How To Fix A Weedy Lawn

Help – My lawn is all weeds! If your lawn looks more like a dandelion farm than a lush, grassy oasis, you may feel frustrated and overwhelmed.

Is it possible to kick those pesky weeds to the curb and reclaim your lawn?

Yes. With a little time and effort, you can bring your lawn back to life.

Seven Steps to Get Rid of Lawn Weeds

Depending on the size of your yard, this project may take an afternoon or an entire weekend. The goal is to choke out the lawn weeds, creating an inhospitable environment that discourages weed growth.

This multi-step approach starts with finding the right type of grass for your lawn.

Lawn with weeds growing everywhere - title overly Taming The Wildest Lawns

Step 1: Choose the Right Grass

Before you get to work, sit down and do some research to determine which type of grass – or mixture of grasses – will work best in your yard.

There are many different types of grass, and the right one will depend on your location and how much sunlight your yard receives.

Some of the most common types of grass include:

  • Fine Fescue: North; prefers shade; doesn’t hold up to foot traffic as well as other grasses
  • Tall Fescue: North/Transition; drought-resistant; withstands heat well
  • Kentucky Bluegrass: North; ideal for heavy traffic; durable and self-repairing
  • Bermuda Grass: Transition; versatile, warm-season grass
  • Zoysia Grass: Transition; prefers full sun
  • Centipede Grass: South; low-maintenance; low-growing and pest-resistant
  • St. Augustine Grass: South; drought- and heat-resistant; coarse grass

Step 2: Trim the Weeds Down

Before you kill the weeds, it’s easier if you cut them down to a manageable height. Use a weed wacker or string trimmer using a sweeping motion over the field.

If the weeds are very thick and brambly, choose a twisted or serrated string trimmer line. They will provide additional cutting power and are less likely to break on rocks or obstacles you can’t see under the brush.

Rake the cut weeds and haul them off to the compost bin or garbage.

Step 3: Kill the Weeds

Once you have chosen the right type of grass to plant, it’s time to get to work killing the weeds in your lawn.

Because this is going to be a big job, you may want to use a hose-end sprayer. Choose a broadleaf weed killer, and use it at least three weeks before planting.

Read and follow the directions properly when using a weed killer. Wear appropriate clothing and eye protection.

lawn with dandilion and other weeds throughout
The type and amount of weeds in your lawn will dictate the type of weed killer you need to use.

Step 4: Aerate the Soil

The next step is to prepare the soil for seeding. Aerating helps loosen the soil, but it also brings oxygen into the mix. Although time-consuming, aerating will help water penetrate deeper into the soil to encourage more growth.

Aerating the soil by hand will take far too much time and effort. A lawn aerator or even a tiller will get the job done quickly and efficiently. If you’d rather not deal with a motorized tool, you can use a manual aerator.

When using a core aerator, it’s best to make three passes, with each one from a different direction.

You can use a power rake to aerate the soil and lift thatch from the ground. Ideally, you want to go over the lawn from two directions, and rake to remove dead debris.

Step 5: Sow the Seeds

spreading grass seed with a drop spreader

Once the soil is prepared, it’s time to spread the seeds. You can do this by hand, or with the help of special gardening tools.

If spreading seeds by hand, be careful not to throw too many in one area. If you throw too many seeds, they will wind up competing for moisture and nutrients. Work from side to side to allow for even coverage.

To make the job a little easier, you can use a drop spreader, hand spreader or a broadcast spreader.

Drop spreader: Drops the seeds directly underneath as you push it along. Drop spreaders allow for more targeted seed spreading, and they work great with lawns that have a lot of landscaping, narrow strips or tight turns.

Hand spreader: Ideal for small lawns, hand spreaders dispense seeds in front of you as you walk. These tools are powered either by crank or battery.

Broadcast spreader: Ideal for larger lawns, a broadcast spreader dispenses seeds in a broad pattern. This allows you to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

Step 6: Add Compost and Fertilizer

To encourage growth, compost and fertilizer can be added after spreading seeds.

Lawns can be top-dressed with cow manure. Bio-fertilizers are usually the best option. Because they are natural, there’s no need to wait for the grass seeds to germinate before using them. After a few weeks, the fertilizer will break down and start entering the roots of your newly-planted grass.

Fertilizer should be applied twice a year: once in the spring, and once in the fall.

Step 7: Keep it Watered

sprinkler watering the grass

Once you’ve planted and fertilized your new lawn, it’s time to maintain it. Make sure that you’re watering your grass regularly, particularly during the germination period. It’s crucial to keep the seeds moist. A light watering once in the morning and once in the evening is ideal.

After that first mowing, you can switch to a deep soaking. This will encourage the roots to elongate in search of soil. Oscillating sprinklers can help with deep soaking, but you can also use a hose for this task.

Once you’ve reclaimed your lawn, create and stick to a maintenance schedule. Watering, fertilizing, and removing emerging weeds will help keep your lawn looking its best all year long.

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