Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet FS108 | June 1993
Lawn areas which become unattractive and disappointing in performance generally contain a sparse and an unhealthy stand of lawn grasses. Also, an infestation of weeds is characteristic of these areas. Such conditions may result from one or more factors, such as: 1) Improper soil drainage, 2) Soil compaction, 3) Excessive shade, 4) Improper lawn grass for the location and/or use, 5) Soil pH - insufficient or excessive lime, 6) Improper fertilization - inadequate or excessive, 7) Chemical injury, 8) Mowing too closely, 9) Prolonged soil moisture stress - particularly in hot weather, 10) Improper watering techniques, 11) Excessive thatch accumulation, 12) Insect activity, 13) Disease damage, 14) Intensive use, and 15) Vandalism.
When the lawn area has adequate soil drainage and a relatively smooth contour and/or grade, renovation can correct unfavorable conditions, such as: 1) Sparse and uneven stand of desirable lawn grasses, 2) Infestation of undesirable broadleaf and grassy weeds, 3) Improper soil pH, 4) Low fertility, 5) Minor discrepancies in grade, 6) Soil surface compaction, 7) Excessive thatch accumulation, and 8) General neglect.
When considering improvement of a lawn area, specific renovation procedures are determined by:
Specific steps for renovating should be based on the condition of the lawn and problems needing attention. Four major categories of renovation are:
Specific steps are outlined below.
Late summer to early fall is the most appropriate season for this procedure. Early spring is the next best choice. In the spring, however, success is usually more difficult. An increased weed problem, particularly crabgrass, can be expected from renovation in the spring. Applying siduron as a preemergence crabgrass herbicide, as the last step in the procedure, would be appropriate. More information on lawn establishment can be found in Rutgers Cooperative Extension publication FS584, Seeding Your Lawn.
Various types of dethatching (verti-grooving) equipment are available. Only certain ones are effective and should be selected carefully for best results. The machine should have straight steel blades (at least 1/8 inch thick) spaced 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart, and be rigidly attached to the revolving shaft. Blade depth should be easily adjustable to allow complete penetration through the thatch layer and at least 1/2 inch into the soil. A small amount of soil will be displaced with a minimum disturbance of existing grade and desirable lawn grasses. Certain machines verti-groove and seed at the same time. The machine should provide conditions for seed-soil contact.
Generally, a lawn which has lost 70% or more of desirable grasses, becomes heavily infested with a variety of broadleaf and grassy weeds. In less common situations, where a serious weed problem has not infested the area, procedure "A" would be appropriate.
A lawn can be renovated with seeding or sodding. If immediate restoration is desired and/or the season is inappropriate for seeding, renovate with a high-quality sod. Follow the procedure outlined earlier and add this step: after complete eradication is achieved (Step 3), strip off the dead mat of grasses, weeds, and thatch.
A garden spade can be used to remove the dead mat, but a sod cutter (set to cut at the junction of thatch to soil) to remove this matted layer is most effective. After removal, proceed as outlined in "A," but exclude steps 1 and 2. Procedures for sodding are given in Rutgers Cooperative Extension publication FS104, Steps to an Instant Lawn.
Follow the procedure outlined for "B" and strip off the dead mat as outlined under "B." Whether seeding or sodding removing the thatch layer is essential for reestablishing desired lawn grasses.
Follow procedure "B" or "C." Selective control of these undesirable perennial grasses in an otherwise satisfactory lawn is not available. To eliminate them, desirable lawn grasses must be sacrificed in a complete eradication procedure with glyphosate.
Renovation according to these four procedures for different lawn situations is an effective and efficient way of restoring lawn areas that have deteriorated. However, it will not, solve problems such as: soil drainage, deeply compacted soils, major deficiencies in grade, very rough surfaces, or phytotoxic soil contaminants. These conditions will require complete reconstruction procedures.
Other available references are: FS102, Your Lawn and Its Care.
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