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How to Kill Your Bad Lawn and Start Over

August 1, 2012

If your lawn is troubled by the kind of grassy weeds you can’t kill without killing your good grass, or if you are fighting a constant battle with lawn diseases, or if you have a lawn that is more than 20 years old and is looking tired and old, consider lawn renovation.  We are approaching the best time of year to renovate cool-season grass lawns (Bluegrass, Ryegrass, Fescue).  Starting over allows you to use today’s top-of-the-line seed blends that do a better job of tolerating drought and attacks by insects or disease. Starting over may be the best way to get rid of perennial grassy weeds such as Nimblewill, Bentgrass, Tall Fescue clumps, or Quackgrass that you can’t kill without killing your good grass.

These are the steps to renovate a lawn by killing the existing grass and establishing a new lawn:

  • Mid-August, spray the bad lawn area with Roundup.
  • About a week later do a repeat spray of Roundup on any areas you missed.
  • A week later mow your dead grass as short as possible removing the clippings as you mow.  Rent a Dethatcher (also known as a Power Rake) and run it over the dead lawn in two directions.  Set the machine low enough so that the blades are touching the soil.  Rake up the dead grass and add Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Soil to any low spots.
  • The next day rent a Slit-Seeder to seed your lawn with Scotts best seed blend for your situation.  For our best grass seed, go with one of the Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed blends rated for Sun, Sun/Shade, Dense Shade, High Traffic, or Heat-Tolerance.  I am a big fan of Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed Heat-Tolerant Blue Mix.
  • Spread Scotts Starter Lawn Food for New Grass the same day you seed.
  • Water a couple of times a day for several weeks.
  • Mow your new lawn at around 2-1/2 inches.
  • About a month after seeding, feed your new lawn with Scotts Turf Builder.

I know you will be very pleased with the results of your hard work. And, I predict you will score extra points on the home front.

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  1. bob Holdan permalink

    I am looking for the best drought grass seed there is to replant in my lawn. I have quite a few dead spots that are very, very brown. I am either thinking of doing it later this summer or fall, or maybe wait until next year after seeing if all these spots come back next spring or not. What is the name of your best grass that will thrive in drought conditions? I live near madison, Wisconsin.
    Thank you.


    • Hi Bob
      Suggest you use Scotts Turf Builder Heat Tolerant Blue Grass Seed. This fall would be better than waiting till next spring as this will give your grass more time to establish a strong root system prior to next summer. Take a look at blog posting and photo in: “Will your lawn bounce back from the drought?” to help you decide if your grass is dead. Good luck with your lawn.

  2. My lawn has been overrun with crab grass. We brought in topsoil in the spring and seeded a large area and now it is almost completely crab grass. What can we do short of a total renovation. Thinks

    • Hi Betty
      I have seen that problem so many times when using topsoil. I always recommend folks put down Scotts Starter with Crabgrass Preventer or Step 1 for New Seedings when planting grass seed in topsoil. These products will keep crabgrass from germinating without harming the grass seed you are trying to grow. (Sorry you had to learn this lesson the hard way like I had to learn it years ago.) Now you can spray your Crabgrass with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer as this product will not harm your establihed good grass. You will be able to seed any bare spots in about 30 days. If you do not have any good grass in these areas, you can use Roundup to kill everything and you will be able to seed in 7 days.

  3. Lois Beck permalink

    I have a hill behind my patio that is nothing but clay dirt with some weeds that I keep cut. I have lawn service but they do not put in new lawns. Tell me all the steps I need to do to before I leave for Florida for the Winter to get grass established. I am a 74 year old lady but I am going to give it a shot to establish some kind of grass doing it myself. I live in the country and have sun and shade on the area.

    • Hi Lois
      When I hear someone talking about establishing grass on a slope, I think of all the ways a new seeding can get washed away during establishment, the high cost of sodding a slope to keep this from happening, and the ongoing maintance of mowing that slope can be a problem. If your slope is slight, based on your description for sun/shade, you can seed with most of the Scotts blends like Turf Builder Sun & Shade or Heat Tolerant Blue. If your slope is severe, then you might consider a ground cover of plants such as juniper or something else recommended by your local nursery. If you decide to seed, just know that it is best to rough up the soil to some extent so the grass seed has somewhere to root and to spread Scotts Starter Fertilizer the day you seed. A light mulch of wheat straw can help hold the seed in place if there is the chance for erosion. If you spread straw, you should be able to see 50% of the soil when looking down. I hope I have helped you.

  4. Joe permalink

    a “slit-seeder” was mentioned. What is that? I usually us my spreader to distribute the seed.

    • Hi Joe
      Grass seed needs to come in contact with soil to live after it begins to germinate. In other words it needs to have a place for the initial root to hook into. If you are seeding onto bare soil, this is not a problem to use a regular lawn spreader. If you are seeding into an existing lawn where the grass seed is not readily touching the soil, there is a piece of equipment that can be rented called a slit seeder. It actually slices thru the lawn into the soil and plants the grass seed into these grooves. This is not totally necessary, however it is one of those pieces of equipment that was devoloped for professional turfgrass managers that is available at rental centers for homeowners to use.

  5. Larry permalink

    what is the best way to get rid of tall fescue grass in a kentucky blue lawn?

    • Hi Larry
      There is not a good way to kill clumps of tall fescue without killing your Kentucky Bluegrass. Roundup will kill the fescue, however it will also kill your good grass. Once the clumps of tall fescue are dead, they can easily be removed and you can seed since there is only a 7 day waiting period to seed after applying Roundup.

  6. Adrian permalink


    My used to be beautiful St. Augustine is looking bad and Bermuda is taking over. How do I rid of it and not damage St. Augustine?

