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How to Fix a Lawn With a Weak Root System

By Michael Rippetoe ; Updated September 21, 2017

The first thing many people see when they look at a home is the lawn. A lawn can say a lot about a person. For example, a home with a well manicured lawn can tell others that this person takes time to care for details, and a shabby lawn can tell people that the homeowner is too business to worry. The condition of the lawn can also affect the overall look of the home. A traditional problem with a lawn is the root system is too weak to support the plant. There is a simple way to help strengthen the root system of the lawn and, therefore, the overall look of the lawn.

Determine the size of the lawn to be treated. This is essential to know how much fertilizer will be needed. This is done with simple length times width measurements. For this example the lawn will be 5000 square feet.

Aerate the lawn by pulling the aerator behind a riding mower (blades off) or using a rental walk behind. Aerating the lawn prior to fertilization will allow a small amount of fertilizer to penetrate below the surface instantly. It will also loosen the soil to help allow the root system to grow easier. Leave the plugs on the lawn.

Mow the lawn to the normal height with the plugs still on the grass. Mowing will help to chop the plugs and create clippings to help with fertilization.

Apply the fertilizer in a non-overlapping pattern to the lawn at a rate of 10 pounds per acre. Check the fertilizer bag for the proper setting for the push spreader. Overlapping the pattern will cause striping of color or burn the grass from over fertilization. Make only one pass over the entire lawn.

Water the lawn after fertilizing to help the fertilizer to disperse in the soil. Repeat steps 3 through 5 two weeks later.


Things You Will Need

  • 20-5-10 or 20-10-10 granulated fertilizer (a good basic twice a year fertilizer)
  • Push spreader
  • Aerator roller-pulled behind riding mower
  • Sprinkler


  • The best time to fertilize and aerate a lawn is in the early spring and early fall.
  • Fertilizer companies make fertilizer blends that are appropriate for these times of year.
  • Check with a gardening center for special needs for your area.
  • A soil test will tell exactly the nutrients lacking in the soil.
  • Aeration is not required for this procedure but recommended.

About the Author


Michael Rippetoe has been writing for 15 years, and has recently decided to make it his career. He has been a journeyman carpenter, ASE Master Mechanic, certified irrigation professional and currently writes for this site, designs websites, and does professional photography. Rippetoe's articles appear on eHow, Garden Guides, AnswerBag and others.