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

Weighing Lawn Renovation Options

August 2, 2001

If your lawn has been in poor condition, the optimum time to fix it is coming up soon. Late August into very early September is the ideal time for seeding lawns as part of the repair and renovation process. Now is the time to start thinking about your options.

One of the main concerns when deciding how to go about renovating a lawn is the condition of the soil. Heavy clay soils, for example, lead to chronic lawn problems. The easiest way to correct these soil problems is total lawn renovation, or starting over. The other option is a core aeration program and keeping the existing lawn.

The other main concern when weighing the renovation options is how much desirable grass exists on the site. If there is a good stand of lawn grass, there are some ways to improve lawns without having to tear them up and start over. On the other hand, if there is very little desirable grass left and the soil is known to be in poor shape, then it's probably best to simply start over, or go the route of total renovation.

If total renovation is the plan, it's best to kill off everything or tear up all the vegetation. Glyphosate (Roundup, Kleeraway) works well for this purpose. Apply this herbicide to the lawn about the middle of August so everything will be dead by the end of the month. Lawns and weeds to be killed need to be actively growing, so if conditions are dry water ahead of time.

Once the vegetation is dead or has been removed, work up the soil. Add amendments such as good quality soil, compost, or other organic materials. Till the soil to a depth of four to six inches. Rake the area and broadcast seed.

If just overseeding an existing lawn, it's critical to get good seed to soil contact. Remove dead grass and debris, either by hand raking or with power equipment such as vertical mowers or power rakes. Roughen the soil surface prior of any dead areas prior to seeding. Another option is to use a slit-seeder, which is an excellent way to overseed lawns.


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