So you bought a new house and the lawn looks like it’s been neglected for years. It’s full of weeds with no good grass in sight. Your first thought might be to call the landscaper and have them replace the old lawn with new sod. This is a great idea- if you have a few thousand dollars laying around. But when you buy a new house, chances are good you will prioritize other things over new sod. But with a little elbow grease and a few tips, you can turn around a bad lawn with minimal cost.
First things first: give the lawn a good rake. I’m talking arm killing, short, hard strokes. This is the best upper body workout you will ever get. You are aiming to rake up any dead material and rough up the soil. Apply a good weed and feed fertilizer. We are partial to Menards brand, it’s inexpensive and effective. Let it sit for a few weeks and water in slightly if no rain is forecast.
It’s time to seed. Cover the entire lawn with a ½ inch or so of dry top soil. If you are in an area with heavy clay soil, add sand in 4:1 proportion. Toss out shovelfuls and spread with the back of a rake. Spread the seed evenly and cover lightly with more topsoil. The most important thing now is water. The seed needs to be moistened every day till it germinates. This can take up to 2 weeks depending on soil and air temperature. Usually you will see it sprouting in 7-10 days. Now water thoroughly (1 inch) once a week.
As far as mowing goes, less is more. Or I should say longer is better. Grass should be no shorter than 2 1/2 to 3 inches. Encourage long, strong roots with good growth on top. Strong grass roots will also crowd out any weeds that want to hang around. The best weed preventative is a good strong lawn.
Keep up the topsoil and seeding throughout the late spring into mid-summer. Grass doesn’t like extremely hot temps, so keep up with watering and adding topsoil. You really can’t add too much topsoil. Watch when you water, and when it rains, for low spots where water pools and add more topsoil there. Chances are your soil was poor to start, that’s why you had so many weeds. Do another weed and feed mid-summer and again later in the fall.
You should notice by the end of summer that you have more grass than weeds! Keep up your routine of fertilize, seed, topsoil, water, and proper mowing. You will be rewarded with a green, healthy lawn that cost a few hundred dollars instead of thousands.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO