I've recently been renovating a small section of my lawn, which is going relatively well. I now would like to overseed the remainder of my lawn, which has many bare spots and is quite bumpy.

My question is: how should I prepare my existing lawn?
I'm listing some of the options I'm considering:
1) dethatch by hand, broadcast seed
2) dethatch with a power-rake with spring tines, broadcast seed
3) use an overseeder (the rental rents a turfco LS20)

What would be your preferred method?

I'm in the Boston metro area, zone 6b. Apart from watering after seeding I didn't really water the lawn. It's cool season grass. I don't know which kind. The neglected lawn was already here when we bought the house 3 years ago. I've spent the last 3 years renovating the inside and now have some time to start addressing the outside. I haven't fertilized either, but will begin doing so.

As requested in the comments, I'm uploading some pictures of the lawn. This forces me to "explain" a little bit. I have 2 rectangles of lawn that I seeded this summer. Because of this, I had to water to enable germination. This brought back some of the lawn from dormancy. The remainder of the lawn stayed dormant all summer, and has shown little sign of coming back to life. If you are observant, you'll see a semi-circle of green grass at the top of the picture. This is a patch of bermuda grass that I'm experimenting with, to see if it survives the winter (see one of my previous posts).

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

  • First, how do you know you've got thatch? Thatch is dead yet non decomposed grass roots and foliage. You should be able to see it on a profile cut with your shovel. Please send pictures of your lawn, your maintenance methods (water, fertilizer, aeration, mowing height, weed control) as well as your zone or where you live. What kind of grass, cool season or warm season? Why would you de-thatch by hand? Have you been BAD? Need some punishment? Grins. Pictures!! Check out the answer/questions that are already on this site!! I've got some huge answers on here that will get you started...
    – stormy
    Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 19:36
  • I definitely have some thatch in some areas. But my thinking is more about using a dethatcher (manual or powered) to scuff up the soil a bit, before broadcasting the seed. Increasing the probability of getting good seed-soil contact.
    – Pbaz
    Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 19:42
  • OK...that is good thought process! If you would just send pictures I'd be able to see a real picture of what you need. And, just in case, never broadcast seed nor fertilizer by hand. There are fertilizers that now contain bacteria who LOVE to decompose thatch. To 'fruff' up the soil for seeding also means grading and rolling. Need to see pictures. Need to see the slope and the rest of your lawn. How did you originally grow this lawn? Seed mixture or sod? Please answer my questions in my first comment as well. Lawns are such a different creature and I've learned how to raise this beast
    – stormy
    Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


OK, let me give this a shot.

First, I'd love to get a feel for how compacted those dormant areas are. It WAS a difficult summer in the northeast (of the USA), and compacted area suffered particularly. If it is compacted, you can reseed every year and always have the same problems. You might run a core aerator through there just in case. I like to aerate any area that gets regular foot traffic annually at least.

Next, your lawn looks to be of a size you could rake by hand. You'll want to rake out the dead grass and rough up the topsoil a bit to ensure good seed/soil contact. Another option would be to apply high quality compost with the seed, which will give you the contact and the benefit of the nutrients and soil biology that come with compost. This is just my opinion, but I think a slit seeder would be overkill for this scale.

When you seed, get a seed mix that includes several different fescue and bluegrass varieties. The greater the diversity, the greater the chances that each "microclimate" in your yard will have a grass variety that can thrive in there. The diversity can also increase your window of a green lawn as some will green up earlier and others will remain green under greater heat/drought stress.

You look like you didn't have any trouble watering those rectangles properly to get them germinated, so keep up with the light frequent watering through germination and slowly cut back on frequency as the grass comes up and gets established Then switch to infrequent, deep watering to encourage deep root growth.

  • Thank you so much for your answer. Clearly, you would rake by hand given the size of the yard and this is my inclination too. But, let me ask you this: regardless of whether it is overkill, would using the overseeder provide better results?
    – Pbaz
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 0:35
  • For the record, I do plan on aerating the lawn, manually (I already bought the aerator). Just not sure when.
    – Pbaz
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 0:43
  • Yes, the seeder is designed to put seeds in just the right place for good soil contact and germination. So I think it would maximize germination rates. The other advantage is that it will "hide" the seeds from birds and other animals that might eat the seed before it germinates.
    – That Idiot
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 13:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.