Today I raked my lawn. My intention was to clear some of the Leylandii debris and brambles, but to my surprise almost all of the 'grass' came away, leaving more or less bare soil. Since it's quite obviously dead - the lawn was left to grow wild all of last summer and then collapse in the winter - I've raked the whole lawn and removed as much as would yield easily, and I'm happy to have gotten rid of it.

The question is, assuming there are living roots in here, will they regrow sufficiently to give me a decent lawn this year, or should I i) seed over it as it is after removing the solitary weeds or ii) rotavate the lot and reseed it completely?

Picture of the lawn post-raking: enter image description here

And the dead stuff: enter image description here

edit #1:

It is now June. I have so far done nothing apart from give it its first mow yesterday. The plot thickens - I spoke to my neighbour on the subject of grass and he mentioned that when the property was first put up for sale, the owner had it turfed. Expecting a quick sale, maintenance was never arranged, so the fresh turf was never mown, grew through its full lifecycle and died back, leaving the sorry state you see in my first pictures. Evidence of this is that there is in fact no thatch whatsoever and what fresh grass there is, still grows in small tufts with bare soil in between. Areas have died completely, and the dried-out turf mat is still intact below the trees at the back. What has survived doesn't look of bad quality, and the weeds are much less invasive when cut down to ground level. I'll sort out a picture shortly.

The lawn in June

Much better! There are definitely still big bare spots, but what's coming through looks homogeneous and healthy, if sparse; and the weeds can be pulled out one by one as they're easy to get hold of. I think it'll recover nicely this year.

3 Answers 3


Sure! You can reseed that. Wait till the ground is going to stay drained.Grass will germinate and grow fast in wet conditions, but then if you walk through, or mow, it will lie down and rot.

Because there is loose soil there already, when you're ready to reseed you could simply

  1. Rake over the area briskly to looses the top layer of soil, even it out, and catch a little more debris.
  2. Broadcast the seed. Don't use too much, or the new plants will compete and then stunt and many will die. It's better to be too light than too heavy. The grass will tiller eventually and fill in the bare spots if they're small. Try to get an even coverage.
  3. Use a leaf rake turned upside down (so it doesn't pull soil along) and go over the area again. Basically, you're trying to mix the seeds in the top layer of loose soil, without redistributing them in a bad way.
  4. A light covering of straw (or rollout straw mat) is useful to keep the seed in place during rain, and to protect the young emerging plants. It can also help retain moisture. Make sure you don't completely block the light with it.
  5. Water it well. water deeply, and avoid runoff. Keep it moist until there is a good covering of green. Then let it dry out in between waterings. If it rains, no need to water on top of that.
  6. You can mow it low the first time, once the blades get over 3" long. After that, mow higher, as you would a mature lawn.

Fertilizer, weed control, and pest management are optional, and you can perform these any time after the first mowing, if you wish.


Short answer, no, because that looks like a typical neglected UK garden to me, seen plenty like this in my time ... though I could be wrong!

Assuming it is a UK garden, the procedures required are somewhat different from that already recommended in another answer. If your 'lawn' has had no attention for over a year, including not being cut, that's why it looks so bad. It is not dead though - it's still showing some green in some places - you've scraped off a lot of debris, and lawns always look like this when you've scarified, not to mention if they weren't cut at all for a year.

I can't really tell how level the area is, or whether the lawn has lots of dips and hollows and bumps - if its regular all over, without dips and hollows, cut it with a mower, now. Re-scarify quite hard, then go over with the mower again. Aerate it by sticking a garden fork in about every 9 inches or so, pressing the fork down to about half the depth of the tines. After that, it'll look even worse, but just wait and see what happens - I'm willing to bet most of it will start growing again.

Regarding bare patches, you can't really broadcast seed and expect it to grow - it won't, you need a friable surface at least an inch, preferably two, deep to sow the seed into. It will be very difficult to tell at this stage, but if you can see any obvious completely bare patches, rake (with an ordinary rake, not a lawn rake) them up and get a tilth on them, then patch sow there. You may find, when you rake it hard in one area, that's its very 'rooty' - which means the grass may still be viable. If you do sow seed, you must not use any lawn treatments for at least 6 weeks, some products say 3 months - if you don't sow any seed, feed with a lawn fertiliser at the end of March or beginning of April if what's there shows growth. On balance, I'd recommend no seed - carry out what I've already said, and then, if you need to re-sow bald patches, do that 6 weeks after you've fed the whole thing.

If, on the other hand, the soil is lumpy and bumpy, or close inspection reveals more than half of it has weeds growing, I'd remove what's there, prepare thoroughly by digging out weeds and turning it all over, level, walk all over it on your heels to remove soft spots, level again and lay new turf. You could do this preparation and seed the whole thing instead - but if you do that, you won't be able to use it normally for 3 months (walking over it frequently, sitting on it, your child playing on it), and it will need cutting with hand shears for the first and second cuts - mowers pull it out by the roots until its got going properly. If you have a good hover mower, you can use that for the first and second cuts, they don't uproot the seedlings.

Whatever you choose to do to create a lawn, you will need to tend it regularly - mowing when it needs it (when it gets a bit shaggy looking, 6 or so inches long) and lawn-raking off any debris as soon as it accumulates, particularly in autumn, as a minimum.

  • 1
    Yeah, it is a UK garden. (says Reading in the profile). Beleive it or not, we have those here in the US as well.
    – J. Musser
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 12:04
  • @J.Musser ha, I bet there are some - but it was more the size of it and the light that made me think it was UK though, you guys seem nearly always to have much bigger 'yards' as you call 'em.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 12:07
  • You're correct in that there does seem to be a modest amount of leftover rooty material - I don't think there was anything wrong with the grass that was there, just that it's been left overgrown and there's some very severe die-back. In my defence, it came into my ownership in this state!
    – Tom W
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 20:05
  • @TomW - I guessed that, I've moved into places with gardens in that state before myself... but it should regrow. Whether it looks like a lawn and not just a patch of grass remains to be seen...
    – Bamboo
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 0:03

Hate to be the bearer of bad news. The soil is too high on the fence. No soil should be within 2-4" of the bottom. It is too bumpy as well. I'd get a sod cutter and cut that sod out of there completely...there is way too much organic debris(matted roots) to grow a healthy lawn right now. Get the sod removed (save it for plant beds!!), rebuild the fence or make sure that the soil is below the bottom rail, grade so that you know where you want that water to go...another good question is shade. If there is a lot of shade then rethink lawn and go with granulithics or crushed gravel (smaller than 5/8-) at least 4" thick placed on top of landscape fabric. Make sure you dig down enough so that the top of the gravel is below the elevation of that fence's bottom rail.

If you choose to go with lawn, again: Grade, roll!!, seed and fertilize with starter fertilizer (go light) or better yet, get fresh sod. Never spread seed or fertilizer by hand.

Mow once per week MINIMUM. Keep the height of the grass at 3". Keep your mower blades sharp. Water deeply and allow to dry out before watering again. Get to know this beast called 'a lawn'...oh! Use organic, extended release fertilizers and aerate by pulling soil plugs out of the lawn and leaving them there to disintegrate. Look up all the lawn stuff on this site. You'll be successful...

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