  7. Hi Adrian
    I am sorry to say there is not a good way to take out the bermudagrass without damaging your St. Augustinegrass. Bermudagrass only likes sunny areas and St. Augustinegrass likes both sun and can do pretty good in shade. St. Augustinegrass also likes taller mowing than Bermudagrass. Many folks have mixtures of both grasses, especially if they have a combination of sun and shade. Many folks allow these two grasses to coexist. Roundup kills both grasses, however multiple applications may be required, especially on Bermudagrass. Many times the Bermudagrass comes in if chinchbugs, sodwebworm, or brown patch has killed the St. Augustinegrass.

  8. Thanks…am doing bare spot repairs with Scotts EZ Seed and over seeding with Scotts Tall Fescue Mix and am getting good results. I live in East Tenn and my lawn is tall fescue. Am currently waiting 30 days after putting down Scotts Starter Fertilizer prior to putting down Scotts Turf Builder. Question: which type of turf builder should I put down: Scotts Turf Builder with 2% Iron or Scotts Turf Builder Winterguard?

    • Hi jjm747
      Feed with Turf Builder with 2% Iron. This will give you a bit more nitrogen than Turf Builder WinterGuard to help your new seedlings get maximum establishment prior to winter. If you have about 6 weeks after feeding, you could also come back with a feeding of Turf Builder WinterGuard as early as the first week of December in your area.

  9. Thanks for your help. Have done everything you advised and will do a feeding of Turf Builder WinterGuard first week of Dec. Overall results have exceeded my expectations.

    • jjm77: Thanks for your feedback. Glad your lawn is doing great.

    • Gino permalink

      Im located in Vancouver canada. Could i wait to seed til after i aerate a few weeks after power rake? Or is it better to power rake, seed and then aerate in the fall?

      • Hi Gino Thanks for giving me your location. Based on where you live you should try to get your seeding done by mid April. Core aeration helps if you have a half inch of thatch or more or if you have very compacted soil. A Power Rake or dethatching machine is done when you really want to get down to the soil so grass seed has a better chance of growing. The down side is that when you set it to get down to the soil, you can really tear up your existing lawn. Core Aeration is a better option for heavy thatch when you do not want to tear up your lawn. So now to answer your questions: Dethatching prior to seeding will help your seed get established, core aeration will also help the seeding process, just not as much. If you want to do both this spring, you are better off doing both prior to seeding so that you will not injure your young seedlings. If you wanted to wait until fall to core aerate you could. We do not sell the product in your area that prevents weeds when you are seeding. Good Luck with your lawn.

  10. Gino permalink

    I wanted to power rake, then apply dollop rail and then reseed my soggy lawn. With the intention of aerating the lawn in a week or to ( mid April). What do you think?

    • Hi Gino
      Power rake and/or slit seeding helps get the grass seed in contact with the soil. If you were also going to core aerate, I would also do this before seeding rather than a few weeks after. The main thing to remember is that you are likely to stir up some weed seeds that are in your soil. In most areas of the country we sell a Starter Lawn Food with Weed Preventer that will prevent crabgrass and other weeds while allowing your grass seed to germinate. If I knew where you are located this would help me more specific with my recommendations.

  11. Brian Millican permalink

    About a year and a half ago, I had sod laid in my front yard. The company that laid it promised me that it would grow in nicely even though I have some shady areas. The lawn looked great during that first summer, but now it’s as dead as can be. Instead of being a vibrant green color, it’s brown and some spots simply look like dirt. I’m convinced that the sod vanished in some spots because there is dirt where the sod used to be. I watered the new sod like crazy that first summer, but now it seems to be long gone. Here is my question for you … instead of ripping up what is left of the sod, can I simply spread a product like Scotts ez-seed over my lawn? Will the seed have any success? I’m desperate for a nice lawn, but I refuse to pay a chunk of money to have the old sod ripped up and replaced. Please advise.


    • Hi Brian (Rookie)
      EZ Seed is very tolerant of the seeding location. It will have the best chance to survive if the seed actually can contact the soil. Some folks break up the top inch or so by slicing the soil before planting. (One example is making a tic tac toe grid with a spade so the soil is broken up a bit so the roots have a place to begin growth.) Let me know where you are located so I can suggest the best grass seed for your area (In some areas we sell several EZ Seed Blends.)

      • Brian Millican permalink

        I live in Clanton, AL (right in the middle of the state). We experience very hot summers here and our winters are mild. Please keep in mind that I need to do my entire front yard. If you don’t mind, advise me on what to do, keeping in mind that it’s a large area. I’m sick of my yard looking so dead …

      • Hi Brian Do you remember what kind of sod they put in? You are in an area that can grow many types of lawns. For sunny areas: Bermuda, Zoysia, and Centipede (These lawns go dormant in winter and take on a brown look.) For shady areas: Fescue or Zoysia. (Fescue generally will stay green in winter, however it struggles during summer the further South you go.) The most common grass that grows without even being planted is Bermuda. If the sod folks said that their grass would tolerate some shade, they may have put down Zoysia. Zoysia is slow to green up in spring and what you think might be dead, might just still be dormant. In any case, it would be good to put in the same kind of seed as the kind of lawn you have now so your lawn will not be patchy. Hope this helps.

  12. roy skinner permalink

    I have rye grass or wheat grass not too sure which one in patches throughout my lawn … how can I get rid of it without killing grass I like ? or is there no way other than killing with roundup and using easyseed ten days after

    • Hi Roy
      I am going to give you an answer based on most areas of the U.S. Wheat grass, which grows from seeds that are in straw used as a mulch for new seedlings, can not tolerate repeated mowing and will generally die out during hotter weather. Rye grass, if it is the annual kind will do the same, more quickly in areas with hotter summers. So if either of these are your problem, keep mowing your lawn with a final cut around 2-1/2 inches and reevaluate in late summer/early fall. If you have follow up questions on this, let me know where you are located so I can give a better answer.

