This is probably the sort of thing thats been asked a thousand times but I have no idea what I'm looking for

we moved into a house with a lovely huge pond, however now we have our first child and shes trying to walk, the pond had to go. :(

the lawn was lumpy, weedy and generally pants so we decided to take it all up, rotorvate it all and lay new seed. unfortunately we took the lawn off, rotorvated it all, put some food down then the rain came, so did Autumn, winter etc. we never got the seed down and now the "lawn" is just a wild meadow of weeds and grass that is hard to remove, especially with an 11 month wanting attention.

Do I have to take all the weeds out and rotorvate it all again, or can I just rotorvate it and stick some turf on top? I need some top soil to level out the hole where the pond was but may just level it out and see how lower it is.

final question, anybody in Barnsley that actually likes gardening and wants to spend an afternoon away from their family helping us get it sorted?

thanks Be

  • 1
    If you want to get help in your specific area (Barnsley) try a site like Craigslist or something similar for your area.
    – cutrightjm
    Commented May 20, 2013 at 15:57

3 Answers 3


When you say Barnsley, I don't know whether you mean in the UK or in the USA, but something about the phrasing of your question suggests the UK. If that's the case, it rather depends what the weeds are, as ItsMat says in his answer - if most are just annuals, then you needn't worry too much, but if you have perennials like docks, nettles, or the dreaded bindweed or worse, Japanese knotweed, there's a problem.

Assuming you levelled it after rotavating last year, I wouldn't suggest you rotavate again - what you want is friable soil which is level, but not too disrupted. Cultivators of any sort have a tendency to chop up weed roots and distribute them all over the area, which is the last thing you want. If most of what's there is annual stuff, then hoe the area, or just pull them all up, but dig out things like dandelions, docks, nettles, etc. If you want to use a cultivator after that to break the soil up a bit, fine, but then you need to level it and walk all over it on your heels to get out any soft spots, then relevel and rake over. Now you can apply seed, but to be honest, with a young child, and if you are in the UK, I'd lay turf, because you can be using it within 4 or 5 weeks quite normally. Lawns from seed cannot be used normally (walking over, sitting, playing) for five or six months. If you are going to lay turf, once its levelled and ready, throw Growmore all over the area till it looks like light snow, and rake it in lightly, then lay the turf. Hopefully you're already set up with a hose and sprinkler, which you will need to water the turf immediately after it's laid and when the weather is dry for the first 4 to 6 weeks until it roots into the soil beneath.

If you want more of a 'How to' guide, I'd recommend you get hold of a copy of D. G. Hessayon's The Lawn Expert - the library might even have a copy, but it's not expensive to buy anyway. If you're not in the UK, this advice may not be terribly useful, although the principles are the same with turf/sod wherever you are.


It's going to depend upon the plant (weed) as to how effective tilling the soil will be. Obviously, just fertilizing the soil resulted in the regrowth of grass and weeds over the course of 6 months or so - weed seeds remained, no doubt, in the soil as did probably some roots. Plus, you certainly had some new weed seeds show up from the air.

Plants which spread via rhizome (here in Virginia that would be something like Bermuda Grass) are quite hardy and can reemerge after being tilled. Plants with a deep taproot (again, here in VA I'm dealing with Curly Dock which has quite a deep root) can also reemerge. Weed seeds remain in the soil even after tilling it.

Some weeds aren't quite so hardy and have shallow roots and die quite quickly once those roots are exposed to the air and sun.

That said, if you tilled the yard and put down turf, watered it well and that turf became well established, it might do a pretty darn good job at keeping the weeds down to a minimum. All those plants (the turf and the weeds) are competing for resources (sunlight, water, nutrients) and any existing weeds which weren't killed by the tilling will have lost their top growth and be at a disadvantage as the turf will be putting down roots and all the grass will be sucking up sunlight.

Some might recommend some sort of synthetic chemical herbicide such as something effective against broad-leaf weeds. I'm not one to do this personally but it may be effective.

I suspect that if the soil is well-tilled and re-turfed and the new grass takes hold, you'll be able to keep any weeds that do pop up later at bay if you deal with them early. Weeds will pop up - that's life.

  • thanks for the replies guys, yes I'm in the uk, the main weeds are really just a bit of long grass and dandelions, I've started taking it all off again, managed around 2m x 800mm so far so slow going.
    – user2265
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 11:52

Rototilling causes a lot of issues. It's best to avoid it when possible.

In the fall kill your existing lawn. If you're using round up many recommend spraying to kill it, then after it's dead, water the lawn to bring up any new weed seeds and RoundUP again after 2 weeks. After 2 weeks plant your grass seed. Apply a thin layer of compost on top and water water water water. Soil needs to be kept moist. 2-3 waterings a day for the first couple of weeks. Depending on the type of seed you may need to water for up to 6 weeks. Check the label.

On my blog, I describe some organic alternatives to RoundUP that I tested. They don't work the same way. RoundUP kills the plants down to the roots, the organic ones I tested basically kill the top growth which will kill a lot of the plants, especially if they're shallow rooted. Deeper rooted ones will start growing back once you start watering the new grass seed. Your killing a lot of the existing plants and stunting what didn't die long enough for the new grass to take hold.

If you don't like using chemicals you can solarize the lawn. Starting in the late summer lay a 2mil sheet of plastic over the entire lawn and pin it down but first mow everything down very short. Let it sit like that for 4-6 weeks. It will not only kill the vegetation but the heat will kill weed seeds and pathogens in the soil. People will refer to you as the crazy lady that saran wrapped her grass though :) Although I had success with both products I tested and think they're great for spot treating weeds I'm probably going to try solarization when I do my backyard.

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