4-step lawn renovation
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Photo 1: Aerate
Loosen the soil with a rented core aerator. Make four
or five passes over the lawn at angles to each other.
Let the cores dry a day or so before seeding.
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Photo 2: Spread seed
Spread the grass seed at about half the rate
recommended for new seeding of bare soil. Seed
small areas by hand. Use a drop spreader or broadcast
spreader to seed large areas.
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Photo 3: Cover with topsoil
Spread a 1/4-in. layer of topsoil over the seeded area.
Fling the soil from the shovel to distribute it evenly.
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Photo 4: Rake
Rake the surface with a fan or leaf rake to break up
the soil plugs and spread the topsoil over the seeds.
About 10 percent of the seeds will show. Water the new
seeds with a sprinkler.
Is your lawn looking a little tired
and bare? If so, don't worry—fall
is a great time to rejuvenate it.
The weather is good for seed
germination and competition from
weeds is at its lowest. Here's how
to seed your lawn to thicken it.
Start by loosening compacted soil
to stimulate growth.
Many patchy lawns suffer from
compacted soil, which deprives
grass roots of needed oxygen.
Removing plugs of soil with a core
aerator (rent at tool rental, garden supply or hardware stores)
allows air and water to penetrate
the ground and leaves space for
surrounding soil to expand and
loosen. Plan ahead and reserve the
core aerator for at least half a day
for an average-size lawn. It's best
to use the aerator when the soil is
moist. You'll need a truck or trailer
to haul the core aerator home.
The machine weighs 150 to 200 lbs.,
so it takes some muscle to move
around. If you're not up to the task,
consider hiring a lawn service for
this part of the job (it may not cost
much more than renting the aerator).
Allow a day between aerating
and seeding to let the soil plugs
dry. Dry plugs will break up easier
when you blend them in along
with the dressing of topsoil.
Pick a grass seed mix that fits
your climate as well as soil and
shade conditions. There are many
great sources of information.
Check online, call your
local county extension office, or ask
at a local nursery for advice. Make
note of your soil type, whether it's
heavy clay or well-drained loam,
and how much sunlight the area
gets. Pick seed that's meant to
grow best in these conditions and
in your climate.
Measure your lawn and buy only half as much seed as you would if you were seeding.
For small areas, throw out the seed
as if you were feeding birds. For
larger areas, use a drop spreader or
broadcast spreader. Divide the seed
in half and apply it in two passes at
right angles to each other. Set the
spreader for half the recommended
application rate, or to about 20 percent
open if there are no settings,
and spread the first half of the
seed. Keep a close eye as you're
applying it so you don't run out. It's
better to err on the side of spreading
it too thin at first. You can
always go over the area again.
The final step in the renovation
is to cover the seed with a thin
layer of soil. Buy bags of soil from
the nursery for small areas. If
you're reseeding an entire lawn,
it'll be more economical to order
topsoil delivered. Call a nursery or
landscape supply company and say
you want screened and pulverized
black dirt for top dressing your
lawn. You can also use dry,
screened soil from your yard. One
cubic yard of soil will cover about
1,300 sq. ft. at 1/4 in. deep. Spread
the soil and rake it to create a thin,
even layer over the seeds.
Lightly water the seeded area
two or three times a day for 5 to 20
days until the seed sprouts. As the
grass reaches 1 to 2 in. tall, water
once a day, but leave the sprinkler
on long enough to wet the roots,
which are 1 to 2 in. deep. You can
mow the grass when it's about
3 in. tall.