Answer: To begin, run some basic soil tests and check fertility and soil pH. Then adjust these as indicated by the soil test results. This summer, mow the lawn regularly and see if it improves. Correct mowing means mowing to a height of three inches and mowing often enough that you do not remove more than one third the height of the grass at a time. This will help the grass grow dense and crowd out weeds. If there are perennial weeds such as thistles you may want to spot treat them with herbicide containing glyphosate as well. Your local county extension should be able to help you with the soil testing and interpreting the results as well as in analyzing the potential for the area as it is currently planted. If extensive renovation is needed, the best time of year to do it is late summer to early fall. Any soil improvement you do now will be helpful for that as well.
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