Lawn repair is an endless task if you want beautiful grass. If you know how to fix thin bare spots in your lawn, it helps you save the headache and money of a big project later.
What if the lawn damage is out of control and covers a large surface? Then you will need to follow the steps below. It is a bigger job but if you know how to do it correctly, you should have problem free grass for years to come. It will also help you avoid tearing up and replacing the entire yard.
The following steps will repair a lawn area of any size. Lawn Rage tries to accomplish lawn repair with organic and natural methods as much as possible.
Lawn Repair Tips
- Soil Test
- Lawn Observations
- Ordering Materials
- Project Day!
- Compost Tea
- Top Dressing
- Seeding Lawn
- Rake and Roll
- Keep Off Lawn
You can achieve new grass without tilling or removing the existing turf if you know how to lawn repair using our easy tips. I’ve been able to reform even the most hideous lawn into lush beautiful green grass without a tiller.
If you have just a few bare spots we have all the tips on repairing bare grass areas.
This work can get strenuous so take your time. There’s nothing here that can’t wait until another day. Get someone to help you it saves on time and labor.
Here is How to Repair a Lawn:
- Cool season grasses get renovated in late summer
- Warm season grasses in early summer
Plan ahead. Don’t just wake up one day and on an impulse decide you’re going to renovate a lawn. There are a few things that need to be done ahead of the actual process of lawn repair.
If you can get your soil test done several months in advance it would be beneficial because the amendments you add can take quite a while to be effective. It takes a few weeks to get your results back so you want to get that sample into the lab as soon as possible. The sooner you add the amendments according to your results, the better.
Place about one cup of the dry soil in a clean plastic bag. If you’re sending more than one sample make sure to label each bag for which part of the yard you took the sample from.
Your local cooperative extension department will test your soil for you for a small fee. The mailing address and other necessary forms should be available online.
Having your first soil test at a lab is important. They can give results home soil kits will not reveal.
Lawn repair should always start with a soil test.
While we wait for our soil test results, take a stroll around your lawn and make observations.
Are there a lot of weeds?
Any spraying of weeds should be done as early as possible before your project begins, just make sure the weed is actively growing. Use an organic vinegar based weed killer.
This spray is non-selective, meaning it will damage any vegetation it touches. Just because something is labeled organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s harmless. Get organic vinegar in you eyes it could blind you for a while. Please be careful!
Organic weed killers are most effective if sprayed when it’s hot, dry and no wind. Get this done a few weeks in advance of over seeding because it takes a little while for the weed to die off.
Here you can find more information on getting rid of weeds.
- Have compost delivered
- Reserve aerator thatcher rentals
- Brew compost tea
- Buy Grass Seed, Fertilizer
Assuming your soil test results have an organic matter percentage of less than 5%, you will need to order finished compost.
It takes 1 cubic yard of compost to cover 1000 square feet of lawn at a 1/3 inch depth
Here you can figure out the square footage of your lawn area.
A few days ahead of time you will need to reserve a few items at the rental store. Those would be an aerator, thatching machine and a roller. Having a blower on the job site is also a big help. A few other items are necessary to complete this lawn repair project but they are cheap enough to purchase or borrow.
Read ahead a bit and you’ll see you will be aerating your lawn. Try your best to predict 24 hours before you’ve completed the lawn aerating and brew a compost tea with mychorrizhae.
It might be better to thatch and aerate the turf on one day and start the next day by spraying the compost tea. Read ahead and try to get a feel of the timeline of the lawn repair project.
Below is All the Information on Compost Tea
Do a little research or your location and the conditions in your yard. If you’ve had problem areas in the past like insect, drought or disease you can try using an endophyte enhanced grass seed.
Purchase 1 – 1/2 times the recommended amount as we will be seeding the lawn repair area twice.
Get a good nights sleep before project day. As I’ve stated before this project is much easier, faster and less expensive if you have help.
