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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.

  4. I think we may have to do this in our back yard, as I believe it’s filling in with bentgrass, which started as a patch about the size of a small above ground swimming pool when we moved in, and has now creeped to fill in the majority of our lawn 3 years later. But I’m wondering if you can tell us how we can be sure that what we have is bentgrass. Everything I have read about it sounds exactly like what our grass has been doing, so I am 99% sure it’s bentgrass. It turns browns and does not match the rest of the grass, even when it is green throughout the late spring and summer months, so I would guess that it is bentgrass, or something like it, and should be removed. Do you recommend we have a pro come out and look at the grass to verify that it is bentgrass?

    We recently did an application of Weed & Feed, and since the label says it will kill bentgrass, I’m wondering if that would be enough to rid our yard of the bentgrass or if we would still need to do a full “start over”. I’m guessing the latter, because it’s not just a small patch we’re working on, but almost the entire lawn. Do you have any additional tips for us to help us figure out if it is in fact bentgrass, and if so, any specifics on this particular kind of replacement? For instance, should we overlap into the healthy, wanted grass by a certain amount to ensure that every bit of bentgrass is removed?

    Thank for any additional tips you can give us. Searched your site to see if you have any posts on just Bentgrass, but did not find any. But your site seems thorough, so I thought I would start with you and then go elsewhere if need be.

    • Hi Georgia B.
      Please tell me where you are located as your description of this grass turning brown and being green in late spring through summer leads me to think it may be Zoysia. Zoysia is a warm season grass that over the years was planted in cool-season grass lawns by lawn owners reading ads talking the benefits of this grass. It is a massive brown patch much of the year in northern lawns. Bentgrass is one of the most common of the perennial grasses that form an ever increasing patch of different looking grass, however it is a northern grass that can stay green in cooler weather and typically turns brown faster than other grasses in summer. Hybrids of this grass type are used on golf courses in the northern part of the US. Common Bentgrass is more of a weed in a Bluegrass, Ryegrass, Fescue lawn. You are likely not to kill your bentgrass with a weed & feed, you may see some temporary discoloration however it is likely to recover. You will not kill Zoysia with a weed and feed either. Let me know where you live and I will suggest a plan for your to follow.

      • Thank you for your quick reply. We are in Illinois, near the Wisconsin border, about an hour outside Chicago. I have not yet heard of Zoysia. I will do some research on that. That patch in our yard starts to turn greener mid-May and has a lot of thatch, making it a much spongier grass than the rest. It’s creeping away from the trees where the lawn is shaded, and I know Bentgrass loves sun, so I figured it might be Bentgrass. I don’t recall exactly which month it turns brown, but I know it’s in the Fall, and it turns brown where all the other grass stays green. Is Zoysia also a high-thatch grass? The blades seem wider than the surrounding grass. Perhaps when I do a bit more research on Zoysia, I’ll be able to determine if that is what we have based on those two questions. Mostly, we are worried that the grass will reach our neighbor’s yard {I think they are concerned as well}, as it seems to be creeping in their direction. They have a very healthy lawn, so hopefully it won’t be invasive. But because I know how Bentgrass grows, I’m concerned it will, in fact, creep into their yard.

        Anyway, thank you for your willingness to help me get to the bottom of it. Looking forward to reading anything else you can tell us.

  5. Hi Georgia B.
    Zoysia does creep and it is spongy when you walk on it. The texture of some Zoysia varieties can be a little bit coarser than Ky. Bluegrass. It turns straw colored with the first frost and would not green up until mid to late May in your area. For years this grass has been advertised in Sunday newspaper magazines as the grass that will grow slower, have fewer weeds and not require much water and lawn food. They sell “plugs” to plant in your existing lawn and it spreads to fill in. It likes to grow in the sun. It stays green during summer. It is more commonly found in the south where it is greener for longer periods of time and likes the hot weather. The best way to get rid of it would be to spray it with Roundup when it is actively growing. You might consider two applications. After it is dead it would need to be stripped out with a sod cutter or spade before prepping your soil for planting grass seed. In your area late August/Early September is a good time to plant grass seed, so you would need to begin the killing process in early to mid August. This would be the same timing whether it is zoysia or bentgrass. Be sure to use regular Roundup, not the one that kills vegetation and provides prevention of future growth. Good Luck.

  6. Thank you so much.

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