It’s early Spring and the lawn is very much on the minds of those who have them. Sometimes it’s an eager checking of dampness and growing state in anticipation of the renewing of the sturdy green sward, sometimes it’s a sigh at the thought of the weekly trudge up and down the green space, clipping it neatly into submission. Sometimes it’s an all out groan at the state of what was lawn before the winter hit, (see below). Ours, at the front of a shared apartment building, completely collapsed after being used as a storage and working space by a team of roofers re-roofing the house over the winter. The spatterings of the concrete mixer, the crushing of stems under piles of rafters and terracotta tiles and the endless tramping from heavy booted feet have all taken their toll on what was never the best bit of grass to be truthful.

So to urge me to action to repair and renovate this patch and to inspire some others to do the odd bit of lawn sprucing I am posting a short series on ‘how to  LAWN’ with some show and tell all images.

This is the state of the patch today (March), it’s been a mild winter so the grass has continued to grow through slowly, the border edge has all but disappeared and there is no sward to speak of, certainly not on the edges, not on the ‘desire line’ paths that have formed by residents cutting corners (not visible). This lawn has been shawn very short but if yours is longer, give it a long first cut (mower on highest setting) before doing any work.


lawn 1

odd shaped green patch after heavy winter wear and tear.

lawn moss

grass over taken by the moss and some creeping clover

The first job here is to remove thatch (old grass clippings) and  moss . There are a couple of options to remove mosses in the sward. A scarifier can be used, operates a bit like a lawn mower and is pushed over the lawn area,  it takes out the dead material and mosses, often leaving gaps on the lawn that will need attention later. Alternatively a Spring Tined Lawn Rake can be used to rake through the lawn and remove the mosses. The latter is excellent for working out the shoulder muscles! The benefits of this step are to remove planty interlopers and therefore competitors to your grass plants.

lawn bald patch

The second step is to aerate the lawn area which can be done with an Aerator. There are several types from Spike Aerator Shoes, simple mutli tine barrels that are walked up and down to Hollow Tine fork like tools or even lawnmower like ones that effectively do both scarifying and aerating (blade change needed on some models). Alternatively aerating can be achieved with a garden fork, plunged into the ground wiggled around a little and removed. I usually make horizontal lines up the lawn area, forking lines  at one pace apart, which in my case is about 700mm. A bit like forking over a pastry  pie base before putting it in the oven. The point of the holes is to allow air pockets in the ground which the roots of the grass plant need to thrive.

To keep the airflow going a simple sandy mix or specialist Lawn Sand which adds a grass fertiliser and kills mosses. Sand can be scattered on the area and then simply brushed into the holes, for Lawn sands and specialist mixes always follow the manufacturers instructions carefully.

After all that it’s time for a cup of tea and a sit down, waiting several weeks before growing weather really kicks in then it’s time for step 3, reseeding the bald patches!


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  • Phoenicia

    Just last weekend, my husband and I were discussing our plans for the garden. Up until now, we have mowed the lawn and that is it! We would like a pretty garden but are well aware of our limitations. We are considering buying fake grass as in the rainy seasons, the grass requires cutting almost weekly. We do not have the capacity to keep it up.

    • Artificial grass, sigh, I know, I know it’s less work (but not no work) and of course it has it’s pro’s but I still find it hard to recommend it to anyone. Do you know you’re lawn is a brilliant drainage tool? and it supports lovely wildlife? and absorbs carbon and gives off oxygen?. It IS a plant after all 🙂 Artificial stuff doesn’t do any of that (well maybe drainage to a point) , it’s inert, dead, lifeless.
      If you don’t want lawn, try a planted border around a beautifully paved or gravelled sitting area. Plants can be much more low maintenance than grass, which in reality, though simple is quite high on the maintenance scale. A swathe of gorgeous shrubs, a few perennials and maybe a wide path to get through, a small sitting area for a relaxing evening aperitif. How big is your garden?which way does it face? I can make some recommendations if it would help.

  • This post comes at a timely moment as my lawn could use some TLC this spring. I am not a fan of lawns at all since they are so water greedy. Alas, my homeowner’s association states front yards must have lawns. I wish more natural landscaping was acceptable.

    • It’s so interesting to hear that the homeowner association insist on lawns at the front. Is this to maintain the look of the area? I read something along these lines a few years back. A natural landscaping option certainly sounds like a more practical option all round.

      • Yes, the HOA controls a lot of how the neighborhood looks. I think it’s a good idea overall so people don’t let appearances get too run down, but I don’t like the lawn rule. I’d much rather be able to put garden beds alongside my house, but can’t because it’s not fenced in as part of my backyard.

  • Great advice! I can hardly wait until all the snow has melted here and we can actually work on the lawn and garden. It’s been a long winter!

    • I love all your posts, it reminds me that there are so many different sets of weather conditions going on in March. Ours has been a very mild winter making things a bit ahead of themselves in 2016. I was hoping for a long cold winter this year to combat the bugs! plus a spot of snow play 🙂

  • Perfect timing. Here in Ontario we have also had a really mild winter and I’ve been antsy to get outside. Since getting another heavy frost is more or less guaranteed there is only so much you can do. But aerating the lawn is definitely something we can do and our lawn certainly needs it. We have a lot of ‘thatch’ patches that need to be fixed.
    Looking forward to your next post.
    BTW – I love the reasons you gave Phoenica for why you should have a natural lawn. Totally agree.

  • RoseMary Griffith

    Perfect timing in Pennsylvania, too! We have a huge problem with deer traipsing through the yard all winter long and pulverizing the grass. We’ve already reseeded and layered peat moss on it. I’m eager to start the raking, but it’s been too rainy to do that. Look forward to seeing the pics of your lawn as it improves!

    • It’s so frustrating when you can’t get on the lawn, or even the gardens, due to rain. Hope your weather cheers up soon.

  • My lawn is full of bare spots because we had a drought at tyhe end of last summer and during the fall and there was a ban on watering your lawn. I think the squirels aerated it for me though.

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