Get your neighbors involved and do a few homes in your area. It’s the best way to get this done. Other people will wonder what’s going on and then it gets contagious. The entire neighborhood is free from lawn chemicals and pesticides.
Repairing Dead Grass Spots is Easy
Even though I stress mowing the grass at 3 inches throughout this website, doing lawn repair is one of the times that you’re going to cut your grass short.
You’re going to beat up your turf pretty good with this process and mowing low will insure good seed to soil contact. If you can, gradually start cutting it shorter a couple of weeks ahead of time in preparation of your lawn repair.
It’s a must to remove any thatch before over seeding, to ensure a good soil to seed contact. If you stick with treating your lawn organically then this will probably be the last time you’ll need to remove thatch from your lawn.
In a natural lawn, fungi breaks down thatch as a normal biological process. Synthetic fertilizers and over watering your lawn help increase the build-up of thatch.
Thatching a lawn is very much like mowing. Just back and forth, overlapping your wheels.
Set the machine so it goes into the soil about 1/8 inch. This height will aid in removing thatch and any dead weeds. Try to do a thorough job.
Thatch twice if you have any doubts that you didn’t remove all of it. The second time go over the lawn perpendicular to your first direction.
You can rake up any removed thatch but I highly recommend blowing the grass with a hand-held or better yet a back pack blower. Blowing the lawn hastens the process and it’s easier on the body. It also does a very good job, which is very important in lawn repair, so the grass seed can contact the soil.
Here you can read more on lawn thatch.
We should now have a pretty clean surface with most of the weeds gone, the thatch removed and the lawn cut relatively short.
The next stage of lawn repair is to aerate the soil. Make sure you use a core aerator. Don’t use gimmicky aerating shoes or spikes penetrating into the lawn. If it isn’t coring a soil plug, it isn’t aerating.
Once again, you’ll want to do a very good job at this lawn repair stage.
It’s common for me to go over the lawn with the aerator 3 – 4 times when repairing a lawn. This will allow the compost to get into the soil.
Don’t worry about making a mess.
Your lawn should be littered with cored soil plugs ranging in size of 1/2 inch to 3 inches. The more the better. The best part of aerating is we just leave the plugs on the lawn.
You can call it a day now if you want. Depending on the man power at your site you’ve accomplished a lot. You can continue with your lawn repair now or begin seeding in the morning. Just remember to time your brewing compost tea.
Lightly spread a layer of seed
If you bought extra grass seed, you can put down a light layer now. It’s not necessary, as we’ll be seeding again later. It’s just effective to get some seed into the aeration holes and under the compost layer. I discuss seeding a bit further down the page.
At the most, broadcast only 1/2 of the recommended amount of grass seed as we will use the remainder in a bit. I understand it’s a bit more costly to buy extra grass seed but the better job you do now the less problems in the future. Having thick green grass solves many lawn issues before they begin.
This is when we spray our prepared compost tea with added mycorrhizal. Try to time brewing the compost tea so it’s ready to use at 24 hours after you start the pump. Spray the lawn tea over the holes as best as you can.
The better job you do repairing the lawn now the more beautiful your grass will be later. Cover the entire yard trying to hit all the holes. The tea loaded with microbes and mycorrhizal fungi will aid the seed that will germinate and the exposed root system from aerating. Try not to skip this step. The difference could be a mediocre lawn or amazing trouble-free turf.
Depending on your lawn repair schedule another compost tea with mycorrhizal brew should be timed with the upcoming seeding process.
Lawn Repair Organically
While our second lawn repair compost tea is brewing we’ve got to spread our compost. One cubic yard of finished compost equals 1/3 inch thick covering 1000 square feet. Don’t go any thicker than 1/2 inch.
After a couple of wheelbarrows you’ll get the hang of it. Just sort of fling it with a quick wrist action. The better you fling it the less raking spreading it later.
This is a great time to have a second person helping you with your lawn repair. One filling the wheelbarrow and one spreading. Once you get a rhythm down it goes pretty quick. I can top dress a lawn of about 5000 square feet in a few hours.
