I'm trying to figure out the correct way to overseed this fall in MA. I want to do a few things in the process: core aerate, top dress, fertilize, lime, and overseed.

I normally mow my lawn at 3.5" so am I supposed to cut it much lower? How low, 2.85" (that's my next height down) or 2.25" (that's the next one after)? Once I have the lawn mowed, then I was going to core aerate and top dress. Do I top dress with topsoil, loam, compost, or the loam/compost mix I see advertised often? I was planning to top dress me entire yard which is 9,000-10,000 sf. Is it uncommon to do the whole yard? At 0.25" of top dressing that's about 8 yards which is a few hundred dollars.

Once I top dress, I assume I can then fertilize, lime, and overseed together and then get the lawn wet and keep it that way. I would then want to make sure it's always moist, so put my irrigation system on for a few minutes a few times a day to keep it moist, right?

When is the best time in the fall to do this? Early or mid September? Late September?

  • Trying to help you with yardage...divide the total number of sq. ft. by 81. That will give you the amount of yards, cubic yards with which to do 4 inches. At 10K sq. ft. where is my calculator? At 4" depth that would make (gulp) 124 yards of topsoil. Divide by 4 and you get yardage for 1 inch or 31 yards. 1/4 inch is tough to manage. I wouldn't go less than 1/2 inch so that would be about 15 yards? Check my math, arghhh, depending on the type of trucks and trailers they use this shouldn't be a deal breaker. How does this match up with your plans and budget?
    – stormy
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 18:47

1 Answer 1


I would core aerate now and allow the plugs to disintegrate. September I would mow my lawn down short so the grass won't be shading the seed. Short as in 2". Top dress with 1/2" of topsoil, not compost. There are topsoils with compost added. But a word of warning; you have no idea what is in that compost. I've run into topsoil with added compost where I couldn't get a petunia to grow. Pesticide residue from homeowner 'clean green'...I would stick with screened plain old topsoil.

Dump piles all over your lawn and then start spreading with rock rakes or grading rakes. This next step is the part you cant miss! You need to rent a roller (fill with water) to compact, regrade and compact again. Then seed, rake lightly with the tines of a leaf rake upside down and roll again.

Keep moist. Shallow watering. In less than two weeks you should be able to do the virgin mow at 3.5, bag clippings. Fertilize with a low nitrogen formula. Dr. Earth I think has a fall fertilizer and if you haven't tried one of these 'organic' lawn fertilizers you simply must with all the work you are putting into your lawn. Costs more but you need fewer applications and WOW. I know these dang lawns and trust me, to be wowed with a product for lawns is RARE.

Make sure you use a rotary spreader for seed and fertilizer. Drop spreaders are awful. Throwing by hand is a big no no.

For lime, you must do a pH test first. If it reads below 6.5, lime according to directions right after the first rough spreading of the topsoil. Remember you've got two soils to test; the original bed and the topsoil. Do you live with a lot of rainfall? Then grade and grade and roll and roll and grade again.

Get the best seed you can find. I always used 'Professional's Choice'. That was for the Pacific Northwest. ZERO weed seed. This means some thought and care went into producing that seed and the germination rate is the highest. Don't use seed for shade. Unless you've got some shady areas use it just for those areas mixed into the seed you've used for the entire lawn. I hope this helps! Here is one of my lawns rehabilitated shortly after construction of that walk, brick wall and screens...

Here is a tip on spreading mulch or topsoil or rock; spread the pile to the depth you want do not thin out in an effort to cover more area. When you have done this then you go back and dump more soil or shovel out of the wheel barrow to cover the obvious areas that haven't been covered with soil. This ensures an even coat of soil, the depth you want and when you grade and roll you will get a more even surface.

lawn after construction

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