Take the first steps toward lush, green grass by ridding your lawn of weeds, improving your soil and seeding new grass.
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Look at your lawn's overall health. If you have large areas of weeds and little grass, it may be time to start over. If you need to get rid of your lawn and prepare for new turf or a lawn alternative, read Remove a Lawn.
If less than half of your lawn is weeds, you can repair it. Spray the weeds with a non-selective herbicide. Non-selective herbicides kill grass and flowers as well as weeds, so be careful about where and what you spray.
If your lawn is in better shape and you only have a few weeds, use a selective, broadleaf herbicide and spot-treat only the areas with weeds. Make sure the herbicide is effective against the weeds you have. For example, if you have grassy weeds such as crabgrass, look for a product that controls these types as well. See Control Weeds in the Lawn and Garden for more on dealing with weeds in your landscape.
When using lawn treatments or lawn-care products, always follow package directions regarding proper clothing, protective equipment, application procedures and safety precautions.
You can also treat large areas of weeds with a selective, broadleaf herbicide. If you're only dealing with a few weeds, you can remove them manually or spot-treat with a selective herbicide. These methods may require more time and effort, but they eliminate the risk of killing desirable plants with a non-selective herbicide.
Once you've eliminated the weeds, it's time to improve your soil. Over time, the quality of the soil under your lawn begins to degrade. A soil test will tell you what's lacking. Test your soil with a home kit or send soil samples to your local Cooperative Extension office for testing. The results of the test will tell you how to make the soil ideal for your grass. See Test and Improve Your Soil for more information on performing a soil test.
Dethatching your lawn can also help improve soil quality. Rake your lawn vigorously with a garden rake or dethatching rake to remove the thatch — dead grass and other debris that prevent water, nutrients and air from reaching the root system. Read Remove and Prevent Lawn Thatch to learn more about reducing thatch.
Next, aerate your lawn. Aerating reduces soil compaction by punching holes into the ground. The best option is a core aerator, which removes small plugs of dirt to loosen the soil. A spike aerator will also work, but it creates smaller holes and less aeration. Find out more about aeration in Lawn Aeration: Why, When and How to Aerate.
After you aerate, consider topdressing your lawn with about a half-inch of compost or peat moss to enrich the soil. The holes you created during aeration will help the soil take in the organic material.
Now you're ready to seed. There are two categories of grass. Warm-season grasses, such as Bermuda and centipede, are suited to the southern parts of the United States. Cool-season grasses, such as fescue and bluegrass, thrive in the northern regions and perform well in the transition zone in the middle of the country. Your local Lowe's carries the right grass seed for your region. If you need help choosing, a Garden Center associate can help you decide. You can also find seed mixes for conditions such as sun, shade, partial shade or high foot traffic.
If your lawn is in good shape, fill out the grass by overseeding — evenly spreading seed over the entire lawn. Check the grass seed packaging to determine which spreader setting to use. If you have bare patches, you'll need to spot-seed. Loosen the soil with a rake and evenly spread seed onto the soil. Rake the seed in and tamp it down with the end of the rake. Good seed-to-soil contact is essential for germination. Spread a small amount of mulch or weed-free straw — such as wheat straw — on the area for insulation. To simplify the process, use an all-in-one repair product that includes seed, fertilizer and mulch. For step-by-step instructions on seeding and more information about different grass varieties, see Seed Your Lawn: How and When to Plant Grass Seed.
Keep the seeded area consistently moist for a couple of weeks until you see new growth. Don't overwater the area, just keep it slightly wet. See Watering Tips for instructions on irrigating your lawn. Usually you can begin mowing after about three weeks, or when the grass is 2-1/2 to 3 inches high.
For ongoing maintenance steps to keep your lawn healthy, see Lawn Care Part 2: Feeding, Mowing and Watering.
Observe water-use ordinances or restrictions for your area.
Watch our DIY Basics video: How Do I Use a Lawn Spreader?