Suppliers of wildflowers, native seeds and Eco-Lawn grass seed for natural landscaping, wildflower gardens, and land restoration. How to Reseed a Lawn With Weeds. If you are faced with a neglected lawn that’s partially dead and is being taken over by weeds, you may be able to renovate it. Restoring a deteriorated lawn may be possible if the weeds and dead spots cover less than 40 percent of the lawn area. Renovation of a weedy lawn involves more … How to Restore a Lawn Full of Weeds If your lawn is patchy and full of weeds, it will never be the envy of the neighborhood. What you’re after is a lush, green lawn with even grass and no
Crabgrass is a warm season annual weed that invades lawns that are thin, weak and undernourished. It germinates from seed in late spring once soil temperatures have reached 50 F (10C). During the summer it develops into a ground-hugging weed that spreads over the surrounding grass. In late summer it produces hundreds of seeds that will sprout the following year. Crabgrass seeds can remain in the soil for many years and sprout when the soil is disturbed.
The best defense is a good offense. Regular overseeding of your lawn will encourage a dense root system which will not provide space for Crabgrass to grow. Crabgrass is very rare in thick, healthy lawns that are mowed to a height of 3 inches (7.6 cm) this helps to keep the soil cooler thus inhibiting germination of Crabgrass seeds.
If you have had Crabgrass in the past, in early spring give the area a hard raking to dethatch it and remove the debris. You can then apply corn meal gluten, which will act as an organic pre-emeregent herbicide. Please note that since corn meal gluten is a pre-emergent, you cannot overseed your lawn until the fall if you use corn meal gluten in spring. The best way to organically control Crabgrass is to ensure that you keep your lawn mowed in late summer when the Crabgrass is putting up its purple seed stalks. This will prevent it from making seed for the future.
Non-organic Solution: Often, by the time Crabgrass is noticeable it is too late to treat, however there are chemical crabgrass treatments. Contact your local garden centre or hardware store for options in your area.
Dandelions are the bane of many peoples lawns. Thriving in thin, sparse turf, dandelion seeds float through the air looking for the slightest opening in the lawn to propagate. Meanwhile, below ground, they develop a taproot up to 10″ long. This taproot is thick but brittle and easily fractures and any piece of the taproot that remains in the ground will re-grow.
Regular overseeding of your lawn will encourage a dense root system which will not provide space for Dandelions to grow. Leave grass clippings on the lawn as they act as mulch helping to prevent Dandelion seeds from germinating. That said, if you do have Dandelions there are very few organic options. If there are only a few of them, you can dig them out by hand, try to get as much of the root as possible. There is also a biological agent called “Sarritor” which is a fungus that selectively attacks dandelions and some other broad leafed weeds while not harming grass. Check with your local garden centre or hardware store to see if they stock it. Another alternative is to pour boiling water on Dandelions as boiling water kills any and all plants. If you use boiling water you will need to re-seed the affected areas.
Non-organic Solution: If you are using a broadleafed herbicide, use one where the active ingredient is 2-4-D. The ideal time to use herbicides on Dandelions is in early fall when the leaves are transferring nutrients down to the roots. Herbicide applied in early fall will be absorbed by the leaves and passed on down to the roots.
Native to Europe, Quackgrass is easy to identify. It produces long, wide-leafed grass and the grass blades have a rough almost burr-like feel to them. The thick, white roots form deep, dense mats and these roots tend to break easily when pulled leaving pieces in the soil after the grass has been removed. Any pieces left in the ground will quickly re-grow into new plants.
Again, the best defense is a good offense. Regular overseeding of your lawn will encourage a dense root system which will not provide space for Quackgrass to grow. Unfortunately, there are no organic products that are effective at eradicating Quackgrass. If the area affected is small, digging it up is a good option but be sure to get all of the roots. Frequent mowing is also an effective way to control this as mowing prevents Quackgrass from making seeds for the future. Be sure to keep the mowers blades set to a height of 3 inches. Another option to prevent Quackgrass from germinating is to apply Corn Meal Gluten in early spring as this acts as a pre-emergent herbicide. Please note that since corn meal gluten is a pre-emergent, you cannot overseed your lawn until the fall if you use corn meal gluten in spring. A further alternative is to pour boiling water on Quackgrass as boiling water kills any and all plants. If you use boiling water you will need to re-seed the affected areas.
Non-organic Solution: Spot spay in early spring or early fall with a non-selective herbicide containing glysophate (Round Up). As this also kills turf, you will need re-seed the areas you have sprayed.
