6 Easy Steps to Restore a Lawn Full of Weeds Have you ever face the ruined lawn full of ugly weeds, without any possibility to enjoy beautiful, green grass? It is a horrible thing indeed. I How to Restore a Lawn Full of Weeds If your lawn is patchy and full of weeds, it will never be the envy of the neighborhood. What you’re after is a lush, green lawn with even grass and no Your lawn is riddled with weeds. Will overseeding effectively crowd them out, or are you just throwing money away? I discuss overseeding weedy lawn areas.
6 Easy Steps to Restore a Lawn Full of Weeds
Have you ever face the ruined lawn full of ugly weeds, without any possibility to enjoy beautiful, green grass? It is a horrible thing indeed.
I know that using chemicals is the most comfortable way to solve this issue, but it is definitely not the choice you should make. Instead, try to create a lovely new lush lawn full of healthy and vigorous grass. Let’s see how.
Table of Contents
Define the Status of Your Lawn at the Moment
From the very beginning, you need to identify the current situation with your grass and the condition of your lawn.
Grass density – The problem in your yard will begin from the moment when you spot first patches of dirt located between the grasses. We can talk about insufficiently watered parts without enough nutrients which will be real weed-magnets in your yard. If you miss solving the problem on time, you can expect this place fills with unwanted weeds.
Thatch – A matted layer of grassroots and various dead stuff means that you have some thatch on the surface of the soil. As long as this layer is about a 0.25 to 0.5 inches (0.6 – 1.3 cm) thick, you don’t have any reason to worry about.
The layer of thatch will help with providing organic matter for grass, slowing the evaporation from the soil, protecting grassroots from high heat during summer, and even slowing germination of weeds seed.
However, if this layer is more than 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) thick, it will probably cause problems including choking out your grass. Also, your lawn won’t get enough water during light rain since thatch will absorb all moisture.
Grassroots depth – When your grass is weak with shallow roots, it can’t reach the necessary nutrients from the soil. Keep in mind that health grass needs at least 6 inches (15 cm) long roots. Otherwise, you can expect weeds spread around.
Weed spread – You can be sure that you will lose a fight against weeds if it has spread to over 50% of your lawn. Determine the type of weeds and the surface of the affected yard and decide if you need to kill all of them immediately or to deal with a piece by piece of it over time.
The Types of Weeds
The most common weeds you can find on your lawn are divided into three basic categories:
- Annual weeds – This type produces its seeds during only one season.
- Biennial weeds – This type produces its seeds during two consecutive seasons.
- Perennial weeds – This type produces its seeds during a long time. Its well-established roots allow this grass to overwinter and start growing again in spring without any damage.
The Way to Restore a Lawn Full of Weeds
Once your yard is full of weeds, your grass can’t grow healthy and green. Be prepared that you can’t solve the problem quickly, but it is not impossible if you are persistent and have a strong will to restore your lawn.
Step 1. Cleaning and mowing
Start with cleaning your yard. Get rid of as many unsightly clusters of weeds as possible by using a small hand-shovel. Tearing the weeds off at the surface of the ground is not enough. You need to move the entire plant including roots.
Also, don’t leave pulled weeds to lie on the ground. When you mow your lawn the next time, you will chop weeds up and inadvertently replant them.
While mowing your yard, no matter if you use a reel mower, self-propelled lawn mower, or electric cordless lawn mower, pay attention to blades and set them at a high setting. While your grass is vigorous, tall, and thick, you won’t have any problems with weeds.
Step 2. Weed killer
Use a sprayer and apply the weed killer directly to the weeds. Try to avoid healthy grass since even best herbicides can damage it. Do it at least three weeks before the term for setting up a new lawn.
Step 3. Aeration
To aerate your land correctly, you can use both hand or power tools. Just push a tube into the ground and leave an open hole while moving out the tiny plug of the soil. After forming the loose soil, roots of your grass can grow deeper into the ground, and both fertilizer and water will penetrate quickly and reach deeper layers.
Use the turf aerator and aerate your yard from one end to the other. Start in a horizontal direction and keep going diagonally from one corner to the opposite one.
That is the best way to help air reach even the deepest grassroots. This process is the only solution for a high-traffic lawn, especially if it contains mostly clay.
