EQUIPMENT OPTIONS: Just over do it

It's that time of year. Turf has taken a beating after a long, hot summer. Bare patches may have appeared here and there, and areas of weak turf have been exposed by merciless weather.

But relief is on the way. Fall promises the moderate growing conditions that will bring turf back to life. But is your turf in good enough shape to simply spring back to its lush, former self when good weather arrives? Or is it time to bring in reinforcements?

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Or, with cooler weather approaching, maybe you want to consider overseeding for another reason (in fact, on an acreage basis, this is probably the single largest reason): winter overseeding to establish a cool-season turf cover over dormant warm-season turf. Or perhaps an old sward is unresponsive to management practices and needs some “rejuvenation” with a newer variety. You might even elect to kill out the existing stand with a non-selective herbicide first.

Though the reasons may differ, most overseeding operations are quite similar in the major respects. And they all rely on similar equipment — overseeders.

Getting down and dirty

A critical factor in overseeding is seed-to-soil contact. Whether you've killed the existing turf for a complete renovation or are seeding into an existing, live stand, seed isn't likely to achieve much contact with the soil without some help. You need some method of reducing thatch and opening up the turf for the new seed.

Seeding rates may differ from those that you'd use in establishing a stand on bare soil. The competition from existing turf can mean that many of the overseeded grass plants will fail. Thus, some experts actually recommend going a pound or two heavier when overseeding into a living stand. And winter overseeding often requires very heavy rates to ensure a rapid, thick establishment.

Many operators successfully overseed by first vertical mowing one or many times, depending on how thatchy the existing turf is. (Excess thatch must be removed prior to overseeding, and this sometimes results in large amounts of debris to dispose of.) Then, after seeding, another shallow pass with the vertical mower helps ensure better soil contact with the seed. Sometimes drag mats or rollers are used for this purpose.

Many times, operators incorporate core aeration into the overseeding process as well. This opens additional voids in the turf in which seedlings can grow.

In fact, a variety of strategies can successfully be used establish new turf within existing sod. However, to make the task of overseeding more efficient, manufacturers have created machines that combine several functions into one unit. These machines are, of course, overseeders.

Typically, overseeders possess some type of vertical mower or dethatcher (or sometimes a spiker or other type of aerator), a hopper to hold seed, a mechanism to deliver the seed to the soil in the correct rate and spacing, and a roller to firm over the turf seedbed. A variety of overseeder designs are available, all intended to establish the all-important seed-to-soil contact.

Remember, you might be doing this all day long

When you shop for an overseeder, consider your specific needs. Of primary importance is the size of the sites on which you'll use the unit. Obviously, larger sites require larger overseeders. These may be PTO-driven units that require a tractor with substantial horsepower to operate. They are not designed for tight spaces and, because a tractor is involved, may not leave as light a “footprint” as you'd require for high-end turf. However, they cover large areas quickly and, therefore, are the most practical options for larger, open areas. Just make sure you've got a tractor that is suitable for the task.

Smaller units are self-propelled and their seeding width is narrower (though some self-propelled units can be fairly substantial). However, they are ideal for residential lawns and other tight spaces. Many such units can be used for dethatching alone if you simply leave the seed hopper empty.

Remember that dethatcher blades and other moving parts take a beating. Both fixed blades and flail-type blades are available. Either way, they will eventually wear down, so look for units that are easy to service. Also consider how easy drive belts are to adjust and replace.

Examine ease of operation. Are the necessary controls easy to use and operate? The blade-drive clutch and lift bail should be relatively easy to operate because you may have to work them all day. Is the height adjustment simple to use? This is something that you may need to adjust frequently, so it should be accessible and hold its settings reliably.

Generally speaking, hoppers are sized proportional to the size of the unit. But there is some variation. Make sure you're comfortable with how much seed the hopper will hold.

Also consider how well the unit allows you to adjust seeding rates. Ensure the unit you choose has appropriate spacing or can be adjusted to fit your needs.

