The Q&A Archives: patchy grass

Question: The grass in my back yard is not very good. It is mostly taken over by weeds. I kill the weeds and plant grass seed but they do not survive. Right now the lawn it full of weeds and sand. I put top soil down and sand appears after rain. please advise.

Answer: Sometimes the best thing to do is to start all over, especially if you've already tried seeding and your lawn is still more weeds than grass.

There are a couple of ways to renovate your lawn. You can rototill it up and start all over, or you can rent a core aerator and aerate your lawn, then spread some compost over the area and reseed.

If you decide to redo the entire lawn, start by rototilling the area to break up the soil. Remove any debris (stones, sticks, weeds, etc.) and then spread 4-5 inches of organic matter over the area and rototill it in, then rake the area smooth. Sod produces an almost instant lawn because the grass is mature with a healthy root system. After laying the sod and watering it down well, it only takes a week or two to become firmly established. Seeding takes a little longer, but the results are eventually the same - a lush, thick, healthy lawn.

The second option is to aerate your existing lawn. A core aerator will remove one inch by three inch plugs from the lawn. Leave the plugs on the lawn and they will dissolve in rain or water from the sprinklers. After aerating spread a thin layer of compost over the area and water it in well. The compost plus the soil from the plugs will work their way down into the holes left by the plugs. You can then overseed your entire lawn.

Either approach should improve the soil beneath the lawn and help your lawn grow lush and thick, which will help crowd out any future weeds.

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