Reseeding Is the Fix for Your Less-Than-Green Lawn

Katy Willis
Written by Katy Willis
Updated July 23, 2021
Lawn on a sunny day with children playing in the background
Natalia - stock.adobe.com

Reseeding your lawn is a big undertaking, but sometimes it's the only way to repair seriously damaged grass

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Even if you give your lawn doting care fit for a newborn, brown patches can still show up. To get your grass back on track, sometimes your only choice is reseeding. Here’s a step-by-step for reseeding your lawn so it’s lush once again. 

Difficulty: 3/5

Time: Varies depending on the size of your lawn

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Rake

  • Tiller

  • Lawn mower

  • Shovel

  • Sod roller

  • Spreader

  • Sprinkler

  • Black plastic

  • Grass seed

  • Fertilizer

  • Soil conditioner

1. Figure Out If You Really Need to Reseed Your Lawn

Reseeding your lawn is a big undertaking, so it's important to make sure that really is the right solution before you dive into killing off your grass (that’s right—to save your yard, you have to destroy it). 

If your lawn is diseased, is more than one-third dead and brown, or is more than 50% weeds, the best course of action is most likely reseeding. But small brown patches, early-stage fungal diseases, and some weedy areas require less dramatic action. To get a lush, green lawn and improve soil and grass health, there are a number of things you can do, including applying the right fertilizer, dethatching, aerating, and overseeding. If you've tried all these things or your lawn still has extensive problems, you might need to take a few samples.

2. Take Soil Samples

If you've had persistent problems with your lawn, taking soil samples is a smart first move. It's an inexpensive process, with kits costing less than $20, and the results help you determine what fertilizers or other soil amendments you need to add to build healthy soil.

Soil that’s in tip-top shape is the best possible foundation for your new grass. Make sure you take samples from at least four different areas of your lawn for a complete picture of what's going on below.

3. Kill the Existing Grass

That’s right—to repair your grass, you first have to kill it. There are a few methods you can try:

  • Use a potent herbicide from the hardware store

  • Lay a thick layer of black plastic over the grass. Anchor it with bricks or rocks, and within a couple of sunny weeks, the grass underneath will die and can be raked up.

  • Rent a sod cutter to remove the grass and top layer of soil

You can begin this process as you’re waiting for your soil test results.

4. Clear the Lawn

A woman raking the lawn
M.Dörr & M.Frommherz - stock.adobe.com

Once the existing grass is dead, vigorously rake the surface using a rigid tine rake to pull out all the dead stuff. This bit requires a lot of hard work, so it'll definitely give you an intense upper body workout.

5. Add Soil Amendments

Once you have the results of your soil test back, you'll know what amendments and conditioners you need to add. Spread the amendments evenly over the soil surface, whether you're adding well-rotted manure, compost, commercial soil improver, lime, sulphur, or gypsum, or a combination.

6. Till and Rake the Soil

Just adding a layer of quality compost and amendments to the top of the old soil won't fix your lawn problems or soil health. Instead, you need to turn the amendments into the soil where they can penetrate the top layer and improve the soil’s structure and condition. 

Rent a power tiller and work it over the soil, letting it bite deep and pull the amendments down. Give the area several passes with the tiller, getting the soil as even and fine as possible. This will give you the best chance of growing healthy grass and having an even lawn.

Then take a rake and work it back and forth across the soil, evening the area out. Remove any rocks or inorganic debris, too. For proper germination, grass seeds need good seed-to-soil contact and the soil needs to be smooth, even, and fine.

7. Add Lawn Starter Fertilizer

Man fertilising the lawn using a fertiliser spreader
The Toidi - stock.adobe.com

Even though you've already worked hard to improve soil health, to give your grass seed the best possible chance at thriving, apply a light coating of lawn starter fertilizer. If you've got a large lawn, this is much easier with a spreader. 

If you're unsure of which fertilizer to choose or how to fertilize your lawn, chat with a local lawn specialist.

8. Choose the Right Grass Seed

Choosing the right grass seed is crucial, and never pick your grass by cost. Instead, choose one that thrives in your climate and soil type. 

If in doubt, a local gardener should be your first point of contact, as these pros are intimately familiar with your area and can help you choose the right grass seed.

9. Spread and Cover the Seed

Take a broom rake and create shallow furrows over the soil’s surface, then lightly sprinkle the grass seed over the furrows. Don't go crazy—be conservative with your application. Too much seed reduces the overall germination rate and can result in patchy growth. 

Now take your broom rake, turn it upside down, place it on the soil surface, and gently move it side to side, covering the furrows and the seed.

10. Use the Sod Roller

Now you need to compact the soil surface. This will make your lawn firm and walkable, and help with crucial soil-to-seed contact. If you skip this step, you'll also end up having to fix depressions in your lawn as the soil settles. 

Fill the sod roller about halfway with water. Don't overfill it because you don't want to compact the soil too heavily, or you'll ruin the structure and have a weak lawn. Roll the entire area you seeded to firm the surface.

11. Apply Grass Seed Accelerator

Grass seed accelerator is a useful substance that absorbs many times its own weight in water and slowly releases it into its surroundings. These super-absorbent little pellets help to keep the seed moist while it germinates. Plus, they naturally degrade into the soil. 

To apply it, turn the spreader on the widest setting. Walk quickly across the area so you get a nice, light covering of accelerator pellets. Try to walk at an even pace without taking excessive pauses so you don't get any spots saturated with pellets. If that does happen, simply rake the heavily covered area to even out the distribution.

12. Water Regularly

An automatic lawn watering system in full action on a sunny day
Kirill Gorlov - stock.adobe.com

Right after rolling and applying the accelerator, give your new seed a drink. Keep watering light and even by using a sprinkler. Start it at one corner and set it to travel in a quarter arc. When water starts to pool on the surface, stop the sprinkler, move it to the next corner and repeat the process. Do the same with the remaining two corners. 

Grass seed doesn't need constant soaking. You'll get the best germination by keeping the top 4 to 6 inches damp, but not sodden. As seedlings start to appear, water regularly—but nothing excessive. 

To encourage deep, strong root growth, decrease watering frequency over the next six weeks, then move to your regular lawn watering schedule.

13. Mow

Patiently wait until your lovely new lawn grows to 3 inches, then give it a good trim. Remember that it's still delicate at this stage, so sharpen the mower blade before you begin to get clean cuts that minimize damage to the grass stems. But don't get carried away: Only take off the top one-half inch. 

Repeat this when the new grass again reaches 3 inches. Then move to your regular mowing schedule, but never removing more than a third of the grass height.

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

You can reseed a lawn yourself, but be aware that it's a lengthy, time-consuming process that requires lots of physical activity and the right skills and tools. Hiring a professional to reseed a lawn costs $980 as a national average. But that depends on the size of your lawn, the type of grass you choose, and how much amendment the soil needs. 

If you choose to DIY it, you can save up to $350 in labor costs. However, you'll still need to purchase seed, soil conditioners, and other supplies, and unless you already have a tiller and sod roller, you'll need to pay the cost of renting those by the day, so your savings may be far less than you anticipate.

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