Repairing a damaged lawn

Summary: Advice on repairing and patching a damaged lawn

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A healthy lawn is an asset to any garden, but a damaged lawn can look awful. A lawn won’t just get better on its own – it needs care and attention, and some work. There are a variety of problems which can reduce your lawn to an unsightly patch of ground, but they are all fixable.

First of all, you need to assess the damage to see if it is worth investing a lot of time and energy in fixing the lawn, or whether you are better off starting again from scratch. Look over the whole lawn area – if it is over 60% weeds and moss then you should seriously consider re-turfing.

Mowing, Feeding and Scarifying

Before you start to treat your lawn, you need to ensure that it is as healthy as possible. First of all, you need to mow the lawn to a height of about 10mm. If the lawn is very long, make sure you reduce the height gradually over a few mows. Correct mowing will improve the look of your lawn straight away.

Feed your lawn with a lawn fertilizer. Then, after a few days, run a scarifier over the lawn – this will comb the grass, and remove a lot of moss and dead undergrowth (known as thatch). You can rent a scarifier from a garden centre or tool hire centre. If the weather is dry it is a good idea to water the lawn the day before scarifying. If you have a very small lawn, you can scarify it yourself by raking it over firmly with a springbok rake.

Remove the accumulated matter produced by scarifying, by going over the lawn with a mower with grass collector (ensure the blade is set high enough not to actually cut the grass), or rake over and collect by hand.

Allow the lawn to recover for a week after scarifying, then mow it again. Always mow in a different direction to the scarifying – that way the grass that has been combed up won’t just flatten down again.

Treating Weeds In Your Lawn

Three days after mowing, weed the lawn. A few weeds in a small lawn can be removed by hand, but if you have large patches of buttercups, daisies, moss or dandelions, the best solution is to use a selective weed killer to spray the whole area. Use a watering can or garden sprayer to treat the whole lawn on a dry day, but avoid doing it in the hottest part of the day as it will scorch the grass.

Stubborn weeds may need more than one treatment – follow the instructions on the weeding compound for repeat treatments.

Damaged Patches In Your Lawn

If you have brown, dead patches of lawn where animal urine or weed killer has killed it off, you will need to remove them and fill in the hole. Use an edging tool or sharp spade to cut around the damaged area and lift the turf. If possible, take a piece of good turf from an area of lawn where it won’t be noticed. If this is not possible, you can either buy a piece of turf or use grass seed. If you are filling in the patch with turf, cut it to size and place in the hole ensuring that it is level with the ground around it. Firm down, and put fine topsoil or compost along the edges. Water in well and keep watering regularly until the roots have taken.

If you have chosen to use seed to fill in the patch, fill the hole with good, fine topsoil so that it is level with the ground around it. Water and seed the patch. It is a good idea to cover the patch with tarpaulin or plastic overnight and early morning – this will keep in the warmth to encourage germination, and protect it from birds.

Damaged Edges

Keeping the edges of your lawn neat makes a surprising difference to the overall look of the lawn. Re-cut your lawn edges every spring, using an edging tool. If an edge is damaged, cut out a rectangle around the damaged area, lift the turf and turn it around so that the missing section is facing in. Fill in the hole with compost, spread some grass seed over it and water.

Dips And Bumps In Your Lawn

Top dressing the lawn will help to smooth out minor lumps and bumps – use sharp sand to do this. Use a shovel to spread the sand over the lawn in a thin layer, then brush over the whole lawn to level it and ensure that the grass is not smothered anywhere. You can repeat this over a few weeks, adding new layers of sand as the grass recovers to level the area.

Large dips or bumps will need to be dealt with in a different way, as top dressing will never get rid of them. Use an edging tool or sharp spade to cut into the problem area, in the shape of an H – then you can peel back the two sides and add or remove soil to make it level. Fold the flaps of turf back down and fill the cuts with fine soil or compost.

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