A complete makeover

Some units perform a more complete renovation by thoroughly tilling the soil ahead of seeding, rather than dethatching. Of course, this means establishing an entirely new stand, not seeding into an existing stand. As such, they're not overseeders, strictly speaking, but seeders nevertheless. But the efficiency of combining multiple functions into one unit remains.

Practice good aftercare

Once you complete overseeding, of whichever type, new seedling care is the same in many ways. You must practice frequent, light irrigations as necessary to keep the seedlings moist. And starter fertilizer is important to bring the seedlings along quickly. Mowing is typically performed as usual on an existing stand. However, even on a new stand, mowing should not be delayed any longer than necessary.

So why perform two or three steps when you can combine it all into one? Overseeders provide you the option for doing just that.

Who: BlueBird International

What: P18 seeder

Description: The P18 seeder is compact with a folding handle for easy transportation and storage. It has an 18-inch seeding width and adjustable seed depth. A neoprene flap prevents unattractive seeding lines and ensures optimal germination.
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Who: Classen Mfg. Inc.

What: DS-20 Drill Seeder

Description: This seeding system creates a slit in the soil and, with shoe injectors, drops the desired seed into the aligned opening, resulting in accurate seed placement. Powered by an 8-hp Honda 4-cycle engine, this self-propelled seeder can operate up to 22,000 square feet per hour. Its twist-grip throttle and clutch design make this unit more user-friendly. Other features include heat-treated steel blades, 2-inch seeding pattern, 20-inch overall seeding width and adjustable seed density and depth.
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Who: First Products, Inc.

What: SEEDA-VATOR

Description: The new 5-foot seeder uses a patented swivel hitch, making it possible for the SEEDA-VATOR to turn around plant beds and other obstacles without tearing the existing turf. It can perform primary seeding as well as overseeding.
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Who: Gandy

What: 48-inch overseeder

Description: Gandy's 48-inch dethatcher/overseeder packages are designed to complement each other by adding a dethatcher deck and add-on overseeding hopper to your existing turf equipment. The 3-point-hitch dethatcher deck features 8-inch saw blades on 2-inch centers and has a 540-pto shaft, requiring an 18-hp or larger tractor. Combined with a completing seeding package, the deck will create the 2-inch centered slits to accommodate seed from either of two placement packages: Disc openers that you can angle to adjust slit width, or a seed-shoe assembly that channels the seeds directly into the slit.
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Who: Textron Golf, Turf & Specialty Products

What: Ryan Mataway

Description: The vertical dethatcher features snap-out reels for convenient blade and spacing selection. Cutting depth is adjustable to 1.5 inches, and a single-lever control engages both the forward drive and reels. With variable seed-rate adjustment and 2-inch row spacing, the removable overseeder provides complete, even coverage in one pass. A specialized spring assist raises the attachment for simplified operation. It is equipped with an 11-hp, 4-cylinder Kohler engine.
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Who: The Ferguson Mfg. Co.

What: Yardmaker

Description: Designed for commercial operators, the Yardmaker is available with seed hoppers ranging in size from 1 cubic foot to 3.8 cubic feet. Choose from a 3-point hitch or trail type. Other features include a roller chain drive, sealed ball bearings, on/off lever, adjustable feed gate, forced feed capability and fill plug. Model weight varies from 165 to 530 pounds.
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Who: T.I.P. Inc.

What: Greens Spiker/Seeder

Description: Thousands of closely spaced, replaceable stainless steel spikes place seed at the proper depth for higher germination and establishment. The Greens Spiker/Seeder is available in three models: 48-inch pull type, 48-inch 3-point and 16-inch self-propelled.
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Who: Turfco Mfg. Inc.

What: Mete-R-Matic III

Description: This attachment for the tow-type topdresser features a four-pin attachment with a quick clamp system for easy hookup and removal. Its stainless steel-plated metering system and neoprene rubber rotor bar can be removed for servicing. The attachment's hopper has a capacity of 2.5 cubic feet, and is fully adjustable for all types of seed. The seed-delivery system is designed with 24 2.5-inch outlets and clear plastic tubing for easy detection of blockages.
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