The Q&A Archives: Killing Weeds, Starting New Lawn

Question: I moved into a house which had been vacant for a long time. It has a large yard and various weeds have taken over. I keep it cut and when it is cut it looks good, but I can still tell the weeds are there. It is mostly exposed to the sun, with very little shade. What is the best way to do it myself and get a nice, green lawn? Thank you for your expert advice.

Answer: Sounds as though renovation is in order. Lawn renovation involves killing existing turf and replacing it with new grass without tilling or changing the grade which is normally done during the establishment of a new lawn.

Follow these steps to renovate a lawn.

1. Kill existing grass and weeds using a non-selective herbicide. The most effective products contain glyphosate.
2. Glyphosate is only effective on actively growing grass and weeds, so the area should be well-irrigated to encourage plant growth before applying the herbicide.
3. Allow the spray to dry for one day following application. Resume watering for 10 days. Spot spray areas or weeds that are still green.
4. When the existing vegetation is dead, mow the site to 1/2 inch and remove the debris by hand raking or using the bagging unit on your lawn mower.
5. If there is an existing thatch layer (a matted layer of organic matter on the soil surface) thicker than 1 inch, remove it from the lawn (a sod cutter makes thatch removal easier).
6. A thatch layer less than 1 inch is okay, but the soil must be exposed.
Core cultivating provides an excellent seed germination environment. Holes should be 1 to 3 inches deep and 2 inches apart in all directions.
A power rake, set deep enough to expose the soil, can also be run over the lawn in two different directions. Remove loose debris by raking or using a bagging unit attached to your lawn mower.
7. Spread seed on exposed soil to allow for good seed to soil contact.
8. Seed at the label?s recommended rate with a drop spreader in two different directions. Follow with a light raking to work the seed into the soil.

Newly seeded areas require different care than established lawns. Follow the recommendations below.

Apply starter fertilizer at the rate recommended on the label.
Irrigate the area should to maintain a consistently moist (but not saturated) soil.
Check moisture levels in the underlying soil to prevent excessive irrigation.
Grass will germinate and grow more vigorously in aerification holes or slits made by the power rake.
Begin mowing the lawn when it has grown to about 2 1/2 inches.
Keep traffic, including children and pets, off of the lawn as much as possible, until the lawn has been mowed a few times and the new grass begins to mature.

Hope your new lawn is beautiful!

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