as pathways as main elements in your design. If you’re looking for improvements that could make your house easier to sell, pick a conservative lawn and border plants over wilder and more individualistic choices.container-gardening-dreamstime

Do you need extra privacy? Consider using trees and shrubs to demarcate your property and provide a sense of enclosure while avoiding a fortress look. Growing (softscape) elements can actually offer more privacy than hardscape features such as fences and walls because local building codes do not limit plant heights. And as an added bonus, a boundary made up of plants will usually cost much less than a fence or wall.

The U.S. Department of Energy states that even one strategically placed tree can save a household up to 25 percent on energy. If you wish to protect your house and yard from the searing sun, position trees and shrubs to create shade and absorb sunlight. If you live in a cold winter climate, you might consider deciduous varieties, which, fully foliaged, will obstruct summer sun and then let filtered light pass into your home once leaves drop in the fall.

You can also use landscaping to mask unattractive areas or attributes of your house or yard. For instance, you can plant shrubs to obscure garbage cans or the gas meter or thread evergreen vines through an ugly chain-link fence. A flowering border can soften a harsh gray concrete or gravel driveway.

For a small yard, use trees or other tall landscape elements to direct the eye upward, or place bright colors in the foreground of your design and pastels farther back to create a sense of distance. You can divide a long, skinny yard into smaller areas by positioning plantings to break up the line of sight.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Landscape Designer or Installation Pro

Planning Landscaping & Lawns

The ideal of an uninterrupted sea of perfectly maintained lawn still appeals to many homeowners, but others are choosing a more casual, informal design for their yards. Whether you’re thinking of removing your great green expanse in favor of diverse plantings or going with the traditional and still-popular look of lawn, make sure your considerations go beyond aesthetics.

Landscaping drawings detail all of the elements of a landscape plan, from plantings to walkways and surfaces.

A blend of ground cover and flower beds may be the best choice if your lot is hilly, making mowing difficult, or if you simply desire more water-efficient and low-maintenance plantings. A well-chosen ground cover can achieve the pleasant uniformity of a lawn but without the care needs.

Most local nurseries offer a range of heights and textures (including some species that can tolerate light to moderate foot traffic), with various sun, water, and feeding requirements. Before planting, carefully prepare your plot, ensuring the area has the proper soil conditions, drainage, and grading for the plants you choose.

The lawn, however, still holds court in most yards. When kept healthy and well groomed, it has undeniable visual appeal and serves as an excellent contrast to trees, shrubs, and flower borders. Practically, its soft surface provides your family and guests with a gentle carpet for lounging and playing.[GARD align=”left”]

Many choose a landscape design that incorporates a pleasing mixture of lawn, flower or plant beds, trees, and pathways. Put in edgings to delineate plant beds and keep grass runners from spreading into shrubs and flowers. To keep your flower beds looking fresh, be sure to keep up on the removal of invasive weeds and protect your plants from pests and diseases.

Cover deep-shade areas with redwood chips, rocks, or shade-loving plants; don’t expect sun-worshiping grass varieties to thrive under trees or in other dark spaces. Also, make your lawn areas ample enough (at least 3 feet wide) to accommodate a mower, unless, of course, you choose a species of grass that does not need such maintenance.

While the ideal of the lawn has remained constant, the varieties of available grasses have skyrocketed. Now there are single-type cultivars, same-species cultivar blends, or multi-species mixes, including native, delicate, and hardy types. Among the most common varieties are Bermuda, Bahia, Zoysia, Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue.

When choosing a grass, always consider its water and sun needs, your climate zone, how much maintenance you can reasonably accomplish, and how you intend to you use your lawn. Your local nursery can advise you on species that will work best for your requirements.

Whichever type of grass you choose, you must prepare your yard properly. As with ground cover, this involves making sure your lot has the right grading, drainage, and soil conditions. A well-prepared yard means fewer—if any—fertilizer requirements once your lawn is established.

