This is one of the best things you can do for your lawn. It reduces soil compaction and thatch by removing small plugs of small plugs of soil throughout your yard. This allows more movement of air, water, beneficial insects and microbes.
When to aerate your lawn
You should core aerate in early spring, shortly after your warm season grass begins to green up. In the spring, be sure to irrigate your yard for the next week to ensure it does not dry out. The other time to do this is in the fall after it has started to cool down some. I do not recommend doing this in the middle of summer since grass can get stressed due to the extreme heat and lack of rain.
How to aerate your lawn
You can rent a machine to do this from nearly any rental store. If you have a large piece of property, there is a version you can drag behind a tractor or four wheeler. Do not use a tine aerator or spiked shoes, they actually compact the soil more. This can be a pretty physical task, so if you may want to look into hiring someone if this seem a bit much for you.
Use the machine in the same pattern as you would to mow your lawn. Make three to five passes in spring but only one to two passes if aerating during the fall. If you are aerating soil that is mostly clay, you will want to use a rake to remove as many of the plugs as you can. Other soil types are fine to leave on the lawn. The aeration cores left on your lawn will go away on their own when it rains or your water your lawn.
Why top dress
What soil to add
How to top dress
Top dressing is pretty simple. Get soil, throw soil, repeat, rake when finished. Below are a few ways to get this done.
The Hard Way
Wheelbarrow, a shovel and a rake. Simply move it to the area you want to spread it and use the shovel to fan it out. Estimate it will take around three pounds of top dressing per square yard. Keep the added soil to an added level of 1/4" to 1/3" inch. Much more than this and you will run the risk of killing some of your existing grass. When you are finished, you will need to use a rake to remove the soil that is resting on top of the grass itself. As you may notice, this will take a lot of time and Tylenol. The average size yard will take one person two or more days to finish.
The Better Way
If you can find one, rent a top dressing machine. While you still have to load the machine and rake the remaining loose soil, it will make this project unbelievable easier. The flaw in this plan is these are hard to find since most people do not do this to their yard.
The Easy Way
Hire a lawn company specializing in top dressing to do it. While this option is more expensive, it will save your weekend plus the days of recovery afterwards.
If your yard is healthy and full, don't worry about overseeding. Keep good cultural practices and doing what you were doing to keep it healthy in the first place. If your lawn is starting to thin or if there are other grasses growing, overseeding will help with both.
When to overseed
The best time to overseed is during the growing season for the seed you are putting down. For us this is between spring when temperatures are above 68 degrees and the early summer. You can still overseed in the middle of summer, but the grass will have less time to establish before winter and it will take more water due to the excessive heat. There is some debate on whether to overseed before or after top dressing. I tend to favor doing it after since there is a rick of burying it too deep if you overseed before top dressing.
Overseeding in spring and summer
Bermuda - Great for overseeding
Zoysia - Great for overseeding
Centipede - Only do this is there are are bare spots throughout your yard.
St. Augustine - Do not bother overseeding. If you have bare spots, use sod.
Overseeding in fall and winter
For all types of grasses, use a low growing rye grass to overseed your lawn in late fall. It will keep your lawn green all winter and will die off when it gets warm in spring.
How to overseed
You can overseed using a push spreader. Simply fill up the spreader, use the settings on the bag and keep a constant pace. Be cautious of where you spread the seeds (your flower beds) since grass will grow there.
JUST ADD WATER
Water your lawn immediately after and try to get a good five inches of water penetration into the soil. You will need to keep your lawn irrigated daily for the next half of a month to make sure the seeds germinate.
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