Now that you’ve spread the compost with a shovel it needs to be raked out. Try to get the majority of the compost off the existing lawn and onto the soil surface.
Remember, after raking it even, it should be 1/3 inch thick. Don’t exceed 1/2 inch. Add compost to any spots that you may have missed with the shovel.
I understand this section is a great deal of work. I do it on a regular basis. I also know how beneficial this lawn repair method is to a trouble-free turf.
This is the toughest part of the project. We’re almost done with our lawn repair. Remember, applying a layer of compost can be done any time of year as long as the grass is actively growing. It doesn’t have to only be done when renovating. It’s just nice to aerate before hand if needed, to ensure the organic matter is getting into the soil.
You now have an option, you can use an over seeder and the machine will embed the seed 1/4 inch into the repaired lawn soil. If you do use this machine you should go over it twice. The second way would be perpendicular to the first. I generally don’t use the over seeder to save on customer costs but it can be a good practice if you’re not used to this process. The machine will also break up any clumps of compost you didn’t get with the rake.
I like to apply the seed directly on top of the compost so when I apply my lawn tea after grass seeding, it makes good contact.
Hand held broadcast spreaders, are a nice little tool and they’re not too expensive. I try to use the hand-held spreaders for grass seeding instead of he walk behind spreaders. You just have more control of where the seed is going and the amounts you’re applying.
Do a good job. Nice even coverage. You don’t want to go through this process again.
Second application of compost tea
I know I harp on it all page long but try to time the tea brewing for when you’re ready to use it. Read the page links on compost tea I have at preparing for the project section.
Apply your lawn tea on top of the seed. Make good contact. Take your time.
If you didn’t use an over seeding machine to embed the grass seed into the soil now you have to with a back of a rake.
It’s a pretty simple process. Use a bamboo or plastic leaf rake and with the back of the rake, just walk the entire surface of the lawn repair pressing the rake firmly down. This will bury the seed about 1/4 inch deep. Make sure you cover the entire lawn repair surface.
Now we need to roll the entire yard. If you do not have access to one of these rollers, they’re inexpensive to rent. Fill it with water 1/8 to 1/4 way. Don’t put too much water in it. You don’t want to compact the soil. Roll the entire lawn repair surface. If you feel you need to go over again twice that’s fine.
Finishing up, we just spread a nice organic starter fertilizer over the entire surface. Something like a 2-4-2 would work well. Notice the middle number is higher than typical lawn fertilizer bags. Phosphorus is important seed germination and root development.
Applying Synthetic Starter Fertilizer
I’m asked all the time if I ever deviate from my organic methods. I’ll do whatever I can to keep someone from using a full synthetic fertilizer and pesticide program.
One of these times is with the starting fertilizer added at the end of the lawn repair process. Chemical seed starting fertilizers are very effective and quick acting.
The sooner the grass seed germinates and the lawn gets established the better organic future it will have. You will be happy with the results and be less inclined to go back to chemical fertilizers.
The thicker the grass stand the less problems the lawn will have which means less future inputs which is what we are striving for.
This should be a time you will want to cheat with synthetic fertilizers if you choose to.
The final step of our lawn repair, as with just about any gardening project is to water the soil. We must keep it moist until at least the second to third mowing. Not to the point were the water runs off, just moist.
In cooler areas it’s a bit easier with autumn approaching. In the warm areas you really need to keep ahead of the game. So be careful. You don’t want to waste all that hard work and money lawn repairing on something as simple as watering the grass.
That wraps up the lawn repair method I use at Apex Landscaping. Keep the grass moist until the third mowing and keep off the lawn repair surface as much as possible until it’s completely established. You’ll know when.
Because we used mycorrhizal fungi with our compost tea grass seed germination should be accelerated.
For example Kentucky Blue Grass usually takes 21 days to germinate. I’ve seen Blue grass germinate in 10 days with the added compost tea.
Follow the Steps and You Will Learn How to Lawn Repair