Winter Overseeding Southern Lawns

Overseeding involves spreading a layer of grass seeds across your existing lawn. (1) Most commonly, this is done to repair lawns that are thinning or have already gone patchy, but a lesser-known technique is to use the process to keep your lawn green all year. (2) 


Warm-season grasses like bermuda and zoysia have a tendency to enter dormancy and turn brown during winter. But by overseeding with a thick layer of hardy, cool-season grass (perennial rye, for example), it’s possible to maintain a green lawn until your warm-season grass wakes up in the spring. (2)

Our Perspective

Here at Sunday, we believe in keeping things simple—but we realize not everything is black and white. To be truly effective, the practice of winter overseeding will consume a great deal of water, fertilizer, and potentially, pesticides in the off-season. Allowing your grass to go dormant for the winter is a more natural, eco-friendly method to follow, and we appreciate that it conserves water in places affected by drought. While our Lawn Care program does not currently support individual purchase of winter fertilizer or perennial rye-only seed blends, we do support giving you as much information as possible to help you make the best decision for your lawn.

Is Winter Overseeding Right for You?

There are a few things to keep in mind before deciding if this process is right for you:

 

  1. CLIMATE. This practice only works in warm climates, so location is key.
  2. GRASS SPECIES. You should be growing Bermudagrass in your lawn. While Zoysiagrass and St. Augustinegrass can be substituted, this method is generally less successful for those species. 
  3. SHADE. If your yard has any shaded areas, it can be difficult to ensure that the cool-season grass will die back after winter and warm-season grass will re-emerge when the temperatures increase. 
  4. LABOR & UPKEEP. This practice can be labor-intensive, requiring a consistent commitment to watering and mowing at a time when many people are taking time off from lawn care. If there are water restrictions in place where you live, this method might not be right for you. 

 

If you live in a warm climate, can maintain the above recommendations, and desire green grass year-round, then winter overseeding is a great DIY fix for you. Ready to give it a go? Keep reading to find out how.

How to Overseed Your Warm-Season Lawn in Winter

 

Mid-October: Scout and Prep

Start by taking an inventory of your lawn: Remove debris, look for shady areas, and check sprinkler coverage. Ensure you have the right grass seed species and are aware of any local water restrictions. 

 

Sunday ProTip: Checking for shaded zones is key. Warm-season grasses are generally not tolerant of shade and may have difficulty growing back over the cool-season grass in spring if there is too much.

 

Mid-October to Early November:  Mow and Seed 

Next, mow down to half the height you normally would to expose the soil and ensure soil-seed contact. Typically cut 3 inches? Cut your grass down to 1.5 inches now. Once the soil is more exposed, spread double the recommended seed rate of perennial rye. 

 

Regular Rye Overseed Rate: 2 ½ – 5 LBS per 1,000 sq ft.

Rye Winter Overseeding Rate: 4 ½ – 10 LBS per 1,000 sq. ft.

 

Sunday ProTip: Use a grass catcher or lightly rake clippings to remove from the lawn prior to seeding, so that grass seed has good soil contact when spread. Then be a friend to the planet and compost or utilize as mulch around shrubs and trees. 

 

December to January: Continue to Water and Monitor  

Watering is vital to get your grass growing. On the day you sow, water until the soil is saturated. After that, make sure your soil is moist every day, but don’t over-water. How much and how often you need to water will depend on your climate and soil type. 

 

February to mid-May: Increase Your Watering

As the sun gets higher in the sky and the mercury begins to rise, cool-season grasses will get thirstier. Taking into account how much precipitation your area gets, plus any local restrictions, increase your watering according to these guidelines

 

Mid-May to June: Drastically Cut Water and Your Lawn 

The arrival of high temperatures signals the impending departure of your winter grass. To give your summertime warm-season grass a nudge out of dormancy, cut back on watering and cut your current cool-season lawn very short. Once the perennial rye is cut back, the warm-season lawn should receive enough light and warmth to grow in and green up soon.

Sunday ProTip: Mowing on the lowest setting and bagging the clippings will expose your Bermudagrass (or Zoysiagrass) to the elements and help it grow back faster.

 

Ready to add winter overseeding to your lawn-care routine? Your year-round green grass will earn you beaucoup bragging rights!

 

Cited Sources: 

  1. Kopec, D., & Umeda, K., Overseeding Winter Grasses into Bermudagrass Turf, The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. 
  2. Carter, K., Perennial Ryegrass, University of California Cooperative Extension.