  13. Scott De Young permalink

    Help! Last night I sprayed the lawn with what I thought was 2-4d to kill off the remaining dandelions and other weeds. Been doing this for the last 10 years. After the first spraying of about an acre, I had a funny feeling that I may have just screwed up. I went and check the bottle and I used Glystar insead (basically roundup). The bigger problem is that we are hosting my daughters wedding on August 16. The grass was fairly long so in an attempt to save it – we cut it as low as possible within a few hours of the spraying.

    Did a lot of praying last night. At least the ceremony area wasn’t spray, but the areas that was will still be visible to the guests.

    To reseed, I have seen your suggestions above. That helps. I would like to skip step number 2 the 2nd spraying of Roundup. If our lawn was fairly clean from weeds in the first place – do we need to wait the full week before reseeding? I am planning on detaching and power seeding. Just looking to give the lawn as much time to green up before August 16 as possible.

    Any advice you can give a Dad who has to walk his daughter down the aisle in the back yard would be really appreciated.

    Thanks Scott.

    • Hi Scott
      I feel your pain. I have done stuff like that, although not what you described. You could joke that the wedding is such a big deal you used all your green (including what was in your lawn) to pull it off! The 7 day wait to seed was the standard direction for years. The Roundup labels now say to wait 3 days to plant grass seed. Check the label on your product to see if you see a longer length of time. Good luck!

  14. Todd permalink

    I live just North of Pittsburgh, PA and am considering reseeding my backyard due to the so-so success we’ve had with the lawn (probably due to heavy shade). I am not concerned about maintenance. Just want to have a thick green lawn if possible.

    To snuff out the existing lawn and provide a good base for establishing the new lawn, I am considering covering the entire lawn with 4 inches of top soil, followed by the removal of a few trees to improve the sunlight, adding irrigation, followed by a fine fescue blend of grass seed (more shade tolerant)(a friend suggested Poa Supina for use in the shade). This seems to be easier than attempting to kill the existing grass with chemicals, which may damage the trees, and would give a good base for the grass to get started, and would minimize competition with the deeper tree roots for water.

    • Hi Todd
      If you can add that much soil without messing up the grading around your home and without suffocating the roots of trees you wish to keep alive, sounds like you have a plan. My only suggestion is that sometimes topsoil can contain the small roots or seed of difficult to kill perennial grasses that will show up later. These plants, (like quackgrass, orchardgrass, timothy, etc.) will prove hard to kill without killing the good grass you are planting. One thought is to put down the top soil, and then water it regularly over the course of a month or so and then kill off any growth with Roundup prior to seeding. (Some turf managers would do this twice before planting if the grasses were particularly troublesome.) Roundup will not hurt your trees and you can plant grass seed within a week of killing the weeds. If you are getting 3 or 4 hours of filtered sunlight in this area then you should be able to grow a blend of shade tolerant grasses.

  15. Stewart permalink

    We have a lot of bent grass in our yard which we hate. I have been told the only way to get rid of it is to apply roundup, which we have done. My question is… can we just turn the soil without raking. We are going to have this area resoded when it’s prepared.

    • Hi Stewart
      Bentgrass has a strong root system. The approach I have taken is to spray with Roundup. Look for any green growth about 7 to 10 days later and spray again. Then seed or sod 7 days later. The two sprays helps to make sure you got it all. You can rototill the dead growth into the soil without raking it up, however if there is a lot of material you may find it best to remove before preparing your soil for sodding.

  16. Ashton…just finished a lawn renovation project on a section (1000 sq ft) of my yard as follows:
    1. I started with 3 separate applications of Round-Up on Sept 13, 20, and 27, 2013. Results were good as it killed everything. I removed the dead weeds and other debris
    2. Aerated on Oct 4, 2013
    3. Put down Scotts EZ Seed for Tall Fescue Lawns on Oct 5, 2013, following all directions (watering, etc.)
    Results: Grass started growing as advertised a short time later. However, a couple of weeks later a very green type of weed that is low to the ground appeared. It now covers almost all of the area. Am not sure, but suspect it is a clover type weed. What did I do wrong and how can I get rid of this weed without killing the new grass? Am beginning to think that the EZ Seed product might have had some type of quality control problem.

    • To jjm747… Sounds like you had one or more of the winter annual weeds like chickweed or henbit germinated from seeds in your soil when they received ideal growing conditions. These weeds are easily controlled with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX, however your new grass needs to be old enough to have been mowed 4 times before treating. You can spray these weeds as long as you are getting a mid day temp of at least 50 degrees. Winter annual weeds germinate in fall, live during cooler months and then die in summer after producing seed for the next year. Summer annual weeds, like crabgrass, grow in an opposite cycle: germinate in spring, live during the warmer months and then die in winter after producing seed for the next year. It is likely you had some of the winter annual weeds in your lawn sometime over the past few years depositing the seeds in your soil that were brought to the soil surface for germination when you aerated and created the conditions to get your grass seed growing. I think your ultimate situation will be good as your new grass fills in once the weeds are killed later this fall or next spring.

      • Thanks for your analysis. Since I live in East TN and have mowed the new grass only twice, it appears from reading your recommendations that I should wait until spring before using Ortho Weed B Gon MAX. Is there anything special that I need to do when I apply Weed B Gon in the spring? I ask the question because I normally put down Scotts Turf Builder with Halts Crabgrass Preventer around March 1.

      • Hi jjm747 If you need to wait till spring, you can use the same temps as a guideline to spray: Mid day at least into the low 50’s. I would allow a week between feeding with Turf Builder Halts and your Weed B Gon spray.

  17. Jonathan permalink

    Can we use this tips “August 1, 2012” in the month of march?