Also known as Nut Grass, this wide-bladed bright green sedge grows at warp speed. Each grass blade has a thick mid-vein and a waxy coating. It has a shallow root system that produce many nut-like tubers which are underground food storage for the plant. Each tuber has up to seven viable buds and each one can grow and produce new plants. Each new plant also produces rhizomes that create new plants.
The most thorough way to rid your lawn of nut grass is by removing the entire plant, roots and all by digging it out by hand. Or you can coat the grass in sugar as an organic alternative.
Removal by Hand
Insert a gardening trowel directly next to the nut grass. Dig down as far as you can go. Nutsedge root systems can extend as deep down as 12 to 18 inches (30 to 46 cm) below the surface.
Gently pry the plant, roots and all, out of the ground. Doing this gently is vital to reduce the number of roots that break off, as well as the number of pieces those roots break into. Dig out any stray roots. If any roots remain, there is still some chance that the nutsedge can return.
Put the weeds into a garbage bag, along with the soil you dug out simultaneously. Dispose of the weeds in your trash. Do not throw them into a pile or into a compost heap, since you may end up spreading them into another area of your lawn by doing so.
This method is most effective at the start of the growing season, when nutsedge is just barely beginning to germinate and sprout. Start by watering the lawn. You do not need to soak it, but the lawn should be evenly moist down to the soil.
Next sift sugar over you’re the lawn. Walk up and down the lawn in straight lines and at a steady pace. Pour the sugar through a sifter as you walk, continually turning the handle of the sifter. Make sure that the sugar falls on the grass in even amounts. This is no mere folk remedy. Sugar actually “eats” the nutsedge while also providing nourishing microbes that have a positive effect on your lawn.
Water the lawn once more, don’t saturate the grass, since that would wash the sugar away. Spray the lawn with a light mist, providing just enough water to re-moisten the blades of grass and coax the sugar down into the soil and the roots of the lawn.
Repeat this procedure at least twice more throughout the spring. The nutsedge may not die off completely after the first treatment but after a few applications of sugar all of it should be dead.
Non-organic Solution: Use herbicide before the nutsedge develops five true leaves. Leafy nutsedge has too many obstacles, preventing herbicides from sliding down to the “nuts” and the root. Herbicides work best early in the season, while nutsedge is still young and has minimal leaves.
Select an appropriate herbicide. Products that contain MSMA or products with a chemical called bentazon work best. Nutsedge is a common enough problem, so herbicides that work against the weed will be labeled as ” nutsedge or nut grass killers.”
Allow your lawn to grow for a few days prior to application. Herbicides works best when the nutsedge is growing vigorously and may not be as effective if applied immediately after cutting it down. Wait two or more days after your last lawn mowing before applying the chemical to the lawn.
Apply the herbicide during a dry period. Wait several days after your last watering and do not spray the herbicide if you may get rain four hours after application or if you expect heavy rains to follow in coming days. Water will wash the chemical away and it may not have the chance to do its job before that happens.
Read the instructions on the label of your herbicide bottle to determine how to apply it properly. You will usually spray diluted MSMA herbicide over your entire lawn. For instance, the instructions may tell you to mix 1.5 ounces (45 milliliters) of chemical into 5 gallons (20 liters) of water to treat 1000 square feet (92.9 square meters) of lawn.
Repeat the treatment several times during the growing season. Eco-Lawn may need four to eight applications before the nutsedge dies off completely.
Typically occurring in shady, damp acidic soils, moss spreads through spores.
The best way to effectively and permanently eradicate moss in the lawn is to physically remove the moss. Start by raking the area with a hard rake to loosen it. Then using the edge of a flat shovel, scrape away the moss and remove the debris. Next, top dress the area with compost and to seed it with Eco-Lawn seed. Eco-Lawn is far more shade tolerant than most turfs and will out-compete moss growth. If the affected area has heavy or compacted soil, it is a good idea to loosen the soil to a depth of at least 3 inches and re-grade to allow drainage before sowing Eco-Lawn. You can also make a spray consisting of 4 ounces of dish soap to one gallon of water and drench the moss with the solution. The moss will turn orange/brown in 24 hours and will dry up.
Non-organic Solution: There are a number of moss killing pesticides such as “Moss Out!” available. Contact your local garden centre or hardware store for options in your area.
Bindweed is a vining plant that snakes across the ground. It has arrow shaped leaves and white/pink flowers that look like morning glories. Bindweed can grow four feet or more in length and develops deep roots.
