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Location: UK

I have recently purchased a house (Last November) with a large lawn to the rear. I am very new to gardening but have realised I'm going to have to learn quick if I want to make the most of this space.

On initial inspection of the lawn it looked very green and well kept but once walking on it I realised it was very spongey/bouncy to walk on; a friend advised that I have got a big problem with moss.

I attempted to mow the lawn on the lowest setting (start of March) and it kept catching on something and cutting out, so it took me alot longer to do than expected.

Here is were I may have gone a bit too far and ruined my lawn. I put some evergreen lawn feed/kill weeds/kill moss mix down (end of March 2018) and left it a few weeks and mowed it again (April). Still had the same issues.

I bought an electric scarifier/dethatching device and put that on the lowest setting and started off dethatching the lawn (May). Again it kept catching, cutting out etc but it did bring up lots (alot more than I expected) of grass/moss.

My next step once this scarifying/dethatching/aeration is done is to put some lawn seeds down and hope that it grows back better than previously but as you will see in the pictures below, it is not looking promising.

Lawn Before:

Before - Camera - For scale

Lawn During Dethatching:

Lawn during dethatching

Lawn Now (looking rough, still in progress):

Lawn - Looking rough

As you can see the lawn now looks very rough, theres patches that are just mud now. I am starting to wonder whether I've took the wrong path and made it worse.

Is what I am doing the correct approach in repairing a lawn with this particular issue?

  • I note you're in the UK - can you say when you moved into the house please, its a bit difficult to work out when you first cut it with the blades set low, and when you applied Lawn Weed Feed and Mosskiller (this spring? last year?) so please add more info regarding timings. – Bamboo May 16 '18 at 23:28
  • @Bamboo I have added some rough dates, as a gardening newbie I didn't realise the importance of that info. Thanks – Scriptable May 17 '18 at 7:06
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Your lawn in the first photo showed poor drainage, intermittent maintenance. You need to improve the drainage. Your poor fence! It is soaked at the bottom, and of course rotting away. 2" below that fence board is your lowest elevation near the fences and sheds.

You are working way too hard. I would get a sod cutter and remove that lawn. Use that sod to build up plant beds that should not be crammed up against the fence. Smaller lawn area, larger beds, and defined lawn edges would be powerful.

If you 'crown' your lawn you'll get good drainage but you'll need baby trenches to direct the water elsewhere other than your neighbors.

Once you get that sod off, grade so you have drainage off of your lawn, ROLL with a water filled roller to firm the soil after grading, during grading before sod is installed. That area of fluffed up soil is better for a plant bed than grass. Otherwise you would need to grade it into the lawn you've got left and roll it before sodding or seeding for more lawn.

Dry wells can mitigate excess water on a property without planned drainage. Cheap, easy to do and will keep your neighbors happy.

Cutting your lawn down in size by half, providing beautiful edges by trenching making trenches that can collect water, direct water to a dry well or allow excess water to infiltrate the soil is your best friend for the landscape I am seeing. Beef up your plant beds.

Proper maintenance is what growing these grass crops is all about...successfully.

Mow no shorter than 3 inches...ever.

Water only when you are able to see your footprints on the blades of grass stay down. And water 4 to 6 inches deep.

Mow once per week minimum.

Bag your clippings and use those clippings in your compost or on weedy areas. ] No watering until you see your footprints again.

Balanced fertilizer 3 to 4 times per year allowing for proper formulations for the time of year.

Aerate once per year by pulling cores of soil out of your lawn and leaving them where they fall...

Sharp sharp blades.

Maintain the edges with a line trimmer and a shovel.

Your lawn needs a complete overhaul...you need plant beds and your fence needs pressure treated 2X12's protecting the bottom of your fence as well as maintaining the soil 2" below the original fence wood.

I would quit working so hard right now. You need to redesign your back yard getting rid of at least half of that lawn anyway.

Please read our vault of questions and answers about lawns. Get to know that beast to decide how much you want to have and maintain. When you understand how to install a new lawn and maintain a baby lawn and how to maintain your mature lawn, you will not have to spend so much time and money. We can help.

very rough sketch of plant beds and new lawn

  • Thank you for your help and very detailed answer. I am going to do exactly what you suggested, firstly I am going to rip up the lawn and start to get ideas on how to design the garden, what edges/beds I would like etc. I did have a couple of quick clarifications I wanted to ask if you dont mind. "Mow no shorter than 3 inches...ever." This sounds quite high, I've always tried to get it as short as possible? "And water 4 to 6 inches deep." does this just come with experience knowing how long to water for? Thanks again – Scriptable May 17 '18 at 7:22
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    You have got cool season grasses for a lawn. That is a good thing. These grass species (a mix of 4 or 5) have large root systems, genetically programmed. If they are cut too short there won't be enough photosynthetic growth to support those roots. The plant makes its own food via photosynthesis. 3" top growth is mandatory to allow the plant to make enough food for all its needs so it can vigorously out compete weeds. The top growth at that height also shades the seeds of weeds that are there no matter what and shading inhibits germination. Growth slows at that height. – stormy May 17 '18 at 8:28
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    So you will be taking off far less than what you were used to taking off. Bag the clippings. Sharp blades. No shorter than 3" THIS is the secret for cool season grass lawn crops...one main one anyway. Watering, when you are able to see your footprints stay down on the lawn then you water until you are able to use a shovel and slice into the lawn bed, pull it back a bit and see that it is wet at least 4" deep. No watering until you see those footprints on your lawn. Then water again deeply. As the soil dries the roots grow deeper to get at the moisture that is 4 to 6 inches below. – stormy May 17 '18 at 8:33
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    Thank you very much @stormy, you've educated me and given me alot to think about. I really like your drawing for an idea for the beds, particularly having two larger plants/mini trees on each side of the lawn entrance. I didn't realise that there was so much to learn about keeping a lawn. I thought you just cut it, fed it and watered it!. I will definitely be taking on board what you have suggested and will not be cutting below 3" again. Thanks again – Scriptable May 17 '18 at 8:39
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    This picture was a labor of love. I am trying to use this Sketchable program but although I am a great artist, this put me to the test...I just hope it shows you how to cut that lawn down to a decent size and make big fat beds for trees and shrubs and groundcovers...vegies. The beds are 90 degrees to your openings for walkways. I hope you can see this. Total experiment. You don't want to see your entire yard from your back door. Lots of room for perhaps a firepit? Hot tub? – stormy May 17 '18 at 8:39

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