University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Time for Lawn Renovation Is Now

August 24, 2000

Is your lawn a little thin or in need of repair? Now though early September is the ideal time for seeding lawn grasses in our area, including seeding into existing lawns. There are a variety of ways to go about renovating a lawn.
When overseeding a lawn, good seed to soil contact is essential. Simply broadcasting seed over existing grass rarely is successful. The area needs adequate preparation. For small patches needing to be reseeded, preparation can be as simple as raking away debris and roughening the soil surface. Then broadcast seed over the prepared area.

Preparing larger areas for overseeding requires some type of power equipment. One option would be to use a vertical mower, power rake, or dethatcher. Equipment such as this will tear out debris, including thatch, and can also roughen the soil surface. After raking away the debris torn up, seed could then be spread over the area.

Another option is to use a slit-seeder. Slit-seeders will cut through existing live and dead grass, depositing seed directly into the soil in the process. This is an excellent way to renovate lawns. Slit-seeders and other equipment mentioned above could be rented at many rental agencies or the work can be done by hiring a lawn or landscape care company.

For all these types of renovation mentioned, it is assumed the soil under the lawn is in good shape. However, if underlying problems such as heavy clay or compaction exist, the value of just reseeding without improving the underlying soil is questionable.

Methods to improve the soil include core aerating, topdressing, or totally renovating the site. Core aeration will help improve conditions and degrade thatch, but it takes time (i.e. more than one season of aerating). Adding organic matter or better soils by topdressing may help, and can be done in conjunction with aerating. The lawn could be overseeded afterwards.

Severe soil problems may be best solved by total renovation. This basically means to start over and thoroughly amend the soils before reseeding or resodding. Although this involves the most work and money initially, in some situations this may be the best option to consider.


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