    • Hi Jonathan
      The first step of killing off the existing area needs to be done when you are getting some growth so that the weed controls will be absorbed into the plant to kill roots and all. This means you need to be getting some consistent warm weather that triggers some mowers running in your neighborhood. Then when you get around to establishing your new lawn, you will need to determine if there is enough time to get seed established prior to hot summer weather. (You generally like to have at least a few months.) The alternative is to sod after killing off the existing bad grass. If you have more questions, let me know where you are located and this will help me provide more specific suggestions.

  18. Jay permalink

    Is there ever a situation you would consider some other brand than Scott’s?

    • Hi Jay
      Gosh… great question. I am most familiar with Scotts products having sold them when I was in high school in the early 60’s. I ran into lots of satisfied Scotts users when I was with the Virginia Extension Service after graduating from college. I guess my 40 plus years with Scotts as either a Scotts Associate or retired advice giver sets me up with more personal experience with Scotts products than with other alternatives. Sort of a comfort zone I guess.

  19. Hi Aston. Last year I used my tillers thatching tines and did my whole lawn. The Round up, waiting a week. Round up again. All your instructions were followed. Then I seeded and covered the area with chicken wire cause we have a lot of cats around here and I didn’t want them to dig it up thinking it was a big litter area.

    The snow covered the area and then this spring the grass came up and filled in beautifully. Everybody commented on how lush it was and was like walking on a carpet. I was proud.

    We had a lot of rain and then the heat hit. I live in north eastern New Jersey. BTW I used Scotts North Eastern mix grass seed. All of a sudden big sections of the lawn turned brown. Fungus or just burnt grass I don’t know. How do you tell if it’s a fungus problem?

    Obviously I have some repair work to do. Should I till it (thatch it ) again and start over. Repair just the brown areas? (They’re big.)

    Can I just rake up the bad areas and reseed? If it is fungus, do I have to wait to reseed?

    Any other possibilities you know of that I am not thinking of?

    Trying not get discouraged! Need some advise.


    • Hi Joe T.
      Sorry to hear about your lawn. Fungus problems generally occur with high humidity and temps (in the 80’s and above for both over extended days with very little relief at night). You will generally see circular patterns of brown grass, however not in all cases. In some cases the grass blades will have spots on them before they turn brown. You should be able to rake the bad areas and seed around Labor Day Weekend.

  20. Hi, once again. Thanks for your quick reply. Talking to some neighbors, someone told me that it was probably fungus that wiped out my lawn and that it might have happened cause I did not mow the lawn low enough. The higher blades of grass kept the moisture too long inviting the fungus since we did have a period of high humidity and temps well into the 80’s.

    Should I cut the grass lower than I usually would in the spring?

    Should I use a fungicide just to be sure? Is it dangerous to do so?

    • Hi Joe T
      A good height for your area and type of lawn is about 2-1/2 inch after the cut. This is a good height for spring, summer and fall. If you feel the fungus is still active and your grass is still alive and you will not be seeding, you could still treat with Lawn Fungus Control.

  21. Rand Looper permalink

    I just moved to Utah and purchased a home in of a landscaping makeover. I know that i will need to kill the lawn completely and start over. There are definitely some low spots that i will need to even out as well. I am just curious of the best time to kill the lawn and reseed as the first first frost is nearly approaching. Thanks for any tips!

    • Hi Rand Looper
      You are correct that there probably is not enough time to go through the steps to kill your existing lawn and get new grass seed started prior to cold weather. You possibly could do the job if you are sodding rather than seeding, but again there may not be enough time if you have not already lined up someone to do this job for you. One thing that might surprise you is if your existing lawn has been neglected for several years, you may be surprised how much good grass you have if you just feed your lawn and kill weeds this fall. Here is a link to another blog posting I did this year on this subject. Much of the info is the same as this posting, however this is a link to my latest:

  22. Maurice permalink

    Hello I live in Florida and I have St. Augustine grass however it’s dead and full of crabgrass and needs a complete renovation. Can I kill it with roundup then till it and then lay new St. Augustine grass or should I rent a sod cutter. Trying to save money.

    • Hi Maurice
      Your St. Augustine may have died from chinch bugs which can be active from early summer thru fall. If your weeds are more of the crabgrass type (annuals without extensive root systems like perennial weeds have), you could use a sod cutter, prepare your soil, feed with Starter Lawn Food and lay new sod. This should be done very soon to allow adequate rooting prior to colder weather. This job is generally done in late spring/early summer so you have a full season’s growth. If your weeds are the perennial types, you could spray with Roundup prior to cutting the dead sod. There is only a week waiting period after spraying to plant new grass. In the future, control the chinch bugs other insect problems with Ortho Bug B Gon MAX.

  23. wirehead70 permalink

    I live in southern Virginia and killed my old lawn with roundup a month and a half ago reseeded it with the scotts tall fescue and I am on my 3rd cutting now.
    Will the tall fescue stay green all winter or should I add some rye to it now? I also sent a soil sample off before I used the roundup and had already planted before it came back and says I need 120 lbs N 110 P and 120 Potash per acre how and when should I add that?

    • Hi wirehead70
      Your fescue will stay green this winter and you do not need to seed rye into your lawn. The soil test recommendation can be met by using a lawn food like Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard that has a high Nitrogen and Potassium content. Feed your lawn twice with Turf Builder WinterGuard this fall (now and again in late Nov).

  24. ramon permalink

    I want to follow these steps but was wondering if it would work with a yard thats infested with stickers (grass burrs, goat heads) . As of now they have not sprouted yet but the seeds (stickers) are all over the ground.

    • Hi Ramon
      Sounds like you are describing Sand Burs. Generally a well fed lawn that is thick and mowed regularly has less problems with this weed. The Preemergent weed controls provide some prevention of seed germination if applied early enough before growth starts. For control after they are growing, look for a weed control that lists sand Bur on the label. Where are you located and what kind of grass do you have… this will help me give you more specific info for your lawn.