Step 4. Plant new grass seed
The essential part is planting new, weed-free seeds and establishing a new lawn. Before starting, use a power rake to lift thatch, break up aerator plugs, and loose the soil. Go over your yard from two directions, remove dead debris, and allow seeds to come to direct contact with the ground.
Then spread the precise amount of seeds around by using a broadcast spreader. In general, you will need approximately fifteen seeds per square inch (0.00065 m2).
Step 5. Water the soil
Water the new grass regularly. If it is possible, you should do it at least twice a week. Choose to do that job early in the morning to avoid the heat of the summer days.
Most yards need approximately 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) of water a week. How much water your lawn needs depends on the type of grass and the soil in your yard as well as the climate in the region you live in.
To precisely determine how often you need to water your lawn, you can use a few tests, including screwdriver test (pushing a screwdriver 6 inches (15 cm) into the soil to check if it is moist) or rolled grass (grayish, rolling leaf blades are the sign that your land is dry).
You can use an oscillating lawn sprinkler which can cover a waste area and prevent washing away grass seeds at the same time.
Step 6. Fertilizing the lawn
Let your lawn dry and spread weed-killing fertilizer over the new grass. To help the roots of your grass to develop appropriately, you should add a lawn fertilizer containing nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
Keep in mind that some States don’t allow adding phosphorus due to water pollution concerns. Therefore, you need fertilizers labeled ‘New Lawns’ or ‘Starter.’
Take care to apply it in mid-spring and summer if you have warm-season grasses in your lawn, and during summer or early fall if grow cool-season grasses. That way, your grass will get all the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.
Give your new grass enough time to grow. After it becomes viable, you can start maintaining it.
Maybe you should invest in a seasonal treatment to help your lawn stay weed-free, green, and lush. Apply it once every three months, and you won’t need to spend time by fighting with weeds and re-seeding the new grass every spring.
How to Restore a Lawn Full of Weeds
If your lawn is patchy and full of weeds, it will never be the envy of the neighborhood. What you’re after is a lush, green lawn with even grass and no dandelions poking their way through. That may sound hard to achieve, but it isn’t too difficult if you follow these steps.
If you only have a few pesky weeds punctuating your lawn, you may be able to dig them up by hand—paying careful attention to make sure you get them roots and all. But if your lawn is overrun with weeds, you may need to start from scratch. Here’s our how-to guide on restoring a lawn full of weeds.
Once your lawn is nice and green, we recommend hiring a professional lawn care company to help you maintain it to keep it weed-free. Our top recommendation goes to industry leader TruGreen.
Restoring a Lawn Full of Weeds in 10 Steps
Step 1: Identify the Weeds You Have
In order to make a successful game plan, you’ll need to know just what kind of weeds you’re dealing with. Weed treatments are designed to target specific weeds, so what may work on your broadleaf weeds may leave your grass-like weeds A-OK.
Weeds come in multiple categories, either broadleaf, grass-like, or grassy.
- Appearance: Broad, flat leaves
- Common types: Clover, ground ivy, dandelions, chickweed
- Appearance: Similar to grass, with hollow leaves in a triangular or tube shape
- Common types: Nutsedge, wild garlic, wild onion
- Appearance: Resembles grass, grows one leaf at a time
- Common types: Foxtail, annual bluegrass, quackgrass, crabgrass
Weeds can be broken down further into categories based on their life cycle—annual, biennial, or perennial.
- Annual: Produces seeds during one season only
- Biennial: Produces seeds during two back-to-back seasons
- Perennial: Produces seeds over many seasons
Step 2: Select a Proper Herbicide
Next, it’s time to select the proper weed treatment based on both weed classification and the stage in their life cycle. Pre-emergent herbicides tackle weed issues before they spring up. Post-emergent herbicides target established weeds.
Keep in mind that herbicides can kill whatever plant life they come into contact with—even if the label says otherwise—so handle with care. If your aim is to re-establish your lawn, as we recommend, killing your existing, thinning grass isn’t a big deal, since you will need to start fresh anyway.
Step 3: Apply the Treatment
For this step, it’s crucial that you follow the directions to the letter. Make sure you apply the proper product at the proper time. It’s a good idea to check out the forecast beforehand, since you don’t want any storms to wash away your herbicide.
*First application. See quote for terms and conditions.
Step 4: Wait It Out
How soon you can plant seed depends on the type of weed treatment you choose. Pre-emergent herbicides will prevent grass seeds from growing just as much as weed seeds, so it would be no good to sow seeds immediately after.
