If you’ve read my post on my visit to Oregon and the NexGen Research Center, you know, then, just how important conserving water is these days. If you’re a red-blooded American homeowner, however, you probably want a lush, green and good looking lawn.  Now, here’s the thing – To grow that healthy lawn and further to grow the grass that lives in and makes up your lawn – your grass needs, well, water – just like any other plant.  I’d say a lot in the beginning, but still good amounts as it matures.

In this article, I will cover: 1) The Role(s) Water Play in Lawn Care2) Addressing Root Causes of Trouble Lawn Areas & 3) The Process of Overseeding (in 8 Steps).

Steps for Overseeding a Lawn Area (Jump to any by clicking the link below):

  1. Mow Existing Grass Super Short
  2. Aerate (Cultivate | Till)
  3. Sweeten the Lawn with Lime (if Needed)
  4. Add Top Soil (if Needed)
  5. Spread Starter Fertilizer
  6. Spread and Incorporate Seed
  7. Cover with Straw (or other Mulch)
  8. Water – Keep the Area Moist


Pennington Seed, who maintains NexGen, puts an amazing amount of effort into developing seed that can grow greener and live longer on less water. Take for example their newest Smart Seed -it is said to stay green up to three weeks without water. It requires up to 30 percent less water year after year.  A result of course of efforts at NexGen.

This, Smart Seed, is exactly the seed I selected to hit a shallow slope next to my house.

preparing to overseed a slope

Addressing Troubled Lawn Areas

The two problems I’ve had with growing grass in this particular area: 1.) an abundant amount of shade (this area likely only gets about 2 to 3 hours of sun a day) and well, 2.) on a slope, it had been under attach with water runoff for a handful of years.

new corrugated downspout and rain barrelThe area immediately above it was void of vegetation (because it sits under a large and shady decorative maple).  Anyone that knows anything about erosion, grade stabilization and runoff – knows, well – this is bad.  Last summer, though, I took it upon myself to plant under this tree.  And while it really hasn’t filled in quite as much as I would have hoped, the Vinca I planted is doing … okay.

That … and right up next to the porch in this area I had a gutter, but no downspout. This dumped water right down onto this slope as well.  I have since installed a new gutter, a downspout and a bonus 60 gallon rain barrel here … (I hope to post on this install soon). This rain barrel will come in handy as I need to water my-soon-to-be new little seed babies. (I posted to HomeTalk earlier in the week about it, installing a manufactured rain harvesting barrel.)

Water and Your Lawn

Beyond simple tips like watering in the morning or at night, planning around wind, as well as broom cleaning, there are many things we can do to help reduce water usage when watering the lawn. Some of which Pennington has provided me.

  • Pennington suggests installing water-saving systems.  Besides adding a rain barrel for harvesting and using rain water in your landscape, consider using a drip irrigation system around trees and shrubs in your landscape. Drip irrigation systems apply water only when needed, minimizing water loss due to evaporation – which in turn prevents moisture from reaching needed spaces between plants. (For tips for installing irrigation, see the Basics of Residential Irrigation.)
  • Make sure sprinklers are watering the lawn, and defined landscape areas, not the driveway or street. If water runs into the street or onto the sidewalk, this means that sprinklers are either not properly aligned, too much water is being applied or that the soil has reached a point of saturation.
  • Spread mulch when seeding new areas to add a protective layer over soil. The mulch will help your soil retain moisture during the critical seed germination and establishment stages. The clippings from mulching mowers also serve the same purpose—preserving soil moisture and nutrients for growing grass. (While I have not does this in my own installation below – I do plan to.)
  • Fertilization supplies plants with essential nutrients for strength, uniform growth and a healthy, fibrous root system. A vibrant and healthy plant makes the best use of available water. This means less water is needed over time. There also is less chance of the plant “burning” or drying out to a point beyond recovery. (Do not apply fertilizers, however, during periods of drought.)
  • Pennington says, “Stay Calm! Don’t be overly reactive.” Lawns tend to be overwatered, often with entire lawns being watered to avoid a few dry spots. Overwatering can cause numerous problems, including: shallow root systems; increased disease, weed or insect infestations; reduced drought tolerance; and increased thatch and excessive growth. A lawn does not need water until the color falls by 50 percent, at which time only one inch of water should be added.
  • Plants can be conditioned for dry weather starting at the beginning of the spring season. This is done by irrigating less frequently, but longer. Earlier in the development process, i.e. during germination and establishment, more water is needed. As part of ongoing maintenance, decrease the frequency of watering and increase the amount of water penetration to encourage deeper rooting. Deeper roots will be more drought-tolerant.
Would This Article Also Help?  Winter Fence Maintenance :: Nursing Your Wood Fence Through a Cold, Hard Winter

Quenching Your Yard Thirst_Infographic

In addition, Pennington adds: By utilizing grass seed that requires less water, lawns are more resilient during periods of drought and easier to maintain (e.g. reduced time, energy and resources). Consider a pure bred, drought-tolerant seed, like Pennington Smart Seed.  The varieties in every bag were developed to help you establish a fuller, healthier and greener lawn, while efficiently using natural resources.

Additional Information: For more on Lawn Care, check out the The Lawn Institute.

Watch Me Work – OverSeeding in 5 (okay 8) easy steps

1.) Mow Your Grass Tight – On the Lowest Setting

I mowed closely (on my mower’s lowest setting) then removed cut grass and leaves by raking.

begin prepping for grass seed

2.) Aerate

I aerated the entire area working with a cultivator in established areas and using a thatcher in the bare spots to prepare the seedbed.

yard tools for overseeding

Cultivator to aerate before overseeding

3.) Sweeten the Lawn with Lime (if Needed)

While I could have conducted a soil test, I chose (on the recommendation of my local garden center) to sweeten the soil with pulverized lime. (Alternatively, apply lime in stages beginning several weeks prior overseeding. As you can see I might have been a little heavy handed here.)

pulverized lime spread before overseeding

4.) Add Enriched Top Soil (if Needed)

Because I had some low spots in this area, I added about a 1/4 yard of enriched top soil. (I added another 1/4 yard as I was sowing my seed below.)

adding top soil to low spots

5.) Add Starter Fertilizer

Using a broadcast spreader, I added Starter Fertilizer at the recommend rate.

rate adjustment broadcast spreader

6.) Spread Your Seed

I sowed my seed, spreading at the recommended (on the bag) rate, added a little more top soil and gently raked with the goal of covering (or bedding) the seed.  (The Smart Seed I used had a recommended planting depth of 1/4 of an inch.)

Pennnington Smart Seed

7.) Cover the Area with Straw or other Mulch

While I would have covered this area with a mulch (a (super) thin layer of straw in most cases), I ran short of time. I plan to circle back and fan lightly with grass clippings, harvested from other areas of the yard.

finish grade after seeding

while grass clipping were used, a more formal mulch is recommended

8.) Keep the Planting Moist (i.e Watered)

Until seedlings are established, keep the lawn moist, then water as needed.  (For me, this meant – modifying an old garden hose and watering with water from my new rain barrel.)

watering the lawn rain barrel for watering


And that’s it for me … happy lawn caring and, well, happy Mother’s Day. For more on the basics of lawn care, please enjoy our Pinterest board :: Lawn Care 101. Cheers. ~jb

Disclosure Statement
This was originally a partnered post with Pennington Seed.