Step by Step Lawn Renovation

The key to lawn renovation success is soil preparation. By following these steps you can create a beautiful lawn that you will enjoy for many years to come. 

When to Renovate?

The best months for sowing lawn seed are typically April, May or September, provided it’s not excessively rainy nor excessively dry. Carefully read the preparation steps below and count back the weeks listed for when to do each step.

Different Levels of Renovation

A) Simple: overseeding a small patch of lawn.
B) Medium: include power raking and core aeration if the soil is compacted or if thatch buildup is greater than 1/2 inch.
C) Complete: remove all undesirable grass with nonselective herbicide and begin fresh.

Step 1: Eliminate Undesirable Vegetation

If moss is present, remove as much moss or thatch as possible, then apply a high nitrogen/high iron (moss killer) fertilizer formulation. If using a fertilizer containing iron, be sure to wait 3 weeks before seeding. For weeds, remove as many as you can manually  and/or spot-apply an herbicide that contains glyphosate. Avoid weed killers that persist in the soil, such as soil sterilants. 
    For a complete renovation it is necessary to eliminate the existing turf. This is most easily done in the spring or fall with a a glyphosate-based herbicide that will break down quickly. Spray the lawn area on a dry, windless day being careful to follow label instructions. Some weedy grasses are difficult to kill and may require more than one herbicide application.
Note: Herbicides will only work on weeds and grasses that are actively growing. They will not be effective on brown or dormant summer lawns. 
    After spraying, wait as long a time as recommended on the label for the herbicide to transfer to plant roots. Grass seed must be in direct contact with the soil so any remaining moss or vegetation must be removed. Hand thatching rakes work well for small areas, or motorized thatchers are available at rental yards for larger areas . Be sure to remove all loose dead material so the soil surface is exposed for seed contact.

Step 2: Fix the Low Spots

If your lawn has low spots or heavily packed soil, now is the time to fix the problem. Aeration will help to break up the heavy packed soil layer to allow for better drainage and oxygen availability, vital to encouraging a healthy deep-rooted turf. Topdressing a screened compost or coarse sand into the aeration holes will help to maintain these benefits. Use “3-way soil” or quality topsoil to fill low spots. Be sure to level, water, and let settle 2–3 times in order to avoid future low spots.

Step 3: Sowing the Seed

Now you’re ready to seed. Be sure to wait at least 3 weeks after completing any moss control treatment. Check the herbicide or fertilizer label for the amount of time you must wait before reseeding. Any bare soil surface should be lightly roughed for the seed to make good contact. Overseed with a quality brand of Northwest-grown seed, such as Swansons’ own Overseed, Custom Shade, and Supreme blends. Seed at a rate of 7 to 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Seed can be broadcasted by hand, or even better, by using a drop seeder. Divide the seed in half and sow the first half in one direction, then follow up with the remaining seed perpendicular to your first application. Apply a light application (1/8-1/4 inch layer) of G&B Organics™ Soil Building Conditioner over the seed to help retain moisture and prevent birds from stealing the seed. 

Step 4: Starter Fertilizer

After seeding, apply a quality starter lawn fertilizer, such as Dr. Earth™ Organic Lawn Food. Apply the fertilizer in two directions, just as you sowed the seed. If renovating a lawn that had a heavy moss infestation problem, an application of Super Sweet™ lime is also important, following the directions on the package. 

Step 5: Germination

Keep the seed bed moist until germination is complete; use a fine mist to avoid washing seed away. Newly planted seed should never be allowed to dry out. Germination time depends on soil temperature, humidity, and other factors. In general, it takes several weeks for the majority of the seed to sprout. Remove weeds if they appear and after the grass is established, begin heavier but less frequent watering. 

Step 6: Mowing

Mowing the new lawn should begin when the grass is 2 1/2 to 3 inches tall. Be sure soil is fairly dry and firm to prevent tracking. Use a sharp bladed mower set high to prevent damage to the new plants. Remove no more than 1/3 of the grass height at a time to help thicken and mature a new lawn. Mowing a brand new lawn at a low height will cause problems in the future. 

Step 7: Healthy Maintenance

A regular fertilization program will keep your lawn green and healthy. Apply an application of Super Sweet lime approximately every six months (at a rate of 20-25 lbs. per 1000 sq.ft.) to balance pH and unlock trapped nutrients in the soil. Water regularly, at least once a month; more often in a dry spell. 

Healthy maintenance tips: 

•      Dethatch as needed.
•      Mow at medium-high mower height to develop a stronger grass root structure. 
•      Even in summer, water at least once per month.