Vigilance and persistence are required to control Bindweed, where you see it, cut it off at the soil level. Don’t try to pull it out as it will just re-sprout from its roots. By continually cutting it off at ground level as often as you can, will prevent the Bindweed from experiencing photosynthesis and thus it will eventually starve to death. Another alternative is to pour boiling water on Bindweed as boiling water kills all plants. If you use boiling water you will need to re-seed the affected areas.
Non-organic Solution: Spot spay in early spring or early fall with a non-selective herbicide containing glysophate (Round Up). As this also kills turf, you will need to re-seed the areas you have sprayed.
White Clover also known as Dutch Clover is a cool-season perennial that is native to Europe and Asia. Low growing, it forms creeping stems (stolons) that produce roots and shoots along its stem. Being in the legume family, it fixes nitrogen into the soil which enables it to thrive in unfertilized areas.
There are very few organic controls for White Clover in the lawn. Corn Meal Gluten applied in early spring acts as a pre-emergent herbicide which will stop new White Clover seeds from germinating. Please note that since corn meal gluten is a pre-emergent, you cannot overseed your lawn until the fall if you use corn meal gluten in spring.
If you must get rid of established clover in the lawn hand pulling is the only really effective way. Time your hand pulling to be after the lawn has received a good, long rainfall or water the lawn very deeply before trying to hand pull them. A very moist soil will make the hand pulling a lot easier.
Non-organic Solution: Any commercial broadleafed weed killer will be effective on White Clover. Contact your local garden centre or hardware store for options in your area.
This perennial weed is often found in neglected lawns. It has a vigorous creeping habit as it spreads with creeping stems that take root at intervals along its way. The leaves of Cinquefoil resemble those of wild strawberry with each leaf having five heavily toothed leaflets. It produces yellow flowers with five heart shaped petals.
If there are not too many of them, hand weeding is effective. Raking the lawn prior to mowing will also help to weaken and discourage it.
Non-organic Solution: Chemical controls will require repeated applications to totally eradicate Cinquefoil. Contact your local garden centre or hardware store for options in your area.
Black Medic also called Yellow Trefoil is an annual species so it only lives one year but it makes a lot of seeds that can remain viable for several years. It’s seeds germinate in the spring and are capable of establishing in drought-prone or disturbed soils. Black medic is a legume, meaning that it has the capabilities to fix its own nitrogen; thus, allowing it to out compete turf in nutrient-poor soils as well. These factors, in combination with its ability to tolerate low mowing heights, make black medic a common weed in lawns.
Black medic is not shade tolerant, therefore the development of a thick, dense turfgrass canopy helps improve competition against it. Unfortunately repeated hand pulling is really the only good option, especially before it start to make seeds. You can also try using either a vinegar based or citric acid organic herbicide.
Non-organic Solution: A broadleafed weed killer that contains a combination of 2-4-D, dicamba and MCPP/MCPA will be effective. Contact your local garden centre or hardware store for options in your area.
Creeping Charlie is a very aggressive lawn weed that is difficult to control when established in lawns. It has low growing, creeping stems that form new plants where they root at its nodes. The creeping, spreading, invasive nature of this weed, along with its preference for shady places makes it very competitive in lawns.
Repeated physical removal of Creeping Charlie by pulling or hard raking will, over time, prevent the Creeping Charlie from experiencing photosynthesis and thus it will exhaust its stored energy supply.
Research at Iowa State University found that borax can be used to selectively control Creeping Charlie in turf. To do so, dissolve 1 ounce of borax in 2-3 gallons of water and apply the solution uniformly over each 1,000 sq. ft. area. For small infestations dissolve 5 teaspoons of borax in one quart of water, this covers 25 sq. ft. Do not re-apply borax solutions more than once a year as borax contains boron, too much of which can be toxic to your lawn.
Non-organic Solution: A broadleafed weed killer that contains a combination of 2-4-D, dicamba and MCPP/MCPA will be effective. Contact your local garden centre or hardware store for options in your area.
Broadleaf plantain is a perennial weed that tolerates a wide variety of growing conditions such as, dry soil, wet soil, heavy clay soil and low mowing heights. Left undisturbed, plantain can grow as much as 12 inches across and 2 feet tall.
If there are not too many of them, hand weeding is effective. Try to remove as much of the root system as possible. You may need to moisten the soil before trying to pull it out as it does make a deep tap root. Note: you may need to repeat this throughout the summer.
