Lawn Patrol: Renovate or Redo Your Lawn Landscaping?

How to decide whether to renovate a lawn or rip it out and start from bare dirt.
Similar Topics:
Sow New Seeds in Bare Patches of Soil

Sow New Seeds in Bare Patches of Soil

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

I’d been battling weeds in my lawn for years. I’d had some success digging up weeds, overseeding and patching bare spots, but the daily car drive past my neighbor’s yard with nary a blade of grass out of place reminded me I had a long way to go before reality matched my vision of a lush lawn. This was my first home, and the battlefield was a hodgepodge of various grasses and weeds that had several years’ head start by the time I moved in. Progress was slow — too slow for me.

I’d come to a point where I had a decision to make: continue to renovate my lawn or rip it out and start from bare dirt.

How to make that choice is a topic that Wendy Wilber, an environmental horticulture agent, says comes up a lot during her “turf boot camp” class. In that class she teaches Alachua County, Florida, residents how to win the battle with weeds. “Lawns are a big investment,” says Wilber. “They’re really a point of pride for a lot of people, even if it’s a small lawn.”

So, which approach should you take? The first step toward deciding whether to slowly rehab your lawn or start over, says Wilber, is figuring out why your lawn is failing. Could there be a problem with soil pH? Is there a drainage issue that might make growing grass difficult or impossible without re-routing the water? Does your lawn get enough sunlight? Contact your local extension agent for help answering these questions. You might learn you need to grow a different type of grass entirely. Consult with your extension agent on what type of grass will work best in your situation. Or you might want to put in a flower bed instead. Or maybe your lawn just needs a little TLC.

“If yours is just a lawn gone bad due to neglect, then maybe lawn renovation is the way to go,” says Wilber.

Something else to consider: What percentage of your lawn is struggling? Renovating a lawn clearly takes some work. But completely replacing a lawn can cost big bucks. Of course you’ll want to factor in the size of your lawn, but Wilber suggests you might want to go with a complete redo if more than half of your grass has weeds or bare spots.

If you decide on a redo, give your lawn the best chance for success by removing the existing grass and weeds completely, either with a quality herbicide or an alternative such as using plastic to smother what’s below.

Think about how much time you realistically will be able to devote to caring for your lawn, both while it’s establishing itself and afterward. If you have limited time or travel frequently, you may want to consider hiring a pro to help you keep a lawn care schedule.

Consider laying your new sod during the cooler months when it won’t dry out as quickly. And buy a quality sod even if it costs a little more, says Wilber.

In my case, I decided to dig up my entire lawn and start from scratch. A few weeks later, I had a brand new, green carpet of lush fescue. It was beautiful…

Then we moved into a house down the street.

Next Up

Caring for Your Lawn

Grow healthy green grass with these simple tips for lawn maintenance.

Sow Cool: Give Your Lawn a Head Start With Dormant Seeding

Dormant seeding is the practice of sowing grass in the winter months when grass seeds are inactive.

Five Tools for Aerating Your Lawn

Give your soil some air and keep your grass healthy with these tools for aerating your lawn.

Four Ways to Maintain a Lawn Edge

Learn various methods for maintaing a neat lawn edge with this landscaping guide.

Three Types of Repairs to Keep Your Lawn Healthy

Even the healthiest of lawns require regular maintenance. Here are three common repairs that your outdoor space might require.

How to Repair Your Lawn Sprinkler

Learn how to inspect and replace damaged risers and heads in a lawn sprinkler system.

Plugging and Sprigging a Lawn

Learn how to start a brand-new warm-season lawn or patch an existing one using plugs or sprigs. 

How to Create a Level Lawn

Create a level lawn and prevent future problems with this step-by-step landscaping guide to remove bumps and hollows.

How to Fertilize Your Lawn

Lawn fertilizers consist of nitrogen, phosphate, potassium and other nutrients. Of these, nitrogen is the most important for healthy growth.

Seeding a Lawn

Fall is the right season to reinvigorate your existing lawn or plant a new one. Follow the steps below to help ensure successful results.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.