      • ramon permalink

        I live in wichita ks, im an unsure of the grass i have but it is pretty far from a lush lawn anyways. Ive tried the pre and post emergents, mowing and watering religiously, over seeding and Nothing has worked the past 2 years. So this time I feel i just want to completely re do the lawn. Just am unsure if killing off grass would stop the seeds from sprouting.

  25. Hi Ramon
    You are living in an area where folks have lawns that can be Fescue, Bermuda, Zoysia or Buffalo Grass. I am hesitant to suggest you start over until you have figured out what kind of grass you have and then understand when is the best time to feed your lawn. For example, for your area Fescue likes most of the feeding to be in fall, while the other grasses like most of the feeding to be in late spring, summer. Here is a link to info from K State that you may find helpful: If you let me know what kind of grass you have, I will be glad to give you suggestions using Scotts products.

    • ramon permalink

      I have fescue grass, but beleive me its far from pretty, lots of crab grass and what not. Plus there are alot of old mole tunnels that sink in when walked on. That is why i just want to kill it off and restart. But i am worried this will not rid of the grass burrs

  26. Hi Ramon
    Thanks for the extra info… this is really helpful. If you want to stay with fescue and you want to start over, you will likely be more successful waiting until late summer to begin the process following the steps I outlined above in this blog posting. The reason I am suggesting waiting till fall is your new fescue seeding will have a better chance of getting a strong root system prior to your typical summer weather. On the other hand if you wanted to go with one of the warm season grass types, like Bermuda or Zoysia, you could begin the process now as these kinds of grasses like to become started in late spring. The moles are likely seeking earthworms or grubs that may be in your lawn. If you decide to wait till fall to seed fescue, you could still put down a crabgrass preventer now (like Turf Builder with Halts) to give you some prevention of sandbur, however longer term the best way to keep the sandbur problem in check is to develop a thick lawn using one of the better grass seed blends, feeding it enough times during the year and mowing with one of the taller mower settings.

  27. This is not a reply because I’m just tuning in and need help. Half of our lawn has been covered with moss and today this moss has been removed with an iron rake/. However there are roots now sticking out and I don’t know how to get rid of them other than pulling each one out and that’ll take forever! What should I do next?

    • Hi Carol Murray
      It is likely the roots you are seeing are not from the moss. If your area is shaded, these may be the surface roots of trees or the they may be from the thin grass that was growing along side the moss. Moss thrives in areas that are heavily shaded, moist for long periods of time, in soils that are on the acidic side, or have received very little nutrition over recent years. If you are not getting at least a few hours of filtered sunlight in this area grass will always struggle. If you are getting enough sunlight, you can seed now with a blend of grass seed that is rated for dense shade and feed with a Starter Lawn Food when seeding. Let me know where you are located and any other info about your growing conditions and I will give you more specific suggestions.

  28. Danny permalink

    Sorry, typing this on my phone and I accidentally hit post. Anyway, is there a better time of year to till and lay sod than June/July. What else should I be doing besides just tilling and laying sod? What type of grass is best for my area? Also, my main concern is I already have an irrigation system installed, is tilling still possible? I have also seen several cockroaches and ear wigs in my yard….. What can I use to get rid of these bugs? Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Danny
      St. Augustine grass is best for your area with your shade. Tilling should be shallow so that you do not disturb your irrigation. Feed your new grass with Starter lawn food. Keep it watered until established.

  29. So, if spraying Roundup, do I need to avoid using a 4 or 6 month effective killer? If I replant after two spraying, will the seed not be effected by the spray? Will it germinate?

    • Hi M Lough
      You will want to use regular Roundup that allows you to seed 5 to 7 days after spraying. The most economical way to buy this to do a whole lawn spray is the concentrate. Here is a link to product info: Regular Roundup also comes in a ready to use spray. Here is a link to product info:
      You are correct, you do not want to use the Roundup that contains an extra ingredient to prevent seeds from germinating.

      • Ryan permalink

        Hi Ashton,

        I just realized that I used the roundup extended control to kill nimble will in my lawn and prep these areas for re-seeding. It donned on me soon after that this has a pre emergent and seed likely won’t germinate in these areas. I was planning to try to top dress some areas with compost. Didn’t know if perhaps tilling these areas and mixing with compost could make them prepared for seed growth and I can redeem myself? Any help is appreciated. Thanks.

      • Hi Ryan
        You have the right idea of the best way to still get some grass seed germination even though there is a seed prevention barrier on the soil surface. You can seed 5 to 7 days after regular Roundup, however the weed preventer in the extended prevention product you used is still on the soil surface. Rototilling some compost or Lawn Soil into the top few inches will help dilute the weed prevention. You may see a reduction is grass seed germination even after taking this step. A lot has to do with how heavy the initial spray went down. Good luck… hope you get your new grass established.

  30. Is there a way to kill off the grass in my front yard for reseeding, without harming my large oak tree and dogwood tree?

    • Hi Rhonda Pannell-Coffey
      You can kill your grass with Roundup and it will not be absorbed into the tree roots. Your oak and dogwood trees will be fine and you can seed your lawn a week after spraying.

  31. J-Lee permalink

    Hi, thanks for the informative posting. I believe that my old lawn suffers from one or another fungal problem, and I don’t know how to assure that the fungus won’t re-infect the new grass. Would it be best to wait several months after initially killing the old grass, before re-seeding? It seems like any kind of a fungicidal product might have a difficult time penetrating deep enough into the soil to be effective. Also, any suggestions for the best type of seed for Reno, NV? Much appreciated!

    • Hi J-Lee
      The Scotts Heat Tolerant Blue Mix will do well in Reno and this blend is resistant to most fungus problems. No need for a waiting period to seed.

