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How to Bring Your Lawn Back to Life

A damaged lawn looks unattractive and detracts from your home. Bringing a lawn back to life requires evaluating what caused the damage and fixing the potential problems. Whether your lawn has dead patches, brown spots or has just thinned over the years, correcting some basics will create new, healthy growth.

Causes of Damaged Lawns

A damaged lawn has several potential causes. Bare or yellowing patches in the lawn indicate a possible grub, pest or pet problem. Other causes include too much fertilizer, not enough water, compacted soil and excess mowing, or cutting the grass too frequently or too short. Evaluate your lawn and see if any of these apply.

  • If you have pets, keep them from using the whole lawn as their personal restroom. Creating an area for pets protects your furry family members and your lawn.
  • Pull back a square-foot sized piece of sod. Check for small, white worm-like larvae just under 1 inch long with six legs. These are grubs. They eat the roots of your grass, causing dead patches. If your lawn is unhealthy, they will spread. 
  • If you have been fertilizing, check your package and make sure you have followed instructions. If you added too much, that might be the source for damage.
  • Lawn grass should ideally be cut by no more than a third of its height and only when it reaches 1.5 to-3.5 inches high, depending on the species.

Basic lawn repairs will generally address all of these potential issues to add new growth and green to your lawn.

Fix the Basics

Run an Aerator Over the Lawn

An aerator opens up holes, or plugs, that allow seeds, water, air and fertilizer to reach the roots of the grass. If your lawn has not been aerated in the past two years, this will help create healthier grass, and a healthy lawn has greater resistance to damage from pests and effects from the climate. Hardware stores and tool rental businesses rent aerators, and the machines are not difficult to use for a do-it-yourself type.

Treat Your Lawn for Grubs

If more than six grubs were present when you checked, you'll need to treat the lawn. Purchase beneficial nematodes. Use a trusted supplier. The University of California Integrated Pest Management Program recommends treating white grubs with Heterorhabditis bacteriophora. Apply nematodes when soil temperatures remain consistently above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and grubs are active. Use distilled water to mix the nematode solution. Apply with a sprayer attachment to the infected areas of your lawn

Overseed and Fertilize

Overseed the entire lawn for the best results. Use a broadcast seeder to evenly distribute the seeds, and walk over the entire lawn in rows. This will help fill in any thin areas and missing patches while bringing new life to the lawn. After seeding, use the same broadcaster to spread a starter fertilizer specifically for a new lawn.

Water as Needed

Your lawn typically will need daily watering after new seed is planted. Only water enough to keep the top 2 inches of soil moist. After a month, you can resume watering as needed, or about once a week when there is limited rainfall.


If your area is in a drought, check watering restrictions before running a sprinkler.

Cut Your Grass

Set your mower deck a little higher to give the grass enough blade to absorb much-needed sunlight. If you want to maintain your lawn at 2 inches high, wait until it is 3 inches tall before cutting. If you have been cutting your grass more frequently than recommended or cutting too much of the length, resist the urge to fire up the mower for a few extra days in between cuttings.


Allow time for the new seed to grow before mowing. Your lawn might look shaggy for a brief period. Lower the mower blade a little each time, keeping in mind the one-third rule until you reach the desired height.

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