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How to Reseed a Lawn With Weeds
If you are faced with a neglected lawn that’s partially dead and is being taken over by weeds, you may be able to renovate it. Restoring a deteriorated lawn may be possible if the weeds and dead spots cover less than 40 percent of the lawn area. Renovation of a weedy lawn involves more than just mowing down the weeds and throwing some grass seed over the lawn.
Kill the Weeds
The best time for lawn renovation throughout the U.S. is mid-August to mid-September. Most weeds have not yet dropped their seeds and there will be little new weed growth. Also, reseeding at this time will give the new grass a chance to establish itself before going dormant for winter. Get rid of the weeds by manually pulling up large, spreading weeds. Follow up by applying a selective herbicide product that kills common broadleaf lawn weeds while not harming grass. For tough grassy weeds, like quack grass or crabgrass, use a nonselective herbicide such as glyphosate on the spots where these weeds have established themselves. Normally, all weeds will be dead within two weeks. Apply another herbicide dose in three weeks to get newly sprouted weeds.
Water the Site
If you have had a dry summer with below-normal rainfall, you need to replenish soil moisture before preparing a seedbed. Give the entire lawn a thorough watering, soaking until water has penetrated to a depth of at least 6 inches, then allow the surface to dry for a day or two before starting soil preparation.
Most deteriorated lawns have a built-up layer of dead and partially rotted grass stems, roots and rhizomes just below the green grass leaves. This is known as thatch, and it must be removed before reseeding so water and fertilizer can reach the new seed. For small lawns, you can remove thatch with a garden rake. For large areas, go over the lawn with a power dethatcher, also known as a vertical mower or power rake. These machines can be rented from garden centers. Remove the clumps of matter left by the machine with a garden rake and level the soil by raking it.
Feed & Seed
The soil nutrients most important to healthy grass plants are nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Supply these nutrients by applying a commercial fertilizer formulated for starting lawns and lightly rake it into the soil before you reseed. Buy a grass-seed blend suited to your climate and local conditions and spread it over the lawn with a drop spreader or rotary spreader. Absent a different recommendation from the grass-seed grower, spread the seed at a rate of 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet on a lawn with substantial plots of live grass and 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet on bare soil. Water lightly once or twice a day to keep soil moist but not sopping wet. Don’t mow until the new grass gets 3.5 inches tall.
- University of Minnesota Extension: Lawn Renovation
- Southern States Cooperative: Reseeding Your Existing Lawn
Herb Kirchhoff has more than three decades of hands-on experience as an avid garden hobbyist and home handyman. Since retiring from the news business in 2008, Kirchhoff takes care of a 12-acre rural Michigan lakefront property and applies his experience to his vegetable and flower gardens and home repair and renovation projects.
How to Restore a Lawn Full of Weeds
If your lawn is patchy and full of weeds, it will never be the envy of the neighborhood. What you’re after is a lush, green lawn with even grass and no dandelions poking their way through. That may sound hard to achieve, but it isn’t too difficult if you follow these steps.
If you only have a few pesky weeds punctuating your lawn, you may be able to dig them up by hand—paying careful attention to make sure you get them roots and all. But if your lawn is overrun with weeds, you may need to start from scratch. Here’s our how-to guide on restoring a lawn full of weeds.
Once your lawn is nice and green, we recommend hiring a professional lawn care company to help you maintain it to keep it weed-free. Our top recommendation goes to industry leader TruGreen.
Restoring a Lawn Full of Weeds in 10 Steps
Step 1: Identify the Weeds You Have
In order to make a successful game plan, you’ll need to know just what kind of weeds you’re dealing with. Weed treatments are designed to target specific weeds, so what may work on your broadleaf weeds may leave your grass-like weeds A-OK.
Weeds come in multiple categories, either broadleaf, grass-like, or grassy.
- Appearance: Broad, flat leaves
- Common types: Clover, ground ivy, dandelions, chickweed
- Appearance: Similar to grass, with hollow leaves in a triangular or tube shape
- Common types: Nutsedge, wild garlic, wild onion
- Appearance: Resembles grass, grows one leaf at a time
- Common types: Foxtail, annual bluegrass, quackgrass, crabgrass
Weeds can be broken down further into categories based on their life cycle—annual, biennial, or perennial.
- Annual: Produces seeds during one season only
- Biennial: Produces seeds during two back-to-back seasons
- Perennial: Produces seeds over many seasons
Step 2: Select a Proper Herbicide
Next, it’s time to select the proper weed treatment based on both weed classification and the stage in their life cycle. Pre-emergent herbicides tackle weed issues before they spring up. Post-emergent herbicides target established weeds.
