I have moved to a property where the lawn has not been cut for (according to neighbours) 2 years, and the grasses are now about 2 feet high with seeds. I would like some advice about which ones to keep and which ones to remove.

This one seems the easiest place to start: Thick and coarse

It is very thick and coarse and has tough seeds which do not fall off easily. After cutting it grows back very quickly. The cut patches seem to be raised above the surrounding areas.

This is what it looks like a few days after cutting: enter image description here

I guess I should remove these (dig them out)? They appear in small clumps all over the lawn.

This one is finer, though almost as tall as the coarse one, and the seeds are quite soft and fall off easily: enter image description here

After cutting, they seem a bit coarse but do not seem unpleasant. So should I save these and maybe harvest the seeds to sow on the bare/thin patches ?

And then there is this one, which is very fine and about half the height of the other two: enter image description here

I'm guessing that this is the "best" lawn grass, as it is so fine and wispy, so should I save these and harvest the seeds for sowing ?

I estimate that there is about 10% of the first one, 60% of the 2nd one, and 30% of the 3rd one.

If I harvest the 2nd and 3rd one for sowing the bare/thin patches, should I use a mixture of them, or maybe just stick with the 3rd one?

  • Are you in the UK or elsewhere?
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 11:58
  • @Bamboo Yes, I am in the UK - in West Yorkshire
    – LeelaSella
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 13:21

2 Answers 2


Ah, I had a feeling you might be, from the look of the photographs. It looks as if the lawn has been largely colonized by weed grasses - this happens all the time in ordinary lawns, more so in those left unmaintained. If, as you say, 60 percent of the lawn is comprised of these rough weed grasses, and particularly if there is a large component of other lawn weed invasion, it's probably best to take the lot up, dig out the roots of the weed grasses, and returf. The best time for returfing is October, so long as the ground isn't frozen or waterlogged, but it can be done any time provided you're able to water sufficiently well. Get yourself a copy of D. G. Hessayon's "The Lawn Expert" - it's only around a tenner, and often you can find a copy in the library, although any chemicals mentioned will now probably not be available. Its a valuable resource, that book, and will tell you precisely how to lay turf. If you don't want to replace the whole lot, then dig out all the clumps of weed grass you can see, by the roots, rake and relevel those areas, adding topsoil if you need to, and then reseed using a proprietary Lawn Seed mix, preferably one with shortleaved rye grass as the main component, which is hardwearing but doesn't get 'tufty' (Playlawn, or General Purpose would be examples). Note that reseeding in this way, particularly for larger areas, means you cannot walk on the newly seeded/grown areas normally for a couple of months, it must be cut with shears the first couple of times so as not to tear the new plantlets out by the roots with the mower, and will need to be kept moist as a seedbed. The best time for reseeeding is either September or May. You can buy Luxury Grass Seed, but this is for the 'bowling green' effect, for areas where it's not walked on often, and requires a lot more regular maintenance.

  • 1
    Thank you ! If I take the lot up, how much of the soil do I need to take up with it ? Or rather, should I spend a while shaking off the soil from the roots ? Do I have to worry about leaving root remnants behind ? It's quite a bit area and I worry I might need a skip if I have to dig down a few inches and throw the lot away..... ?
    – LeelaSella
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 15:39
  • 1
    You don't need to remove soil, keep as much as you can - with lawn grasses, you can dig down about 2 inches and lift off the grass currently there. With weed grasses, you'll need to ensure you remove the roots properly, and they'll be deeper down. Also dig out the roots of any weeds present - you'll need to dig over the area afterwards, although you can use a rotavator or similar once you've removed all the roots. Then you'll need to level it properly by raking and 'heeling' it over to remove soft spots, then rake and level again.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 15:48
  • Great. Thanks again. So if I first cut it down as low as I can obviously I can compost it (blades of grass, leaves, seed pods etc) right ? But what to do with what is dug up (root+soil) ? Can that be composted ?
    – LeelaSella
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 16:03
  • Sounds like you've decided to returf - if you're going to remove all of it, cut it first, and if you have a corner out of the way somewhere, stack the turves you lift off face down to make a sort of double or triple wall, depending how much there is. Leave it for 2 years and it'll rot down and make useful compost for the garden. Any weeds and their roots should be disposed of elsewhere though. You can hire a turf lifting machine, but otherwise, use a half moon edger and cut the turf into manageable sections, then lever them up with a spade so you've got squares or oblongs ready for stacking.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 16:39
  • Yep - will returf - or seed. Not sure which yet. I don't believe in using machinery for something I can do myself with a spade etc. I have a suitable corner out of the way to store it for a couple of years, so that's great advice. Thanks !
    – LeelaSella
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 16:45

A lawn unmaintained for that long will be a long term challenge. Here is how I would approach the situation.

1) Find out the turfgrass species and varieties that work well in your area. In the US, local university extension offices are a great resource. (Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska are near to me.) Also, high end lawn and garden shops should have knowledgeable staff that can help you find this answer.

2) Mow with care. First cutting: bag or side discharge raking up the dead grass. This will remove the seeds of the undesirable grasses. After that mow frequently at the height recommended for the recommended grasses in your area. This will encourage the good and discourage the bad.

3) In the early fall and/or early spring roundup or dig out clumps of undesirable grasses (the first type in your question) back filling the hole with good topsoil, then seed with species and varieties recommended for your area. Also, overseed the whole lawn with species and varieties recommended for your area.

Because the modern turf grass varieties are much better than what was used in the days of old I would not bother collecting seed.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.