Broadcast Spreading: Seeding a Sparse Lawn

Having a lush green lawn will truly make any yard or garden look more beautiful and cleaner. However, it can be disheartening when you’ve put hours of labor hoping for an attractive green lawn but ending up seeing a sad-looking sandlot for the effort you’ve done. This might also make you question your ability when it comes to growing grass in your yard or garden, and you might ask what you’ve done wrong. 

Well, grass can grow thinly due to several reasons, but usually, it’s because they are planted on soils with less than the ideal pH needed, the fertilization is inadequate, or the grass variety you’ve chosen does not match the climate in your area. To be able to fix your sparse yard, you need to identify first the factors that might have caused it. After that, you can start reseeding your yard and fertilizing it to overcome any insufficiencies. This process is what you call overseeding. 

The Use of Broadcast Spreaders in Seeding a Sparse Lawn

When it comes to seeding a sparse lawn, there are two options to choose from on what tool to use. You can either go for a drop spreader or a broadcast spreader. In our opinion, it is better to use a broadcast spreader, especially when you have a large lawn and if you want to cover more ground in less time. 

Broadcast spreaders can scatter or broadcast seeds in a fanlike manner over a wide area. The side of the area to be covered by it depends on the hole size and your speed, as well. As the seeds get farther away from the spreader, the distribution thins. It means that you need to pass back and forth across your lawn to overlap and uniform the seeds fully in your yard. 

To get the best results, you can set the hole of your broadcast spreader, so the seeds come through at the correct rate. The settings on your broadcast spreader can either be numbers or letters. Just remember that the higher the setting, the bigger the hole will be. You also need to have a consistent speed for uniform coverage. 

How to Seed a Sparse Lawn

Seeding a sparse lawn is not just about using a broadcast spreader. It’s because there are several steps you need to take to be able to be successful. In seeding a sparse lawn, here are some of the things you will be needing:

Where to Buy
Atree Soil pH Meter
SHOWA 730 Nitrile Cotton Flock-lined Chemical Resistant Glove, Large (Pack of 12 Pairs)
RK Safety RK-GG101 Heavy duty Industrial Protective Chemical Splash Safety Goggles
Greenworks 20-Inch 3-in-1 12 Amp Electric Corded Lawn Mower 25022
ORIENTOOLS Garden Leaf Rake, Adjustable Lightweight Steel Handle
Greenworks 14-Inch 10 Amp Corded Dethatcher 27022
Lowe's 30 Gallon Heavy Duty Brown Paper Lawn and Refuse Bags for Home and Garden (10 Count)
Yard Butler Lawn Coring Aerator Manual Grass Dethatching Turf Plug Core Aeration Tool ID-6C
Scotts Turf Builder EdgeGuard Mini Broadcast Spreader


  • Ground agriculture limestone or elemental sulfur (optional)
  • Cool- or warm-season grass seed

After completing all of the things needed, here are some of the procedures you need to follow to be able to seed your sparse lawn properly and successfully.

  • Test your yard’s soil pH: Before seeding your lawn, you need to test the soil’s pH for at least six months and adjust it to between 5.5 and 7.5 with the suggested amounts of ground agricultural limestone or elemental sulfur. If you need to lower the soil’s pH, you can use 1 pound of elemental sulfur per 100 square feet to lower it by 0.5. But if you need to raise the soil’s pH, you can put 3-4 pounds of ground sulfur per 100 square feet to raise it by 1 point if the soil on your lawn is sandy. 
  • Cut the grass about one inch from ground level: When the grass is short, it increases seed-to-soil contact. You also need to rake the grass vigorously using a yard rake, then collect the grass clippings and loosen the thatch. After that, you can compost the clippings and debris or add them to your waste bin in your garden. 
  • Walk a lawn dethatcher over your lawn: When you do this, you should go in two directions, perpendicular to each other. This way, the moisture penetration, and seed-to-soil contact will improve. When too much thatch, grass can grow sparsely because the brown, coarse, dead turf roofs that sit on the soil surface build-up. That’s why you need to use a lawn dethatcher to pull up the old thatch. After removing, rake the thatch from your lawn using a yard rake, then add the clippings to your compost pile or give it to your sanitation service when they collect garden waste. 
  • Push a core aerator over your yard: This should also be done in two directions perpendicular to each other, just like what you did with the dethatcher. You can either use a manual or powered core aerator. This will remove small plugs of soil or cores. To use a manual core aerator, you need to push it in the soil using your foot. Powered ones, on the other hand, use an engine to work. 
  • Load your broadcast spreader: Put one-half of the following recommended amounts of cool-season grass seed per 1,000 square feet in the hopper of your broadcast spreader. 8-10 pounds of tall fescue seed, 3 ½ to 4 ½ pounds of red fescue seed, 2-3 pounds of Kentucky bluegrass seed, 6-9 pounds of perennial ryegrass seed, or 7-9 pounds of annual ryegrass seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn. 
  • Walk the broadcast spreader over your yard: Do this in rows just like how you do when mowing grass. Then, add the other half of the recommended amount of grass seed and walk your broadcast spreader over the yard in rows perpendicular to the direction that you’ve seeded previously. This way, the seeds will be broadcasted more uniformly compared to just working in one direction. 
  • Rake the seed in the soil: Using a yard rake, rake the seed 1/16-inch-deep in the soil. Then, walk a yard roller over the area to tamp it down. After that, put 10 pounds of soluble, granular, slow-release 10-20-10 fertilizer in the broadcast spreader and walk it over your yard to distribute it evenly. 
  • Water your lawn: After raking and spreading fertilizer, water your lawn to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Then, continue watering your lawn lightly every day with about ½ to 1-inch of water so that the soil will stay moist until the grass establishes. 
  • Mow the grass: When the grass grows to 3 inches tall, mow it to 2 inches tall. You need to keep it 2 inches tall for the rest of the growing season. 

Things to Consider When Seeding a Sparse Lawn

When seeding a sparse lawn, there are important things you need to keep in mind. 

One is to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using lawn tools and fertilizers. It’s also important to wear chemical-proof gloves, goggles, and a respirator when handling fertilizer, sulfur, and lime. Six weeks before seeding a sparse lawn, make sure that you do not apply any herbicides. And when buying and using lawn seeds, make sure that you check the labels. This also applies when buying fertilizers and chemicals because rates may vary per brand. 

Also, remember that the best results of seeding a sparse lawn usually occur during late summer, which is August to September. It’s because, during those times, there’s minimal weed competition and cooler temperatures as well. There is also ample rainfall that usually follows late summer seeding, providing a more favorable environment for new seedlings. However, when you do late summer seeding, you need to accomplish it immediately so that the grass would be well established before the cold weather for them to survive in the winter. 

When you choose to do it during late spring, expect that there will be extensive weed competition, summer drought, and heat stress that can reduce the possibility of being successful in the seeding process. 

These are some of the tips and tricks we can share about seeding a sparse lawn. We hope the information we shared here will help you in making your lawn or yard look greener and more beautiful.