Depending on the type of weed treatment you choose, you may need to wait for up to four weeks. You can ask your local garden center for information about when it’s safe to plant.
Step 5: Rake and Till
Once the weeds—and grass, if applicable—turn brown, it’s time to bust out your rake. Rake up as much of the weeds as you can. Use your tilling fork to pull any extra weeds out and till the soil to prepare it for your amendments and seed.
Step 6: Dethatch and Aerate
Aerating your lawn can help break up thatch, the layer of decomposing organic matter between your lawn’s soil and grass blades. Thatch can be beneficial, since it can make your lawn more resilient and provide insulation from extreme temperatures and changes in soil moisture. But if it gets over a half-inch in thickness, it can cause root damage, including root rot.
Your raking and tilling from the previous step can help with dethatching, but you can also use a dethatching rake if the layer is too excessive.
Aeration improves your grassroots’ access to air, nutrients, and water. Use a spike or core aerator to break up the soil. If you use a core aerator, be sure to make two to three passes in different directions. Allow the plugs of soil you remove to decompose on top of your soil layer rather than remove them.
Step 7: Amend the Soil
Now, you can apply your soil amendment to ready your soil for the grass seed or sod.
Step 8: Lay Down Seed or Sod
You have a choice ahead of you. Do you want to lay down seed or sod? There are pros and cons to each.
- Pros: Less expensive, more variety
- Cons: Takes longer to germinate, can only lay at certain times of year depending on grass type
- Pros: Instant grass, can lay any time of year, requires little maintenance
- Cons: More costly, less variety in grass can mean less healthy lawn overall
To prepare the soil after either method, make sure you till it down to roughly 6 to 8 inches.
First, you need to choose the right type of seed for your lawn. That will depend on the region you live in—one that needs cool-season grasses, warm-season grasses, or a transition zone that allows more flexibility. After you determine which category you need, you can select specific grasses that may have attributes you’re after, like heat- or drought-resistance.
To seed your lawn, lay down approximately 1 inch of topsoil, then use a spreader to apply the seed to the soil.
We recommend using two different types of spreaders. For the majority of the work, you should use a broadcast spreader because they distribute seed evenly, allowing for thorough coverage. But you’ll want to use a drop spreader around the edges of garden beds to make sure you don’t inadvertently drop seed into them.
Always set the spreader to half the recommended drop rate and spread the seed in one direction, then one or two more in different directions to make sure the coverage is nice and even. You don’t want your lawn to have weird patterns or stripes.
Applying the right amount of seed is key. As a general rule of thumb, apply roughly 15 seeds per each square inch, then rake over the seed.
Top the seed with top dressing no greater than ¼ inch thick.
Then, it’s time to add starter fertilizer. Your best bet is to use a starter fertilizer high in phosphorus. However, due to concerns about water pollution, many states prohibit the use of phosphorus in fertilizers. Some states may allow phosphorus in fertilizers for establishing new lawns. If so, you’ll find fertilizers labeled “new lawn” or “starter fertilizer.”
Step 9: Water Your Lawn
Deep, infrequent watering can help establish your lawn by allowing it to grow deep roots, which can compete against weeds. Try to water your lawn about twice a week, in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. Lawns typically need about 1.5 inches of water per week, but that could vary based on the climate you live in and the type of grass seed you chose.
Step 10: Maintain Your Lawn
Proper maintenance is critical if you want your newly established lawn to stay weed-free. Mow at either the highest or second-highest setting. Vigorous grass won’t be choked out by weeds. Fertilize your lawn as needed to help it thrive.
Overseeding Weedy Lawn—Waste of Time or Effective?
Anyone who’s had to care for a lawn of their own knows how easily weeds can spread. Once they get into your yard, it’s almost impossible to get them out, no matter the number of herbicides you use. That’s because weeds are opportunistic and will claim any bare or thin patch they can find in your yard. But is overseeding weedy lawn areas a good option? Or will the weeds just crowd out your new grass. I’ll discuss in today’s article.
The best way to get rid of weeds, oddly enough, is to grow a lawn lush enough to kick them out.
If weeds don’t have a place to grow, they’ll stay out of your yard.
One of the best ways to reclaim your yard is to periodically overseed it. Overseeding (or spreading grass seed on an established lawn to help it thicken up) is an effective way to improve your lawn, but it’s no quick fix.
