Introduction

how to fix a half dead lawn
Photo: Kindra Clineff
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Q: How can I fix my half-dead lawn, which is full of yellow patches, weeds, and bare spots? — Phil sutton, Burlington, Mass.

TOH Landscape Contractor Roger Cook replies: When a lawn is more than 50 percent dead—whether it's due to soil compaction, not getting enough water, being cut too short, or some other problem—it's easiest to remove all the grass and start over with fresh seed.

The first step is to have the soil tested by a local extension service to see if it needs amending. Once the test results are in, order the recommended soil amendments and compost. Then rent a sod cutter to slice up the old grass and a rotary tiller to fluff up the soil and blend in the amendments. With these tools, you can redo an 1,800-square-foot lawn in a weekend.

Finally, spread fresh seed over the prepared soil and water it daily. You want the top layer of soil to stay evenly moist until the seeds germinate. By spring's end, your lawn should look as good as new.

Shown: To ensure a lush lawn, Roger Cook opens the spreader completely to drop the maximum amount of seed.
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    Tools List

    • flat blade shovel
      Shovel
    • wheelbarrow
      Wheelbarrow
    • Gas powered sod cutter
      Sod Cutter
    • rotary tiller
      Tiller
    • walk-behind spreader
      Seed spreader
    • metal garden rake
      Grading rake
    • hand rake
      Leaf rake

    Shopping List

    1. Compost

    2. Soil amendments3. Grass seed