  32. It’s early April here in eastern Oklahoma. My lawn was over-run with clover, henbit, and some purplish flowery looking weed. I decided to kill the entire lawn with roundup. What should I do from here on? I want a bermuda lawn.

    • Hi Scott Lowe
      You can seed your Bermuda a week after killing off the existing growth with RoundUp. (Sometimes a second Roundup spray is needed if there are tough weeds that do not quite bite the dust after the first spray.) You will want to rough up the top inch or so of soil. It is ok to have soil particles golf ball size or smaller. Put down Turf Builder Starter Lawn Food (you can not use the one with Weed Preventer as it is not compatible with Bermuda grass). Put down the Bermuda seed. Drag a leaf rake over the lawn one time in an upside down position to make sure your seed is in good contact with the soil. You are not trying to cover up or bury the seed so this should be done very lightly. It is ok to see some seed on the soil surface. Then water frequently to keep the soil surface moist without letting the water runoff. You should start to see germination in 7 to 14 days. In 4 to 6 weeks you can feed your new grass with Scotts Turf Builder (Or Starter Lawn Food if you have some left).

      • Okay, do I need to remove the dead weeds before roughing the soil up? Thanks for your quick reply!!

  33. Hi Scott Lowe
    Mow the dead growth very close to the soil and catch the clippings. If you can see soil when you look down, you can likely leave the remaining dead growth when you rough up the soil.

  34. Dean permalink

    Hey Ashton –

    I killed my lawn last September and have had mild success, with a lot of clover now starting to crop up. I attribute that to probably a couple of things: 1) I should’ve used round up 3 times instead of two, because I think the original lawn hadn’t been cared for in years and had every type of grass & weed in it. and 2) I didnt rent a dethatcher, which I could early on where that made a big difference & spent considerable time trying to salvage because of that. I put down Scotts Southern Gold seed FYI and am in zone 7.

    I’ve since applied regular fertilizer: starter lawn food soon after seeding; once in late fall, turf builder with winterguard; once in early March, turf builder weed & feed with halts; and about 8 weeks later another round of standard weed & feed. Any recommendations for what I can do about the clover or how I should change my approach moving forward? It’s looking good enough that I’d have a hard time justifying starting over again this coming fall and want to salvage it, if possible.

    • Hi Dean
      I believe you will see a vast lawn improvement this fall as you feed your new Fescue lawn 2 or 3 times beginning in early September. Until then clover and the various weeds that are clover lookalikes can be controlled with Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer. Pick a day to spray when temps are less than 90 as your clover will be actively growing and will absorb the weed control more readily.

  35. Samantha Carroll permalink

    I live in Fresno, CA where lawn watering is rationed. The problem is I now have bur stickers instead of lawn and my poor animals are covered after each bathroom break.

    Is there something I can plant that will eliminate the burs with very little water??

    • Hi Samantha Carroll
      There are a wide range of plants that produce seeds that are burr-like so they can easily attach to passing animals. This helps to spread the seeds so new plants can initiate growth in a new area. One of the common ones in a lawn area is Sandbur. Any groundcover you plant will require watering during your dry time of year. A local nursery that understand native plants will have some suggestions for you. Here is a link to drought tolerant groundcover native plants:
      The weed killers that will remove Sandbur will also harm some types of groundcover. The best lawn alternative in Fresno would be Bermuda Grass. If you have some Bermuda growing in your yard, you can encourage it by feeding and watering a half inch twice a week. Ortho Weed B Gon MAX will kill weeds in a Bermuda lawn. You should not spray on days when temps get above 90 and you may see some temporary discoloration of your Bermuda. Here is a link to product info:
      If you do not find a good alternative groundcover, you could kill all vegetation with Roundup and mulch or gravel the area. Good luck.

  36. Chris Fox permalink

    I have seeded twice this spring and grass came in beautiful and thick, yard looked like a fairway. I have a sprinkler system which I watered 2 times a week. About end of June it all died and yard is a big bare yard know. I used K-31 and followed steps recommend by Scott’s. I have small bug holes and worm mounds everywhere and lots of shade. Know crabgrass is only thing growing. Also get lots of puddles in yard when it rains. Spent acout $1000.00 this spring and it’s all dead. HELP PLEASE

    • Hi Chris Fox
      Sorry to read about your problems getting your Fescue lawn to make it through the summer. Fall seeded Fescue will have a much better chance to form a robust root system prior to next spring than a spring seeding. Also the turf-type Tall Fescues are generally better than Ky 31 when it comes to disease resistance as well as a slightly finer texture. For example, Scotts Southern Gold Tall Fescue and Scotts Heat-Tolerant Blue Tall Fescue both contain a blend of the turf-type tall fescues. My thought is that your grass likely suffered from a lawn fungus problem and not an insect problem. Also, if your shady area does not receive at least a few hours of filtered sunlight, then it is going to be tough to have grass in that area. As far as watering is concerned, twice a week is good, however you need to make sure you are getting around a half inch of water each time for a total of an inch a week.

      • Chris Fox permalink

        Thank you so much. Any idea where to buy big bags of scotts dense shade grass seed. I will need about 100 pounds. Yard gets about 3 hours of sun. This is what it looked like before it all died. Now it’s all dirt.

        Thanks Chris


      • Hi Chris Fox
        The Dense Shade grass seed blend for Tall Fescue lawns largest size is 7 lbs. The Southern Gold Tall Fescue Blend largest size is 40 lbs. The Heat Tolerant Blue largest size is 20 lbs. I believe the shade tolerance for the Southern Gold and Heat Tolerant Blue will be almost as good as the Dense Shade.

      • Chris Fox permalink

        Thanks so much have a great weekend.