It’ll take a good amount of work, but the results are worth the effort if done correctly.
Let’s talk about effectively overseeding weedy lawn areas and the best times of year to do so.
How Overseeding Can Help Your Lawn
Overseeding is the method of revitalizing a yard by adding more seed into an existing lawn.
You don’t have to till your lawn, and you don’t have to tear it up for over-seeding a lawn to be effective.
When you overseed new grass grows to fill in the bare spots of your yard, making it grow in greener and thicker.
Overseeding at the right time of year, before weeds are established or after annual weed pressure begins to ease, will ensure success.
How To Succeed When Overseeding Weedy Lawn Areas
The most important things with overseeding are preparation and timing.
You can’t overseed a weedy lawn in the summer when all of your weeds are mature and growing vigorously. You’ll be wasting your time and money if you try that.
The best times to overseed your lawn are early spring (when soil temperatures are consistently above 55 degreees Fahrenheit) and early-mid autumn.
The time of year when you overseed your weedy lawn will depend upon why you’re doing it in the first place.
If your lawn is thin, and you want it to grow in thicker to prevent weeds from growing, early spring is your better bet.
If you want to give your lawn a hard reset, late autumn is the better choice as your new grass will not have any pressure from annual weeds.
The hot summer months are very harsh for new grass seedlings, so springtime isn’t quite as good for most weedy lawns.
Preparing Your Lawn for Success
Aside from choosing the best time, you must prepare your lawn for overseeding to work the best.
- Cut your grass short. When mowing your lawn normally, you should only cut it by 1/3 its length. But for overseeding, you want the grass short enough to make sure grass seed can get close to the surface. Try cutting the grass by 2/3 its lengths or cut it down to about 1 ½-inches tall.
- Clear your lawn of clippings. After mowing your lawn, make sure there are no clippings on your yard. These can interfere with new grass seed. Either use a bag on your mower or rake them up afterwards.
- Let air into your yard. You want to then loosen up the soil to improve soil contact with the new seeds. This is also a good time to remove thatch from your yard. Either aerate your lawn or use an iron rake to loosen the turf.
Seeding your Lawn
Once these steps are done, it’s time to spread seed onto your yard.
First, choose a grass seed that matches your climate and pairs with your grasses. Also, pick a grass that you can depend on. You want it to grow through the year, and be able to adapt to your yard conditions, like if your yard is sunny or shaded.
Before you begin spreading seed, check the label on the grass seed you purchase for the rate of overseeding. Most bags of grass seed will provide this information right on the bag.
You want to get the right amount of seed in your yard—too much will keep grass from growing because the seedlings compete for moisture, too little and your yard will stay thin and ripe for weed growth.
Once you’ve determined your application rate, use a lawn spreader (broadcast spreaders are my preference) to evenly spread it over your yard, and make sure you spread it on a dry day with no wind.
I like to spread some quick-release starter fertilizer on the lawn before spreading my seed. Scott’s makes a really good product (Amazon link), and it’s particularly good for Spring overseeding because it has a crabgrass preventer in the mix.
Spreading a thin (1/4 inch) layer of compost over the new seed will work wonders to improve germination and help your new seedlings thrive.
You’ll probably want to review my guide to watering new grass to improve your results.
Maintaining Your New Grass
Watering your new grass is critical and knowing the stages of watering is very important.
New grass needs a lot of water, and you want your soil to stay constantly moist.
For new grass, water lightly twice per day for the first week, and water more heavily the second week.
After 2 weeks, water heavily and less frequently. You want the soil saturated down to 6-inches each time you water it past the 2 week point. This will encourage your grass seedlings to grow deep roots which will improve your lawn’s resilience to heat and drought.
Wait several weeks before mowing your lawn.
Make sure the grass is over 3 inches (I recommend 4-inches in height for the first mow), otherwise you risk ripping your seedlings out of the turf because their roots won’t be deep enough yet.
When you do mow, bag your grass clippings the first few times, and adjust your mowing deck to cut no more than 1/3 of the grass blade.
Similarly avoid herbicides for several weeks on new grass.
If you used starter fertilizer, I recommend throwing down organic slow-release fertilizer after 4-6 weeks to sustain and feed your new lawn and keep it healthy.
Annually overseeding weedy lawn areas in combination with the use of pre-emergents every spring will gradually transform your weedy yard into the lush green carpet every homeowner wants.