Fall is for planting but also for lawn renovation. September is a good month to reseed, renovate and restore a summer-weary lawn.
You can also use the patch method to repair just a few bare or brown areas of an otherwise fine-looking lawn. Sometimes dead patches appear from doggy deposits or fertilizer burns — usually when a fully-open spreader allows too much nitrogen to fall onto the grass in one spot.
To do a perfect patch job on a section of damaged lawn follow these steps:
1. First dig out the dead, yellow or badly damaged turf. If you do not know what is causing the problem now is the time to dig down past the grass roots to remove large boulders or clay deposits.
2. Once the damaged turf is removed, spread topsoil over the bare area and mix this with the top six inches of soil.
3. Now make a template by laying newspaper over the bare spot and tracing the outline of how much new sod you will need to fill the space.
4. Next, go on the hunt for some fine-looking sod in a back corner or near a garden bed you plan to widen or enlarge. Usually gardeners will patch a front yard bare spot by taking sod from an area that is less often seen in the backyard.
5. Lay the newspaper template on top of the healthy sod and cut out the shape you need using a shovel or serrated root-pruning tool. Set this newly cut sod onto a waiting tarp.
6. Drag the tarp to the bare spot, slide in the newly cut sod and you will have a perfect fit and almost instant gratification.
7. Now go back to the spot where you robbed the sod, and reseed that area. It will take longer to fill in, but by choosing a less visible or high-traffic area to borrow some sod you’ll be more patient with the grow in.
To renovate your entire lawn this fall, you can follow these steps:
1. Aerate using a core aerator and leave the plugs of soil on the lawn. Rake or thatch if you have an older lawn that is spongy or repels water.
2. Spread at least one inch of fresh topsoil on top of the old lawn. Adding two to three inches of topsoil is even better. Use the back of the rake or rent a large contractors rake to level the surface and fill in the lawn spots. A level lawn will not only look better, but be easier to mow.
3. Let the topsoil settle for a couple of days, then add a starter fertilizer and level again, filling in any low spots that settled.
4. Spread new lawn seed using a mix or blend of fine fescues and perennial rye. Pay more for “named” grass seed varieties because these hold a patent for improvements in drought and disease resistance. Mix the grass seed into the topsoil a bit, then level again with the back of the rake.
5. Pray for six weeks of gentle rain – or keep the seed moist by hand-watering with a fine mist.
6. Wait until spring, then celebrate that your grass is greener on your side of the fence. Do not use weed-and-feed on a new lawn, and mow only when the grass blades are 4 inches tall, cutting off just the top one third of the blades.
7. If all this sounds like a lot of work, it is. You can also just call a lawn-care company and have the professionals spread the topsoil and reseed your new lawn. If you are really impatient, rip out the old sod, add six to 12 inches of topsoil and have new sod installed for a weed-free carpet of green.
There is one more option. Just live with your good-enough lawn and blur your eyes at the weeds — but fill in the low spots and sprinkle some grass seed.