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How to Dump Your Old Lawn and Start Over

August 10, 2013

These how to lawn renovation steps are for all of you who have an old Bluegrass, Ryegrass or Fescue lawn that you want to kill and replace.  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.  This is 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 Lawn Food.

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. matt permalink

    On average, how long would it take for the grass to be completely full in the yard after starting over?

    • Hi matt
      With two feedings (Starter Lawn Food at the time of planting followed by Turf Builder about 4 weeks later should give you a pretty thick lawn within 8 weeks of seeding.

  2. Our backyard is beyond our help. We have a fairly big backyard and have only a small patch of healthy lawn. When we moved in, our lawn was so lush and thick…can walk on it barefoot without no worries. Will following this system be fool proof and do you think our lawn can come back to the way it used to be? Thank you!

    • Hi Rachel
      Having a thick, green lawn boils down to regular feeding when your lawn is growing, which works out to about 4 or so feedings a year. There are some insects and fungus diseases that like to attack lawns in certain parts of the country. If you tell me where you are located I can give you some specific suggestions for your lawn.

  3. Vince permalink

    Hi Ashton,
    Noticed this post was about a year old, but I figured I’d try to see if you could help me.

    My front yard is pretty much red clay/dirt, small rock/pebbles, and weeds (Raleigh, NC…about 14,000 sq ft.). The weeds are pretty much the only green these days. The original yard was an instant yard, contractor sod. Over the years, I haven’t really tended to it like a good home owner should, so its in bad shape.

    I read over your renovation write up (to include the previous ones from the previous years) and thought the solutions could work for my situation.

    Are there any other considerations or added processes I should add to your write up?

    1. Apply Roundup Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate Plus
    a. Apply, wait a week
    b. 2nd application, wait another week
    2. Dethatch/rake up the dead weeds and grass; resurface areas, based on erosion and uneven spots
    3. Aerate the yard (or slit seed?)
    4. Over seed with Bermuda
    5. Apply fertilizer, lime, etc…per soil test results
    6. Cover in peat moss (or straw)
    7. Roll the lawn
    8. Water appropriately


    • Hi Vince
      Your plan looks good. If you need lime per a soil test, put it down as soon as you can after you Dethatch the dead lawn. The max per application is around 50 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. If the soil test suggests you need more, apply again this fall. When you feed, use Turf Builder Starter Lawn Food for new grass the same day you seed. If you have some shade, you may consider seeding Zoysia instead of Bermuda. Good Luck.

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