Renovating an old tired worn out lawn
Turf grasses in lawns do not last a lifetime, despite what many lawn owners think. Like shrubs in the garden, turf grasses will become thin and straggly and require regular pruning and shaping and training.
If you keep your grasses healthy and dense and react promptly to any moss, weeds and lawn pests and diseases, then you should be able to retain the lawn in the style you are hoping for. If not, keep reading!
The majority of the ‘pruning’ is performed by the act of mowing each week and occasionally scarifying to remove the ‘dead wood’.
A desirable lawn should only have grasses in it so no brownie points for weeds and moss in the lawns surface. If the percentage proportions of grasses, weed grasses, weeds and moss are swaying in the favour of what you do not want in the lawn then time to do something.
There are major benefits associated with this decision as there will be ample opportunity to correct levels and also to start with a clean sheet and good desirable turf grasses.
Unlike Renovating an Existing Lawn, you will be killing off the lawn totally, or stripping the old surface off with a turf stripper which is a good way of removing all the weeds and moss and weed grasses in one process!
If you are sure this is the way you want to proceed, kill the lawn off with a total weed killer containing the active ingredient called Glyphosate which is found in many well known total weed killer brands.
If you need some advice on Total Weed Killing look at our earlier post on the subject.
Be careful to follow the label. Mow the lawn lightly before hand but leave sufficient vegetation for the chemical to be effective. Glyphosate is a non toxic active that will neutralise as soon as it hits the ground.
The grasses will turn a pinky colour quite quickly – 10 days with the weeds taking a little longer. After two weeks or so, mow the old dead lawn. You will feel a little stupid doing this but it is important to reduce the amount of vegetation, dead that it may be, ahead of the renovation process.
You may not need to rotovate or dig the old lawn surface over, but could simply build the area up with topsoil or a thin layer of top dressing and bury the existing surface if you can get away with it on the levels front.
You will only get away doing this once and it is not 100% correct and this would not be done in a professional environment such as in sports surfaces.
The picture at the head of this post was a lawn renovation project where the lawn needed serious re levelling but at least two inches of new soil over the main central area and edges, so the old lawn was buried and the level brought up to hard landscaped areas.
It is important to key in the old lawn surface with the new and aerating the hell out of the dead lawn will do this work for you ahead of importing more top soil ahead of seeding or turfing.
If the old lawn surface was very uneven or sunken before and with more than 5 – 10 mm of Thatch below the surface, you will need to rotovate and turn the old lawn in.
If the lawn area is only small you can dig it by hand. Remove any stones and import any topsoil that is required to build up the lawn to the desired levels.
Heel and toe the soil surface to consolidate the soil. This is done by gently shuffling your feet in straight lines, keeping your feet just slightly apart and exerting even downward pressure on the surface without stomping your heels into the soil.
Your feet will move small quantities of soil and allow you to feel the bumps and depressions. Repeat the process at right angles to the first pass and rake the area to raise, lowering any changes in the level as you move over the surface, or add more topsoil where required.
Rake the final surface and apply a pre seeding fertiliser with an analysis of NPK 6-9-6 or NPK 7-7-7.
If you opt for seeding your lawn, choose your seed mixture to suit your lawns life style and ensure that you allow 52 grams per square metre of seed for new lawns and 35 grams per square metre for existing lawns and patching areas.
All too often, insufficient seed is purchased for the given area to be sown.
Seeding needs to follow a similar process to renovating an old lawn following scarification and aeration, divide the seed quantity in half and sow half one-way, the other half at right angles to the first pass.
Always sow around the perimeter first and the seed can be sown either by hand or using a fertiliser distributor.
Lightly rake into the surface and sow a small quantity over the surface afterwards just to be sure.
A turf grass plant needs to get to around 8 leaf stages before it is established. In the normal growing season, Dwarf Rye Grasses will germinate quite quickly if the surface of the soil is kept moist – normally after two weeks.
First you will see one single grass shoot then the root will develop, then there will be two and then three and four leaves after a month and then it will take a while to get to 8 new leaf stages.
When the new seeds and grasses are around 50mm high, mow around 25% off the lawn and then mow twice a week in different directions and the lawn will gradually thicken up.
It is possible to spray out any minor weeds in the new surface once the grasses have got to 6 leaf stages or after typically three months since sowing.
You can could the leaves if you remove just one plant to see where it is at. These are special selective weed killers designed with the requirements of new grasses in mind so check the label to see if it is suitable for this task otherwise you run the risk of killing the new lawn.
Do everything you can to encourage the new grasses to develop to form the lawn.
After two months, over seed the lawn again, especially in bare areas if there are any.
Despite careful sowing the grasses will not germinate or grow evenly and it will exasperate you that this is happening. If the weather is cold and with cold winds, the germination process will take a little longer but do not despair, grasses are tough little things, even in wet conditions.
Keep any foot traffic off the lawn or if you have to then keep to one tract that can easily be repaired with a bit of to dressing a little later on.
Arrange to fertilise the lawn again within two months from sowing so as to give some vital nutrients to the new lawns.
Regular mowing will encourage the new grass plants to ‘tiller’ out as this is how they normally develop.
If you opt for turf, source a reputable turf supplier and pick up a copy of their turf laying guide or ask for a copy of their local landscapers directory detailing those that provide a turf laying service.
Watering is probably the most time consuming aspect in the establishment of a new lawn. Watering on a little and often basis is the best policy to follow. Placing a deep saucer or flower pot saucer on the surface of the lawn will allow you to visually evaluate just how much water is going onto the lawn before you move the sprinkler.
If the area starts to pond, then you have watered too much!!
After care – fertilise every three months throughout the year, react to any weeds and mosses, pests and diseases and do not be shy to sow some additional grass seed in any bare areas throughout the season, especially on North facing areas, under shrub overhand areas and in shaded areas.
Do everything to fill in any bare areas otherwise these will quickly become populated by moss and weeds.
Most of all, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your hard work....