Not overseeding—or not overseeding at the proper rate—is one reason why athletic fields fail. Now’s the time to make a game plan to overseed your athletic field this year.

Overseeding helps ensure a safe playing surface by maintaining turf density following play. You can also use the practice to introduce a new cultivar or type of grass, such as overseeding ryegrass into a bluegrass or bermudagrass turf stand.

You should overseed the entire field at least once a year in the late summer, but you may need to overseed high-traffic areas throughout the season as well. The area in front of the mound on baseball fields, the goalmouths on soccer fields, and hash marks on football fields should all be overseeded at least once every two weeks during the season. 

Seed is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep fields full and coaches happy, so don’t hesitate to overseed at a higher rate in season. Overseeding rates always depend on your budget and the level, amount, and season of play on your field. It’s a good idea to aerate the field first, and then use a slit seeder for overseeding.

After overseeding your field, you should do several things for successful germination. One is topdressing, which helps ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Dragging the cores from aerification has a similar effect. You should also apply a starter fertilizer, which your ATS sales representative can help you select.

It’s vital to keep the seedbed moist after overseeding to allow the seeds to germinate. Immediately following the overseeding process, begin a frequent yet light irrigation program to keep the top inch or two of overseeded soil moist. Unless it rains, you should water two to four times a day until the seedlings are about two inches tall. Then you can begin to water less frequently and more deeply. Be careful not to overwater at any point in the process, because that can lead to disease and a host of other issues.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, mowing is another way to encourage seedling growth. Using sharp blades, mow when the ground is firm and the new grass reaches the desired cutting height. You’ll need to mow frequently, so you’re not cutting more than a third of the grass blade at a time. Because the growing stand will contain varying stages of development, the first mowing will probably only cut some of the plants. With each successive mowing, though, you’ll cut more and more of the plants and encourage them to mature and fill in. 

Follow the best practices above for a successful overseeding project on your field this year, and reach out to your ATS representative with any questions.