        Chris Fox


  37. Christy permalink

    Hi Ashton, So happy to find your blog here and would love some input from you. We live in NC and our closed on our house in July 2015 where the builder just put down seed (tall fescue). We did not realize at the time that this was not a seed that grows in the summer, no matter how much you water it. We are getting ready to reseed this fall and have a few questions. We have killed the front portion of our yard as you mentioned above, but wondering if we should consider tilling the top layers to break up the hard ground or should we just 1. dethatch, 2. aerate 3. slit seed? Or what would you recommend? Also, we have irrigation which we turned off while we killed the grass (didn’t know if we should have or not) but at what point should we turn the irrigation back on to prep the soil for seeding? Looking forward to hearing back from you, we are excited to have a beautiful lawn for our home and our girls to play on!

    • Hi Christy
      In NC Fescue does well in lawns with part-shade all over the state or full sun in the more western part of the state. Bermunda lawns do well in full sun. Zoysia lawns do well in full sun or light shade. There are some St. Augustine and Centipede lawns along the coast. Here is a link to one of my blog postings that talks about these different kind of lawns:
      I am sending you this extra info about grass types because of your previous experience with Fescue and that you plan on seeding now. Fescue is best seeded in early fall, while you would probably need to wait till spring to seed Bermuda or Zoysia. Since there is a vast difference in Fescue varieties and not knowing if your lawn received adequate feeding last fall to build the root system, you might give one of the good fescue blends another chance like: Scotts Heat-Tolerant Blue or Scotts Southern Gold. Regarding your question about rototilling vs. dethatch, aerate slit seed; Rototilling would do a better job of establishing a good seedbed. It will be easier to prepare the soil if it is dry or only slightly moist. If it is too wet you will form mud balls when you till. Put down Starter Lawn Food when you seed and begin watering at that time. Be sure to follow up with another feeding 4 to 6 weeks after seeding. Bermuda or Zoysia lawns could be sodded now.

  38. Christy permalink

    Thank you for getting back so quickly! Would you recommend dethatching the dead area before tilling then? And this would be a regular seeding and not a power/over seeding? Our yard didn’t get fed last fall. After reading you blog, we are realizing many things we should have done and will do in the future. Thank you.

    • Hi Christy
      If you are going to rototill, you do not need to dethatch first. If there is lots of dead growth, you could set your lawn mower to a low setting and mow with your bagging attachment in place to remove most of the dead material so you will have an easier rototilling job.

  39. Brad permalink

    I recently sprayed my entire lawn with roundup, and hit it this week for the spots i missed. I understand that I need to use a dethatcher to bring the thatch to the surface. The entire lawn was crabgass so i killed everything. would it be useful to skip the step of the power rake and just use a tiller on the entire lawn? Or is it ok if there is leftover crabgrass remnants from the power rake?

    • Hi Brad
      You can skip the power rake and till then seed. Hope we get a delay in cold weather so your seed has time to germinate.

      • Brad permalink

        That’s great it sounds like I don’t need to worry about putting the weeds “back in the soil to grow again”

  40. Hi Brad
    Plan on putting down a crabgrass preventer next spring.

  41. Fred permalink

    I live in New York and reading this on December. I need to kill the old bad turf and apply the steps you provided. Can I start this on March when we don’t get snow anymore?

    • Hi Fred
      Your old grass needs to be actively growing for the Roundup to work so you will need to wait until your grass needs to be mowed. This will push the seeding process to mid to late spring. You will want to use a special Starter Lawn Food that prevents crabgrass without harming the good grass seed you are trying to grow. The only downside to killing everything and starting over in spring rather than fall is if you get hot dry weather in early summer before your new grass has had the chance to form a good root system. (Whereas in the fall there is plenty of time for the new grass to become fully established before summer weather.)

  42. Andrew permalink

    It’s late February, (2017) I have an extremely bad problem with annual Kentucky bluegrass. What’s the best solution to my problem? Considering putting roundup on it.

  43. Cynthia permalink


    I have the 20-year-old lawn problem – actually more weeds than grass.

    It’s now spring and I want to start getting a lawn going. Will these steps work at this time of year?

    • Hi Cynthia
      The kill and replace steps I outlined here work well for areas of the country where fall seeding have greater chances for success than spring seeding. The existing grass/weeds need to be actively growing to kill with the first step. Depending on where you are located this could mean that the actual seeding process will be delayed until a time when hot/dry weather shows up before the new grass roots are well established. Give me your location and I will provide you with a suggested plan. One more bit of guidance: If your lawn has not been fed much in the past few years, you may find you have more good grass than you think if you give it several feedings. For this reason you may find that if you feed twice this spring with weed prevention and weed control thrown in you can make a decision in late summer whether to kill and replace your lawn after you see how your lawn responds. Again, if you give me your location I can suggest the products you can use to take this alternative approach.

      • Cynthia Cooke permalink

        Thanks for the quick reply.
        I am in Maryland between D.C. and Baltimore.
        Would a photo if what I have now be helpful?

      • Hi Cynthia Cooke
        Thanks for giving me your location. The Washington/Baltimore area can get hot/humid weather early in the summer so newly planted grass seed does typically need to be watered if the weather turns dry and sometimes suffers because of a less than fully developed root system. In your area the best grass seed blends are ones that are similar to Scotts Heat-Tolerant Blue. If you have a large area I would wait till late August/early September to seed after killing off the existing lawn as outlined in this blog. However, if you have 50% or more grass and 50% or less weeds you may be surprised how much good grass you have by feeding in the next week or so with Turf Builder plus Halts Crabgrass Preventer followed in 6 weeks with Turf Builder Weed and Feed. You might also consider putting down GrubEX in late May or Early June. Then you can evaluate if 2 or 3 feedings in fall (Sept thru Nov) will do the trick or if you need to put down some grass seed next September without killing your entire lawn first. Good Luck with your lawn.

