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It takes work, but it is not impossible to give your lawn a facelift. While it may take two or three growing seasons, your hard work will eventually pay off in a beautiful lawn. Follow these steps to help wake up a tired lawn:
Step 1: Remove Thatch and Weed Buildup
Thatch is un-decomposed stems and roots that accumulate near the soil surface. Dig up a small, triangular-shaped plug of turf several inches deep. If the spongy layer above the soil is more than ¾- to 1-inch thick when you compress it, it is time to have your lawn dethatched. The best time to dethatch is in the spring or fall when your lawn is thriving.
Step 2: Fill Depressions and Level Bumps
Poor grading, uneven settling, or the decomposition of buried tree stumps, logs, or roots can cause depressions and bumps. While you are dethatching your lawn, check for bumps and depressions. Mark any irregularities with latex spray paint so you can find them easily when you are ready to level.
Step 3: Adjust Your Soil’s pH
It is best to test your own soil, or obtain test results from a professional testing service, before applying any amendments. Conduct soil tests and learn what to do to correct your soil’s pH level.
Step 4: Add Nutrients
The results of Step 3 will determine how you fertilize your lawn. You shouldn’t feed a stressed lawn—adding nutrients without knowing what nutrients are required is like taking medicine when you don’t know what’s wrong.
Applying fertilizer will not help if your soil does not contain an adequate population of microbes; you need billions of these microscopic organisms per handful of soil. Your soil must contain 2- to 5-percent organic material to have a thriving microbe population.
Step 6: Aerate Compacted Lawns
Aeration allows grass roots to deeply penetrate the soil and for fertilizer and organic matter to reach the roots. Avoid aerating during dry summer months because you may damage an already stressed lawn. Also, avoid periods when weed seeds are prevalent to prevent further weed infestation.
Choose seed that is best for your area. Use a thatching rake to roughen the exposed soil to a depth of ½-inch, apply seed to the edges of the area you are sowing first, then, divide your seed, and apply half while walking in one direction and the other half while walking in a perpendicular direction. Spread extra seed on bare areas, and lightly cover the seed with a mixture of compost and topsoil. Then spread more seed on top.
Step 8: Take Care of Young Plants
The most critical need is to apply water at least twice a day, assuming no rain. If the soil dries out, the seedlings will not germinate or will soon wither and die.