How to Restore a Weedy, Patched Lawn
If you have a lawn at home to look after, you already know how tricky it can be to keep it healthy and weed-free. "If your turf appears anything other than lush or vibrant, it is likely lacking some form of routine maintenance, such as irrigation, mowing, fertilizing, and trimming," explains Mike Fitzpatrick, vice president of U.S. Lawns. "Telltale signs your lawn is in need of restoration included brown or yellow spots, barren areas where grass seems not to grow, overgrown weeds or moss in your lawn or on your bricks, and rock-hard ground."
Fortunately, Fitzpatrick says that if you can identify what's causing the issue, restoring a patchy, weed-filled lawn can be a breeze. "The best part about visible lawn issues is that it can be fairly easy to track the source of the problem. For example, if there are barren areas on your lawn, look up and check if they are getting enough sunlight. If a tree isn't allowing enough sun to filter through at the height of the day, you may need to trim the branches back to allow sunlight to reach the covered areas, or find a type of turf that is more conducive to shady areas." Looking for tips about how to restore your lawn to its original glory? We asked a few landscaping experts for their advice and here's what they had to share.
Ensure your lawn is getting enough water.
If you aren't monitoring the amount of water your lawn receives each week, Benjamin Godfrey, garden manager of Cornerstone Sonoma, says you're doing it wrong. "Place cups around your lawn to catch samples when you water," he says. "Any spot that gets less than one inch of water per week will be susceptible to grass dying, which allows the weeds to move in. The best way to avoid this is to adjust the amount of time you water with the temperatures and seasons."
If you see any weed growth, Spectrum Brands home and garden plant scientist Dr. Gladys Mbofung-Curtis says to take action immediately. "Get rid of weeds as soon as possible to arrest spread to other weed-free areas," she explains. "If practical, hand pull the weeds, making sure to remove the root, or use a specially formulated selective weed killer, such as Spectracide Lawn Weed Killer Concentrate ($7, homedepot.com), to remove them."
Amend the soil.
Once your lawn is weed-free, Godfrey says you'll need to repair and add fertilizer to the patchy areas to make room for fresh grass to grow. "Grass roots don't grow very deep, so amending your soil isn't too difficult a challenge," he explains. "Loosen your existing soil, mix it with topsoil, then rake it level. At this point add a fine layer of grass starter fertilizer and you should be good to go."
Plant fresh grass seeds.
As soon as you've amended the soil, Godfrey says it's time to spread some grass seed. "It's easiest to use a handheld spreader but you can scatter the seed by hand for small areas," he says. "I try to get 15 to 20 seeds per square inch. Too many seeds will create weak grass because of the competition for water and nutrients. Once you've spread your seed, cover it with a fine layer of topsoil (about an eight to a fourth of an inch is fine)."
If you don't follow proper maintenance practices after removing the weeds from your lawn, Fitzpatrick says they'll keep coming back. Simply pulling the weeds and spraying the area is not enough," he explains. "Make sure you're watering your lawn to match the turf's unique needs and mow often enough that you are never removing more than a third of the grass blade."