Aeration and overseeding are fall services that go hand in hand to replenish the health and thickness of an ornamental lawn. There are broad subjects relating to aeration and overseeding that are covered often such as how to prepare the lawn and proper aftercare for seed, but there are some less common questions asked every season that deserve to be answered as well. Here, we will discuss nine frequently asked questions about aeration and overseeding, including: what to do with aeration plugs; do you use hay or straw to cover grass seed; when to overseed fescue; what overseeding fescue even means; how to identify grey leaf spot; and more.
Should I remove the aeration plugs left in the yard?
If you receive a core aeration service, you will see plugs of soil roughly the size of a wine bottle cork scattered across the top of the lawn where they were mechanically removed from the ground. On properties that are mowed very low like on golf courses, many homeowners or property managers elect to collect and remove these plugs for aesthetic reasons. However, for tall fescue lawns, these cores are usually less visible, and the process of collecting them can be either very time consuming or hazardous to the lawn. Since your seed has also been applied when these plugs are removed, Picture Perfect Lawn Maintenance does not recommend removing the aeration plugs after your aeration and overseeding service. With proper watering and normal rainfall, these cores will breakdown and disappear on their own within a few weeks.
My lawn looks like a war zone after aeration! What happened?
Every year, professional turf management companies hear this from at least a few clients who haven’t had a thorough core aeration service done before, or at least not in a while. Keep in mind, core aeration is an aggressive and violent service where your lawn is concerned that involves very heavy machinery crossing your lawn multiple times and digging into it as much as possible. This will result in significant potential for disturbed or torn turf and minor ruts in softer parts of the lawn. However, don’t panic! This is pretty much the point of aeration- to break up compaction and turn the soil over to give seed a foothold. The yard will settle, and any areas of the yard that appear torn up now will fill in with seed in just a few short weeks, completely masking the “war zone” from the fall.
Do you use hay or straw to cover grass seed?
Picture Perfect Lawn Maintenance does not apply hay or straw over grass seed when it’s put down in the fall. The vast majority of the time, this is an unnecessary step. The thought behind applying hay or straw is that it helps to protect the seed from drifting, eroding, and even from birds. This last idea is an old wives tale and should not be given real consideration, but the first two are already controlled by the adult turf in the lawn. The only time that hay is possibly beneficial is when aeration and overseeding is performed on significantly sloped, bare areas of the yard. It is common that hay and straw can carry weed seeds with them, contaminating the quality of the seeding service, so we rarely recommend taking the risk.
How do you decide when to overseed fescue? Isn’t it too late?
It often seems that everyone has an opinion on when aeration and overseeding should be done for fescue lawns, right or wrong. Some people insist that it must be done the third week of September, while others prefer to wait until the beginning of November. We know we need to apply fescue seed in the fall for ideal lawn development, but you must keep in mind that nature does not have a calendar the way that we do. Ideal seeding conditions are determined by air and soil temperatures, not the day of the year. Picture Perfect Lawn Maintenance applies seed within a flexible window that is typically planned for early September through early November. And no, the end of that window isn’t too late for applying seed; the important thing is to get a couple of weeks of development in from the baby grass before the first hard frost.
I want to have my aeration and overseeding done on a specific day at a specific time; can you accommodate that?
While some small operations have the flexibility to have their service schedules determined by client request, established companies like Picture Perfect Lawn Maintenance have to operate with expertly planned and scheduled routes to maintain efficiency and profitability. If a client is having work done at their house like tree removal or will be out of town for part of the seeding window and therefore unable to prep or perform aftercare as needed, we always work to schedule around those situations to the best of our ability. However, if there is not a serious reason for needing special scheduling, we unfortunately cannot guarantee a specific part of the fall seeding window for service.
I bought extra seed so that after you seed my yard, I can overseed it. Right?
Wrong! This is a common misunderstanding of the word “overseeding.” When we are overseeding fescue lawns, we are broadcasting seed over the surface of the yard. This is meant to distinguish from other methods of seeding, such as hydro, slice, or slit seeding. Overseeding fescue does not mean overapplying fescue. Too much seed trying to grow in at once can result in an overcrowded and choked lawn that will die off the following spring. A good company is applying high yield seed at an optimal rate, so additional seeding by the homeowner should rarely be necessary.
Why do I have to prepay for my aeration and overseeding service?
Every company has its own policies when it comes to the agreements it makes with its clients about how they will be reimbursed for their services. For the strong majority of Picture Perfect clients, aeration and seeding is built into a full year program along with fertilizer and weed control that is then converted into a flat monthly rate, so prepayment is not necessary. However, for aeration and seeding services that are not part of an established Picture Perfect Program or are requested as a one time service, it is PPLM policy to require payment in advance prior to a service being listed for scheduling. This is for the sake of both security and simplicity, and we appreciate your understanding.
Will you reseed my lawn if it washes away from a storm?
One of the challenges of fall aeration and overseeding on the East Coast is that the window of service overlaps with the peak part of hurricane season. As a result, it is expected that there will be heavy rainfall at least once during the delicate weeks after fescue seed is put down. For established and relatively level lawns, this isn’t an issue, and very few lawns actually ever experience substantial loss of their seed due to flooding or runoff. However, just as you cannot predict how hard the weather will impact your lawn, neither can your lawn care company. As a result, while Picture Perfect Lawn Maintenance guarantees the quality of our seed as well as the thoroughness of our service, we do not reapply seed that has been compromised by weather or improper aftercare. Instead, we always notify our clients a week as well as a day in advance of service in case they wish to reschedule based on their concerns about forecasted weather.
My seed germinated, then suddenly died. What happened?
One of the worst things to see is an investment crash and burn. We as turf management professionals are just as upset by this as you are, so the PPLM team does everything we can in these situations to work with you to identify the cause of the failure as well as the remedy. There are usually two things that can cause this: improper aftercare and fall fungus. Whether from overwatering, underwatering, or too much activity, not handling your baby grass properly can have devastating consequences. On more rare occasions, a fall fungus known as grey leaf spot can be the culprit of sudden turf loss in the fall. No matter the cause, Picture Perfect always asks its clients to keep us in the loop on the state of their lawn so that we can address any potential problems before they get out of hand.
The aeration and overseeding one is a busy and involved time for professionals and homeowners alike working together to ensure a high quality yield for the following year. With proper care and communication, it is almost guaranteed to be successful. Have a question about aeration and overseeding that wasn’t answered here? Be sure to share in the comments below.