How to Repair a Lawn


Lawn renovation is most successful in the fall or spring. A well-established lawn may require only some minor touch-ups to keep it healthy and looking its best. Insect infestations, harsh weather or invasive weeds are only a few of the things that can damage a lawn. Occasionally an older lawn may need a complete overhaul, but by addressing issues before they get out of hand, it is often possible to repair a lawn rather than replace it.

Repair Small Patches

Step 1

Repair small brown patches in a lawn by digging out each spot, removing 2 or 3 inches of soil with it. Removing some soil under brown patches will get rid of pet residue or chemical spills that killed the grass. Treat areas that have been overtaken by weeds the same way. Removing some of the soil along with weeds will remove weed roots and seeds.

Step 2

Fill each hole with good garden soil or topsoil, mixing in compost or humus. Level the surface of the fill soil with the surrounding area. Scatter the grass seed and rake it lightly into the soil so it makes good contact. Grass seed must have contact with the soil to germinate and root effectively.

Step 3

Cover the reseeded area lightly with straw or other light mulch. Mark the repaired spots with small flags to help you locate them when you water; cover with netting to keep birds from eating the seeds if this is a potential problem. Water the newly seeded spots well. Keep the areas moist for three to four weeks until the new grass is established.

Step 4

Eliminate the cause of the dead patches. Small dead patches may have many causes, including pets, foot traffic, garden chemical spills or small rodents such as meadow voles.

Step 5

Mow new grass when it is at least 3 inches tall. Set the mower to cut only the top third of the new grass blades for the first few mowings. Water after mowing to rejuvenate the grass.

Rent Machines for Big Repairs

Step 1

Rent a power rake if the lawn is smothered with thatch. This machine is also called a vertical mower or a dethatcher. Use the machine to remove thatch buildup which can prevent water and nutrients from reaching the root zone of the lawn. When you need to overseed the existing lawn, use a power rake to loosen the soil surface as it removes thatch buildup. Set the machine so the top 1/4 inch of soil is loosened to prepare for overseeding.

Step 2

Use a soil aeration machine to loosen packed soil. There are two types of aeration machines. One type inserts hollow tines into the soil at intervals, removing plugs of lawn and soil. It creates paths for water, oxygen and nutrients to flow to the root zone. If your soil is compacted, use the hollow tine machine. The other type uses solid tines to poke holes into the lawn. It also gives good results.

Step 3

Scatter a light layer of compost or humus over the machined lawn. Overseed the lawn at a rate of one to 2 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet if grass still exists. Use 3 to 4 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet for lawns with little or no grass remaining. Rake in the seed so that only about 10 percent is still visible.

Step 4

Mulch and water the area. Keep the soil moist for the first three to four weeks until the new grass is established.

Tips and Warnings

  • Power rake machines and aeration machines are very heavy and unwieldy. They are difficult to transport, and they require strength to operate safely and properly. For large lawn repair jobs, get an estimate from a professional and weigh the cost against your level of experience for the do-it-yourself option.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel, optional
  • Compost or humus
  • Grass seed
  • Rake
  • Mulch
  • Power rake, rented, optional
  • Aeration machine, rented, optional


  • Renovating Your Old Lawn
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Lawn Repair in the Spring

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Lawn Repair and Renovation
Keywords: repair a lawn, reseed a lawn, overseed a lawn, fix lawn problem, dethatch lawn, aerate lawn

About this Author

Fern Fischer writes about quilting and sewing, and she professionally restores antique quilts to preserve these historical pieces of women's art. She also covers topics of organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family. For over 35 years, her work has been published in print and online.