Lawn Renovation

'Curb appeal' starts here!



Starting over

Sometimes trying to patch-up an old lawn just isn’t worth it. Total lawn renovation involves removing the old lawn and starting fresh. Autumn is the best season for renovations.

When it comes to important home improvements, a bad lawn sticks out like a sore thumb when it's in poor condition. Most of the 'problem' lawns we received inquiries about were planted over 30 years earlier. Just as modern research has benefited medicine, so has it benefited turfgrass.

Great strides have been made in breeding improved varieties of lawn grass that are far superior to older varieties of grass. Many new cultivars have improved growth characteristics as well as "built-in" resistance to insects and disease. These new turf varieties can be easily introduced into a lawn during lawn renovation procedures.

What exactly is a "Cultivar?"

A "cultivated variety" of a plant that shows improved growth characteristics

Renovation with or without an herbicide?

Glyphosate became a widely used herbicide in the latter part of the 20th century. Landscapers and nurserymen found it very useful for a few reasons:

  1. Unlike other herbicides, it wasn't likely to leach into the soil and be taken-up by, and damage, desirable plants nearby.

  2. It was systemic, meaning it translocated throughout an entire weed, killing roots and all plant parts of most grasses or weeds.

  3. There wasn't any short term residue that would interfere with grass seed germination and growth.

There are multiple reasons not to use glyphosate, as well as other herbicides and pesticides. These are important choices each person needs to make on his or her own following careful study and consideration (more information on pesticides is included on a separate webpage).

With both options in mind, here we see a video of a lawn the homeowner sprayed with glyphosate as the first step in this complete lawn renovation:

Thick thatch creates serious problems

While surveying older problem lawns, we usually find a thick thatch layer contributing to many of the lawn's problems. These thatch layers often measure over one-inch in depth.

While lawn aeration, liming and de-thatching will help prevent this sort of undesirable thatch layer from developing, we've found these super-thick thatch layers should be removed with a sod cutter.

Starting a new lawn from bare soil completely eliminates the existing thatch problem and allows for planting of new and improved turfgrass varieties.

Photos of a sod cutter removing thick thatch

Note: Keep in mind that many grassy or broadleaf weed roots which are just cut-off, and not completely removed, will regrow. The roots of these weeds should be located and dealt with prior to sod-cutting since they will be nearly impossible to find afterwards.


Sod cutter

Check a rental yard for availability and delivery since these can be very heavy. Mark utility caps, sprinkler heads, electric dog fences and anything shallow to avoid damage.


Strips of sod

Adjust the depth on the sodcutter to remove all of the thatch layer but no extra topsoil.Strips of sod rolled-up for easy handling. Shorten the length of cut strips if they are too heavy to lift.

And then there’s Zoysia

One of our top requests for lawn renovation always came from homeowners who wanted to get rid of invasive Zoysiagrass, due to its straw brown color during the dormant season, which ended up being the majority of the year in Pennsylvania.

Zoysia is so tough that even using a powerful gasoline-powered sodcutter to completely remove it is a real challenge, so think twice before planting it in northern climates.


Winter blahs

Zoysiagrass still showing its straw brown color in early Spring on a northeastern US home lawn. Its brown dormant period is too long for many homeowners.

Fall lawn renovations are BEST!

It's human nature! Everyone wants to take care of lawn seeding and renovation-type work in the Spring of the year, while Fall is the best season for success. Why? See Bob's blog, "September is Lawn Month."