Keep in mind that herbicides can kill whatever plant life they come into contact with—even if the label says otherwise—so handle with care. If your aim is to re-establish your lawn, as we recommend, killing your existing, thinning grass isn’t a big deal, since you will need to start fresh anyway.
Step 3: Apply the Treatment
For this step, it’s crucial that you follow the directions to the letter. Make sure you apply the proper product at the proper time. It’s a good idea to check out the forecast beforehand, since you don’t want any storms to wash away your herbicide.
*First application. See quote for terms and conditions.
Step 4: Wait It Out
How soon you can plant seed depends on the type of weed treatment you choose. Pre-emergent herbicides will prevent grass seeds from growing just as much as weed seeds, so it would be no good to sow seeds immediately after.
Depending on the type of weed treatment you choose, you may need to wait for up to four weeks. You can ask your local garden center for information about when it’s safe to plant.
Step 5: Rake and Till
Once the weeds—and grass, if applicable—turn brown, it’s time to bust out your rake. Rake up as much of the weeds as you can. Use your tilling fork to pull any extra weeds out and till the soil to prepare it for your amendments and seed.
Step 6: Dethatch and Aerate
Aerating your lawn can help break up thatch, the layer of decomposing organic matter between your lawn’s soil and grass blades. Thatch can be beneficial, since it can make your lawn more resilient and provide insulation from extreme temperatures and changes in soil moisture. But if it gets over a half-inch in thickness, it can cause root damage, including root rot.
Your raking and tilling from the previous step can help with dethatching, but you can also use a dethatching rake if the layer is too excessive.
Aeration improves your grassroots’ access to air, nutrients, and water. Use a spike or core aerator to break up the soil. If you use a core aerator, be sure to make two to three passes in different directions. Allow the plugs of soil you remove to decompose on top of your soil layer rather than remove them.
Step 7: Amend the Soil
Now, you can apply your soil amendment to ready your soil for the grass seed or sod.
Step 8: Lay Down Seed or Sod
You have a choice ahead of you. Do you want to lay down seed or sod? There are pros and cons to each.
- Pros: Less expensive, more variety
- Cons: Takes longer to germinate, can only lay at certain times of year depending on grass type
- Pros: Instant grass, can lay any time of year, requires little maintenance
- Cons: More costly, less variety in grass can mean less healthy lawn overall
To prepare the soil after either method, make sure you till it down to roughly 6 to 8 inches.
First, you need to choose the right type of seed for your lawn. That will depend on the region you live in—one that needs cool-season grasses, warm-season grasses, or a transition zone that allows more flexibility. After you determine which category you need, you can select specific grasses that may have attributes you’re after, like heat- or drought-resistance.
To seed your lawn, lay down approximately 1 inch of topsoil, then use a spreader to apply the seed to the soil.
We recommend using two different types of spreaders. For the majority of the work, you should use a broadcast spreader because they distribute seed evenly, allowing for thorough coverage. But you’ll want to use a drop spreader around the edges of garden beds to make sure you don’t inadvertently drop seed into them.
Always set the spreader to half the recommended drop rate and spread the seed in one direction, then one or two more in different directions to make sure the coverage is nice and even. You don’t want your lawn to have weird patterns or stripes.
Applying the right amount of seed is key. As a general rule of thumb, apply roughly 15 seeds per each square inch, then rake over the seed.
Top the seed with top dressing no greater than ¼ inch thick.
Then, it’s time to add starter fertilizer. Your best bet is to use a starter fertilizer high in phosphorus. However, due to concerns about water pollution, many states prohibit the use of phosphorus in fertilizers. Some states may allow phosphorus in fertilizers for establishing new lawns. If so, you’ll find fertilizers labeled “new lawn” or “starter fertilizer.”
Step 9: Water Your Lawn
Deep, infrequent watering can help establish your lawn by allowing it to grow deep roots, which can compete against weeds. Try to water your lawn about twice a week, in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. Lawns typically need about 1.5 inches of water per week, but that could vary based on the climate you live in and the type of grass seed you chose.
Step 10: Maintain Your Lawn
Proper maintenance is critical if you want your newly established lawn to stay weed-free. Mow at either the highest or second-highest setting. Vigorous grass won’t be choked out by weeds. Fertilize your lawn as needed to help it thrive.