Lawn Repair

Don’t give up on a damaged lawn, repair it easily!

Lawn Repair by Midwest Gardening.jpg

If you have acquired new property that has not been cared for, or pests, disease or a devastating winter have ruined your lawn, a little effort and patience will get the lawn back in shape. Of course your best defense is good maintenance, which help recovery. A stressed or weak lawn is more susceptible to damage. Mow, water and feed correctly, aerate and dethatch occasionally, and keep weeds in check so the lawn is strong and healthy enough to minimize damage. All this is important in revitalizing a lawn as well as maintaining it.

An often overlooked step in lawn repair is determining, and correcting, the problem that caused damage and dead spots or thinning. If you do not correct the problem you will be in repair mode repeatedly.

  • A fertilizer spill will burn and kill the grass quickly. Get the shop vac and vacuum it up. Then flush it thoroughly with plenty of water.

  • Dog pee dead spots should be thoroughly raked and dead grass removed. Apply lime and water well.

  • Poor soil nutrition will need organic amendments

  • Insect or grubs must be eradicated. Try an natural remedy if possible rather than chemical.

  • Disease, usually a fungus, will need to be properly diagnosed and treated.

Sometimes a busy life just plain causes us to neglect our lawn. It may become weak and thin and bare patches will develop, especially in heavy traffic areas. In any case, once the causing problem is corrected (or you finally have time to pay attention to your lawn again!) you can begin repairs.

To repair dead and bare spots, you will need to do some seeding or patch with sod. Seeding is best done in early fall. Summer is actually harder on new grass and plants than winter. Seeding sprouted in early fall will be well established before the following summer.

To renovate large areas of lawn:

  • Mow existing grass very short. If lawn is severely damaged requiring complete renovation, mow it short enough to basically leaving a short stubble but not scalping the grass too close to the soil line.

  • Rake up the grass clippings to expose the bare soil.

  • Rough up the exposed soil with a stiff garden rake. Don’t get so aggressive that you are pulling up and damaging existing grass.

  • Sow seed at the rate recommended on the package. Err to sowing heavily to account for germination failure.

  • If possible “sprinkle” a topdressing of good soil or compost to hold the seed. A thin layer of straw over the top will also help hold the seed in place as well as help retain moisture. The straw will decompose and add organic matter to the area. Do NOT use hay as it is full of weed seeds!

  • A light application of starter fertilizer will help with good root establishment. It is important that a low nitrogen starter fertilizer is used so as not to “burn” tender growth

  • Lightly water frequently until the seed sprouts and begins to grow. In warm sunny weather you should do this every day to keep the seed moist until it germinates.

  • Once the seedlings are evident watering can be slightly reduced to 2 or 3 times a week. Additional moisture may be necessary in hot periods to keep the soil surface moist. Young seedlings have very shallow roots and are not able to access deeper soil moisture.

  • When grass has reached about 3 1/2 to 4 inches you can resume standard mowing and watering.

  • After 6 to 8 weeks apply a low nitrogen fertilizer.

To repair dead patches of lawn:

  • Remove all debris left by whatever damaged the lawn. Dig out dead turf and weeds.

  • Rough up the soil surface. Better yet, loosen 2 or 3 inches of soil to aid rooting as it often compacted.

  • If soil is exceptionally poor, work in organic matter while loosening soil. This is easier to accomplish when repairing larger patches.

  • Evenly sprinkle a high quality seed over prepared soil.

  • Sprinkle a very thin covering of top soil over the seed, or lightly press seed into the soil. Do not bury the seed, you just want it to stay put. A thin layer of straw over the top will also help hold the seed in place as well as help retain moisture. The straw will decompose and add organic matter to the area. Do NOT use hay as it is full of weed seeds!

  • A light application of starter fertilizer will help with good root establishment. It is important that a low nitrogen starter fertilizer is used so as not to “burn” tender growth.

  • Germination will require constant moisture. Water daily with a light mist so as not to puddle up the seed.

  • Once grass seedlings appear, watering can be reduced to 2 or 3 times a week. Additional moisture may be necessary in hot periods to keep the soil surface moist. Young seedlings have very shallow roots and are not able to access deeper soil moisture.

  • When grass has reached about 3 1/2 to 4 inches you can resume standard mowing and watering.

  • After 6 to 8 weeks apply a low nitrogen fertilizer.

    Repairing a patch with sod:

  • Repairing with sod is quick, easy and can be done anytime during the growing season.

  • Prepare the patch as above for seed.

  • Prepared area should be about an inch below the surrounding turf line.

  • Cut a piece of sod to fit the patch site.

  • Firm the sod piece into place, snugly against existing turf. Do firm it in solidly, walk on it if needed.

  • Water deeply and keep moist until well rooted.

Tips for preventive maintenance

There are many problems you can head of with simple preventive maintenance before they cause damage. One of the most damaging issues we deal with in the North and Midwest is road salt, de-icing chemicals and sand. Snow plows throw all of that well up into our front lawns and can be quite devastating to the lawn. But if you act quickly in spring, you can minimize if not prevent the damage. Other basic maintenance can help mitigate the assault from winter as well as other problems.

  • Use a shop vac to vacuum up road salt coated sand and gravel thrown up into your lawn by snow plows. The sand and gravel hinders growth of the grass.

  • Dilute deadly effects of road salt and deicer by watering heavily once the ground thaws.

  • Aerate every one to three years depending on your soil type and compaction.

  • Remove or prevent crabgrass or it will choke out your grass and take over the lawn.

  • Neutralize dog spots by watering in a sprinkling of gypsum.

  • Keep the lawn strong and healthy with good maintenance practices year round.

Sharon DwyerComment