We have a trick that we've been sorta secretly using for the past few years. We haven't thrown it around much because it was largely untested, due to the really short timeframe that it can be done in. We just haven't had a lot of data to back it up. This year though, we have the history, we have the before & after pics, and we can confidently say: Winter seeding works!
A few lawns every year get to the end of the season and, for whatever reason, head into winter with some bare patches left. Aerating and overseeding is an excellent way to thicken up bare patches and improve overall lawn health. And sometimes you need a full lawn overhaul with topsoil and irrigation.
But sometimes those options just aren't for you this year. Maybe you don't need them, because your soil is somehow magically the only soil in upstate NY that ISN'T crazy compacted and is already full of tons of organic nutrients. Or maybe (more likely) it wasn't in the budget, or you ran out of time because HOLY CRAP IT'S LATE OCTOBER ALREADY and I still haven't even finished school shopping for the kids yet, even though they started almost TWO MONTHS AGO and they're just running around in their summer clothes and pants two inches too short because I HAVE A LOT GOING ON OK. Fine, these hypothetical lawns almost always include mine too.
What is winter seeding?
Winter seeding, or dormant seeding, is the process of spreading grass seed late in the season when it's too cold to germinate, so that it will be processed into the soil over the winter and emerge in the spring.
How does it work?
Grass seed needs two major things for ideal germination: Water and good seed-to-soil contact. That's why for any of our installs we require an irrigation system, and also why aerating and overseeding is such an effective process. Winter seeding is kind of a hack that leverages the natural processes of the season to give you a similar result, without the work (or expense).
The ground in upstate NY moves during the winter, a lot (hello upstate potholes). That movement as the ground freezes and thaws, will actually help to work the seed into the soil and give it that good seed-to-soil contact. Then in the spring the melting snow keeps the seeds moist while they germinate.
What is it good for?
Lazy people! Kidding (kind of). Winter seeding is awesome for filling in bare patches and thickening up thin areas. If you have an area of your lawn that has been struggling to grow grass, give it a shot!
What DOESN'T it do?
While winter seeding is an awesome, cheap, and super easy process, it's not a magic bullet. It won't help with lawn compaction, and it won't make up for sterile soil. So we still definitely recommend feeding your lawn and aerating every year.