Regular maintenance makes for a polished appearance. Of particular importance is irrigation. Lawns consume plenty of water, so make sure your yard is quenched either through regular rains or through a well-placed sprinkler system. And remember that solid root growth depends on deep, frequent waterings, particularly in the summertime.[GARD align=”left”]

Mowing is another key task. Vary the height of your mower blade and how often you mow according to the season and your grass type. See also: Lawn Mowing Tips.

Once or twice a year, dethatch and aerate your lawn. Removing the yellowish-brown fiber that accumulates atop the soil and punching small holes through the grass and into the ground will help with the free flow of oxygen and water.

Finally, be aware that even the best-laid lawn is susceptible to invasive pests and diseases. Stay alert, and act at the first sign of a problem to keep your lawn in tip-top shape.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Landscape Designer or Installation Pro

Planning Landscaping & Lawns

The ideal of an uninterrupted sea of perfectly maintained lawn still appeals to many homeowners, but others are choosing a more casual, informal design for their yards. Whether you’re thinking of removing your great green expanse in favor of diverse plantings or going with the traditional and still-popular look of lawn, make sure your considerations go beyond aesthetics.

Landscaping drawings detail all of the elements of a landscape plan, from plantings to walkways and surfaces.

A blend of ground cover and flower beds may be the best choice if your lot is hilly, making mowing difficult, or if you simply desire more water-efficient and low-maintenance plantings. A well-chosen ground cover can achieve the pleasant uniformity of a lawn but without the care needs.

Most local nurseries offer a range of heights and textures (including some species that can tolerate light to moderate foot traffic), with various sun, water, and feeding requirements. Before planting, carefully prepare your plot, ensuring the area has the proper soil conditions, drainage, and grading for the plants you choose.

The lawn, however, still holds court in most yards. When kept healthy and well groomed, it has undeniable visual appeal and serves as an excellent contrast to trees, shrubs, and flower borders. Practically, its soft surface provides your family and guests with a gentle carpet for lounging and playing.[GARD align=”left”]

Many choose a landscape design that incorporates a pleasing mixture of lawn, flower or plant beds, trees, and pathways. Put in edgings to delineate plant beds and keep grass runners from spreading into shrubs and flowers. To keep your flower beds looking fresh, be sure to keep up on the removal of invasive weeds and protect your plants from pests and diseases.

Cover deep-shade areas with redwood chips, rocks, or shade-loving plants; don’t expect sun-worshiping grass varieties to thrive under trees or in other dark spaces. Also, make your lawn areas ample enough (at least 3 feet wide) to accommodate a mower, unless, of course, you choose a species of grass that does not need such maintenance.

While the ideal of the lawn has remained constant, the varieties of available grasses have skyrocketed. Now there are single-type cultivars, same-species cultivar blends, or multi-species mixes, including native, delicate, and hardy types. Among the most common varieties are Bermuda, Bahia, Zoysia, Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue.

When choosing a grass, always consider its water and sun needs, your climate zone, how much maintenance you can reasonably accomplish, and how you intend to you use your lawn. Your local nursery can advise you on species that will work best for your requirements.

Whichever type of grass you choose, you must prepare your yard properly. As with ground cover, this involves making sure your lot has the right grading, drainage, and soil conditions. A well-prepared yard means fewer—if any—fertilizer requirements once your lawn is established.

Regular maintenance makes for a polished appearance. Of particular importance is irrigation. Lawns consume plenty of water, so make sure your yard is quenched either through regular rains or through a well-placed sprinkler system. And remember that solid root growth depends on deep, frequent waterings, particularly in the summertime.[GARD align=”left”]

Mowing is another key task. Vary the height of your mower blade and how often you mow according to the season and your grass type. See also: Lawn Mowing Tips.

Once or twice a year, dethatch and aerate your lawn. Removing the yellowish-brown fiber that accumulates atop the soil and punching small holes through the grass and into the ground will help with the free flow of oxygen and water.

Finally, be aware that even the best-laid lawn is susceptible to invasive pests and diseases. Stay alert, and act at the first sign of a problem to keep your lawn in tip-top shape.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Landscape Designer or Installation Pro