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How to Repair and Improve Your Lawn

Want to repair or improve your lawn? It may be simple, but it could require patching, aerating, dethatching, and knowing proper mowing and irrigation methods.

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Lawn

Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 06/21/2024

You’ve probably seen lawns that have patchy, bare spots of thinning grass, but if you’re dreaming of a carpet of green, there are several surefire ways to whip a lawn into shape. You can patch any balding sections, mow and water properly to maintain the lawn, and aerate and dethatch to see serious improvements.

When it comes to maintaining a healthy, flourishing lawn, we recommend hiring a professional lawn care company. For example, industry leader TruGreen offers overseeding in select areas, and all the fertilization, aeration, and weed control you need to get your lawn thriving.

See our list of top lawn care companies based on in-depth research.

Select the company that best meets your needs.

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Lime Soil Amendment

To ensure the soil has access to nutrients, soil amendment services can help balance its pH.

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Need to resuscitate a dying lawn? Get some tips from This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook in the video below.


How to Fill in Bare or Patchy Spots

Patching your lawn may seem like a big undertaking, but you can get it done in a few simple steps.

First, choose whether you want to use seed or sod.

In either case, make sure to select a grass type that will thrive in your region and the specific conditions of your yard. If you have large trees that cast a lot of shade, you will want to purchase a shade-resistant grass that doesn’t need too much sunlight.

How To Patch a Lawn With Seed

  1. Dig a border using a sharp spade and get rid of any debris or weeds in the delineated area. Rake up the soil, then leave it level and smooth.
  2. Distribute the seed with a spreader, using the appropriate amount for the designated space. Spread the seed so that it covers the surface, but don’t let the seeds overlap with one another. For uniformity, spread half the seed in an east/west pattern and half the seed north/south.
  3. Rake over the seed for even distribution. Then, cover the top with about 1/2 inch of straw or topsoil to keep the seeds moist and protect them from birds.
  4. For the first week or two, you’ll need to water your lawn daily or twice a day to make sure the soil is moist, but not soggy. Once the seedings begin to emerge, you can dial back the irrigation to two deep, infrequent waterings totaling 1–1.5 inches per week.
  5. Finally, do not mow until the grass reaches a height of about 3–3.5 inches. Then, be sure to cut no more than the top third of the grass blade to encourage drought resistance and deep root growth, and discourage weeds.
It may take up to eight weeks, depending on the grass type you selected, for the new grass to blend in fully with the rest of your lawn. If you need to mow the rest of your lawn before then, be careful to avoid the newly seeded grass.

How To Patch a Lawn With Sod

Patching with sod yields instant gratification because it introduces new, grown, lush grass. It’s particularly convenient if you have multiple bare spots, and don’t want to overseed again and again. Keep in mind, however, that sod costs significantly more than seed.

  1. Start by cutting a patch of the sod from a roll, slightly larger than the bare spot you wish to cover so that it extends past the borders about 2–3 inches on all sides. Make sure the sod stays moist as you prepare it.
  2. Dig into the area you want to cover about 1–1.5 inches down so that the new sod will be level with the rest of the lawn, removing all the brown grass, including the roots. Use a rake to loosen the soil and even out the area.
  3. Put the patch of sod over the bare spot you want to cover. Press it firmly into the soil, and make sure its edges are snug against the lawn around it. You can walk across it to make sure it settles in well. Water the sod daily for two weeks, unless the forecast shows heavy rain—if it does, adjust the irrigation accordingly.

If your issue isn’t bare or balding patches, but simply grass that’s taken on a gray shade or doesn’t look as vibrant as it once did, consider following these recommendations.

Perform a soil test

If your grass appears stressed, you may benefit from a soil test. Your soil could have a chronic issue, like an incorrect soil pH that’s left it too acidic or too alkaline, or missing nutrients like nitrogen. Send a soil sample to your local cooperative university extension to have your soil assessed for any issues and to learn the recommended amendments to rectify them.

Use organic fertilizer

It may be tempting to use quick-release, synthetic fertilizers that yield fast grass growth. But over time, these types of fertilizers can leach your lawn of nutrients, and harm the environment. Organic fertilizers, composed of matter like bone and feather meal, manure, liquid kelp, and guano, may be more expensive and take longer to show results, but they ultimately create greener, healthier lawns.

Aerate

If your lawn experiences a lot of foot traffic, your soil may become compacted—meaning that it’s packed too densely, and the grassroots can’t access the water, air, and nutrients they need. You can improve your turf’s health by aerating, using a machine that punctures many tiny holes in your lawn to assist with soil drainage, air circulation, and nutrient absorption.

You can rent or purchase a core, slice, or spike aerator. Core aerators are very popular. They pull “cores,” or plugs, of soil out, which you can then leave to decompose on top of the grass. This alleviates compaction and introduces beneficial organic matter back into the soil.

Water deeply and infrequently

Light daily watering can lead to shallow grassroots, making your lawn more susceptible to weeds, pests, and diseases. Watering deeply but infrequently, giving your grass 1–1.5 inches of water a week spread out over one to two waterings, lets your grassroots grow strong and deep into the soil.

Cut your grass correctly

Different grasses thrive at different heights. For healthy, strong grass, research the best height for your grass type. Always make sure your lawn mower blades are sharp, or else you risk shredding your grass instead of cutting it cleanly.

Dethatch

Thatch is the layer of decomposing organic material that accumulates between the soil and grass blades. A small layer of thatch protects the grassroots, but if the thatch layer gets thick enough to create a dense mat—over 1/2 inch thick—it can choke your grass, blocking the flow of air, water, and nutrients. Use a dethatching rake to break up the excessive thatch, leaving a thin layer for insulation.


Lawn care provider TruGreen offers five different annual plans and a variety of a la carte services so homeowners can customize their care for their lawn’s unique needs. Highly trained lawn care specialists can amend your soil, fertilize, aerate, and more to ensure that your lawn grows healthy, thick, and green. Read more about what makes TruGreen our top provider in our in-depth review.

To get a free quote from TruGreen, call 866-817-2287 or fill out this form.


FAQ About Repairing and Improving Your Lawn

How do you restore an unhealthy lawn?

You can fill in bare spots on a lawn with seed or sod, and to restore your entire lawn, follow these tips:

  • Perform a soil test
  • Use organic fertilizer
  • Aerate
  • Water deeply and infrequently
  • Cut your grass correctly
  • Dethatch

Can you revive a dying lawn?

If your grass is dead, you will have to start over with new grass. Yet if your lawn is brown but not completely dead, the proper care can revive it. Water correctly, give it the nutrients it needs, do not mow aggressively—and wait for cooler temperatures for northern lawns and warmer temperatures for southern lawns.

How do I fix my lawn full of weeds?

You can fix a lawn that’s full of weeds by following these steps:

  • Identify the weeds you have
  • Select a proper herbicide and apply the treatment
  • Mow, rake, and till
  • Dethatch and aerate
  • Test and amend the soil
  • Lay down seed or sod
  • Water and maintain your lawn

Our Rating Methodology

We back up our lawn recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review lawn care plans and packages, navigate the provider website and speak with customer service representatives, request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plan options, additional benefits and customizability, availability, trustworthiness, and customer service to arrive at a final score out of 100.

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