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I'm in the process of trying to repair this lawn and I'm looking for advice on how best to go about it. As you can see from the attached I have a lot of white patches, a problem with dandelions and I've also found the following grub whilst attempting to manually get rid of some of the dandelions. I'm not sure if the dead grass is being caused by this grub (I'm not sure on species etc. ) or just poor maintenance generally. Is this dead grass thatch that needs to be removed or just dormant grass? Sorry for the plethora of questions just would like some advice on what to do next. I'm in the UK and as yet have not fertilised or seeded or dethatched. there has been two cuts done thus far. and mower set highest setting. I'm manually removing weeds.

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  • Was this grub actually under the soil in the lawn? I can't see any legs, were there any which are not visible in the photo? Scale is difficult to gauge, would you say, stretched out, it would be about 3cm? Have you noticed birds pecking the turf at all, or at least are there pecked up areas of turf? – Bamboo Apr 13 '17 at 11:28
  • it was under the soil.. i dont think its a chaffer grub .. no legs and its too small.. thats the edge of a trowel in the picture ive added another pix of him on his back. i d say it was maybe 1.5 cm stretched at most. i havent noticed birds pecking much either – Squiggs. Apr 13 '17 at 11:52
  • It might be a leatherjacket though - they're usually brownish/greyish, but they do vary a bit, no legs either. Can I ask you to find a largeish sheet of plastic, preferably black plastic, water an area of lawn, then lay the plastic over the top and anchor it down, just to stop it blowing away- lift it the following morning as early as you can manage to see if any more have come to the surface. If they're there, they should....and then get back to your question with an update – Bamboo Apr 13 '17 at 12:36
  • @bamboo my wife and neighbours both think Ive lost the plot, but ive done as requested and will report back tommorow. thanks for ur response thus far. – Squiggs. Apr 13 '17 at 17:41
  • Well, it should prove whether there's a leatherjacket problem, even if it does sound bonkers. Hopefully your wife and neighbours will stop short of calling the men in the white coats! I just hope its not too cold where you are at the moment overnight - that will discourage them from surfacing... but we'll see – Bamboo Apr 13 '17 at 22:53
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So no presents for you under the plastic then! I'm glad really - that larvae you found could be the larvae of a moth or butterfly because its not immediately recognisable as a leatherjacket, but might have been. What's odd is you found it actually under the lawn, and that isn't at all typical of moth larvae.

First, I'd note that your lawn is cut way too short - I know you said you had the mower on the highest setting, but perhaps there's something wrong with your mower, because, for this time of year, it is too short. I do see lots of what could be dandelions - inspect the lawn thoroughly and decide whether the ratio of weeds and moss to turf is greater than the amount of grass. If it is, you might want to consider stripping it out, including weed roots, preparing the area and laying new turf.

Otherwise, I don't know what kind of regular maintenance routine you've carried out over the previous years, but now is the time to apply a lawn feed, so use a granular preparation with a moss killer, but not a weedkiller - apply at the rates indicated on the box, at least three days after cutting, and try not to overdose. If your soil is heavy, aerate the area by inserting a garden fork about every 9/12 inches, vertically and removing it at the same angle, then feed. Apply when the blades of grass are dry, but on a day when you know rain is due within 1-3 days.

In the meantime, get some Verdone Extra, which is a liquid lawn weedkiller - you'll need a can to mix it in. As the lawn starts to grow and the weeds are growing strongly, with entire leaves and looking lively and bushy, apply the Verdone according to the instructions on the bottle. The reason I suggest a separate weedkiller is because the standard Lawn Weed Feed and Mosskiller preparations are pretty hopeless at killing weeds in lawns, so although it's tedious to apply two different products, it will be more effective.

If any moss that's present turns black, rake it out, and if that leaves bald patches that are quite noticeable, you may need to reseed those patches, but that can't be attempted until six weeks after the chemical treatments have been applied. At this point, you could scarify the lawn - it will make it look pretty awful, but it should recover quickly.

Ensure the blade/s on your mower are good and sharp; raise the height of cut on your mower so that, after cutting, there's a good inch to inch and a half of grass growth left behind. Re-apply your lawn feed 6 weeks after the initial application, depending on the instructions on the box you buy, but do not use past July. Any feed after that should be an Autumn one.

If you want more guidance, there's a book called The Lawn Expert by D. G. Hessayon - you might find the library has a copy, or a charity shop, and last time I looked, there were copies available on Amazon and Ebay. Full retail price around £14, cheaper second hand. Although the chemicals mentioned within it may be out of date, the basic routines outlined in there are entirely valid and haven't changed - contains information on how to lay a lawn, recognise and treat problems, and maintain an ongoing good lawn, including topdressing.

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The earth looks very compact and doesnt from the photos look like there is a good level of good quality top soil.

for me, you need to get some good soil, compost and gypsum on top. poke holes and losen the ground and concentrate on the soil. once that is good, grass will be easier to get going.

I have tried many times to bring lawns back and its much harder when there isnt enough good top soil with airation and nutrients.

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I would recommend working on the basics first before trying to repair the lawn. Firstly, I would remove all the weeds in the lawn and secondly I would fertilize the lawn. Also, make sure you are watering the lawn regularly as needed. You should start seeing the lawn improve quite a bit just from that. Then, if patches remain, you can try to repair the bare spots by seeding it or laying small patches of grass. I do think the lawn can be saved by normal maintenance.

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