      • Thank you so VERY much! Cynthia


  44. Brenden Merwin permalink

    I live in Northern CA near Auburn. I am in the process of establishing my water system for new lawn. Currently its all weeds. I’ve tilled it twice. During the summer we have star thistle and goat heads. winter is fox tails. I plan on using round up and once again in a week. Then will till with a 3 point tiller on my tractor to loosen and level the ground after backfilling trentches. Then level the ground and seed. I’m seeding about 2 acres of new area which has always been weeds. My dirt is heavy DG. I’ve read about topsoil potentially bringing in other species of seeds. Anything you can recommend for keeping weeds out and allowing the grass to grow? Its going to be a huge area, so $40-50 bags of scotts is hard to purchase when you need 5 everytime…

    • Hi Brenden Merwin
      Thanks for giving me your location. The primary lawn types in the Sacramento area are Bermuda Grass (typically goes dormant/brown in winter, however thrives during your hot summers when there is limited moisture) OR Turf-type Tall Fescue (typically thrives during fall, winter and early spring during your rainy season). Bermuda is best seeded now while Tall Fescue in early Fall (especially on a large area like you are under taking). One more thing: Bermuda likes sunny areas, while Tall Fescue can tolerate some shade. With either grass seed it is best to put down a Starter Lawn Food (like Scotts Turf Builder Starter Lawn Food) when you are seeding. This will help your new grass become established faster and is well worth the money. Then after you have mowed your new grass 4 times it can tolerate a weed control spray. You are right about topsoil bringing in weed seeds that were present in the area where the soil was removed. If you can incorporate organic matter that is free of weed seeds into the top few inches of your soil that will improve the soil texture and ultimately the growth of your lawn. However, both Bermuda and Tall Fescue are very capable of becoming well established in your native soil. Hope my long response helps.

      • Brenden Merwin permalink

        Thanks so much for your quick response! Very helpful.
        Is there any drawback to mix both bermuda and tall fescue? I have both areas of heavy shade and all day sun?
        Lastly, Would it be better to scrape the surface after the weeds are dead with a gannon/scraper box and try and remove all the top substance? Or better to just till it up and mix it all together? Thx again~

      • Hi Brenden Merwin
        I would rototill in the dead weeds (unless they are too heavy). As far as planting both fescue and Bermuda: These two types of grasses are generally not mixed together at the time of seeding. You may find that they will coexist over time. You might consider seeding the sunny areas with Bermuda now and the shady areas with a blend of Turf-type fescue in early September. You would be seeding at the ideal times to put down these two types of grass and it would break up your project into more manageable segments. Here is a blog posting I did a while back about how the differences in cool-season (like Fescue) and warm-season (like Bermuda) grasses:

  45. Ken permalink

    Hi Ashton,

    I followed your protocol to the TEE and wound up with a front yard full of winter annual weeds. Why didn’t you recommend Scotts Starter Fertilzer WITH WEED PREVENTATIVE? I have since discovered that was the smart thing to do. Now I have tall fescue with a LOT of HENBIT or creeping Charlie. Very depressed! What now?

    • Hi Ken
      Sorry that your new Fescue lawn is loaded with weeds. I assume you seeded last fall and the weed is Henbit (a winter annual weed that germinates in fall and dies during hot summer weather). Henbit will soon show purple flowers as it produces seed for next fall. As you state, this weed can be prevented with an application of a crabgrass preventer in fall. This weed grows more upright than Ground Ivy which creeps along the ground surface. The weed preventer that is compatible with new seed is Scotts Starter Fertilizer with Weed Preventer. Sorry that the info on my blog was not clear. Fortunately, Henbit can also be easily controlled with a weed control like that found in Turf Builder Weed & Feed or a spray like Ortho Weed B Gon MAX plus Crabgrass Killer. Another option that you may want to consider for your first application this spring is a new product Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action (feeds, prevents crabgrass, kills weeds) Here is a link to product info: These weed controls will work best when your temps are starting to regularly hit the 60’s. Good luck with your lawn.

  46. Ken permalink

    Thanks Ashton.

    Also, Scotts customer service told me that some seed grass seeds I put down last fall would wait to germinate this spring. Should I use the Starter food with weed control here – or do you recommend another crabgrass pre-emergent that is “friendly” to germinating grass seeds?

  47. Hi Ken
    When a seeding is done late in fall after the soil has cooled, some of the grass seed will germinate is spring. However if the seeding was done early in fall so that you were able to mow the new grass, it is likely you will not see further germination from that seed blend in spring. If you still expect some of this seed to germinate in spring or you plan on seeding this spring you should use the Starter Lawn Food with Weed Preventer. If you were able to mow your new grass at least once, you will be able to use the regular crabgrass prevention: Turf Builder with Halts. Your new grass should have been mowed 4 times to be old enough to be treated with any of the Weed & Feed products.

  48. Ken permalink

    Thanks Ashton. I was able to mow once last fall. Problem now is that fosythia is in bloom..time for prevention BUT, I have not mowed 4 times yet, in total. I don’t want to miss window for crabgrass prevention but do not know if I’d be jumping the gun since I’ve only mowed once, last fall?

    • Hi Ken
      Since you were able to mow once, you will be able to put down Turf Builder with Halts. However, if you want to seed this spring, you will need to use Starter Lawn Food with Weed Preventer instead. You will then be able to go after your other weeds with your second application this spring of Turf Builder Weed & Feed about 6 weeks after the first feeding (since you would have mowed more than 4 times by then). The alternative plan if you only want to do one application this spring, would be to wait until you have mowed 3 more times then put down Turf Builder Triple Action to prevent crabgrass and control weeds. The rule of thumb is that you want to put down your crabgrass prevention by time the forsythia has finished blooming and there are no more yellow blossoms on the plant. With the Triple Action you get a little extra time on this rule of thumb because it does kill very young seedling crabgrass. You would not be able to seed this spring with Triple Action. Hope this extra info helps.

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