Crap Lawn

My grass lawn looks crap

Lawn Problems...

I bought this house toward the end of winter and haven't done anything with the lawn out back since. Well my father-in-law cut it once. The point is its in dire shape and I want to do something about it, so I thought I'd keep a note of what I've tried, what works and what doesn't.

So, what's the problem? Well, I have some grass, as in its green and my kids can play on it, but its full of weeds, with some thistles, is patchy in parts and mainly full of moss and clover in other parts. What would I like to achieve? I'm not after a bowling green here, just a hard wearing surface that I can cut once a week in the summer and my kids can safely play on. Below are some pictures of the problem.

Click on image for larger size 900k

So far I have done nothing more than cut it twice this year leaving about 2.5 inches of grass. My plan is to weed and feed and possibly re-seed certain areas of the lawn, combined with regular medium length cuts so it doesn't dry out too much, but keeps some of the weeds and moss at bay. Not rocket science, but.....

Spring Time and Lawn Mowing

Wow the lawn certainly grows rapidly during spring time! I'll cut all the grass at the weekend and by wednesday its already too long again! All this rain and sunshine must be really giving the grass a growth spurt. Unfortunately it still has tonnes of moss, weeds and the whole lawn is incredibly bumpy

Getting rid of the Grass Moss

First job is to remove the moss in the grass. Easy task I thought, but its actually very tiring. The best method I found was to simply rake the grass vigorously with a rake (I believe this is called Lawn Scarifying) . This picks up all the moss but tends to leave most of the grass behind. After about an hour of raking I was exhausted, but had got rid of most of the most.

BUT, how patchy does the lawn look now?!?! It appears that in certain areas I had absolutely no grass to start with, it was all just moss. And now that i have removed all the moss I'm left with a whole load of bare dirt. This calls for grass seed...

Sowing Grass Seed

Bought some grass seed, threw it all over the lawn and waited a few weeks

Sowing Grass Seed Properly

Okay so the first lot of grass seed did nothing, the birds ate most of it and the rest is just sat on top of the hardened soil resolutely refusing to sprout anything that resembles grass. This time I'll read the grass seed instructions!

It appears that grass tends not to grow that easily from seed and the soil needs a little bit of preparation first!! All the bare patches needs to have the top layer of soil disturbed a little (using a grass rake and sometime a fork or hoe), then the seeds should be sown and finally a thin layer of dirt racked over the top.

Grass Begins to Grow

At last, the grass seeds are growing! Most of the large dirt areas are now a sea of green but there are still a few batches that are looking distinctly bare. Instead of going to the effort of raking and digging these areas up again I came up with a better plan. I took one bag of compost and mixed it with half a box of grass seed and then simply distributed this grass/compost mix over all the remaining bald batches. This seems to have really done the trick with the grass quickly establishing itself in these areas.

What about the Grass Weeds?

With my new fledgling grass shoots on their way I turned my attention to the weeds. First of all I tackled the big dandelions by digging them up, trying to get as much of the root out as possible. This often left quite a large gap in the grass which was repaired using the grass seed/compost combination as before.

However the smaller weeds were taking too long to dig up one by one so I opted for the chemical approach. One tub of Feed, weed and moss killer later (some of the moss was coming back) my grass was completely covered in a cocktail of chemicals intended to give me the perfect lawn.

Chemicals on Grass

A few days later the chemicals seem to be doing their trick, the lawn has grown at a phenomenal rate needing mowing twice in one week, the bigger weeds look pretty sickly and a load of moss has turned black and died. I raked more of the moss up and then had to do the usual trick of filling in the patches with compost and grass seed.

Flattening the Lawn

With the grass itself looking pretty healthy now I decided to tackle the lumps and bumps that are on the lawn. My first attempt consisted of throwing some dirt over the dips in the grass. As soon as it rained I ended up with a whole load of mud covering the grass leading to a horrible sticky mess. However it did seem to get rid of a few of the larger dips and the grass quickly grew through it.

As a follow up I decided that sand would be much better for filling in the holes as it would trickle down to the low spots, through the grass blades and generally make a lot less mess. I also figured that it would improve the drainage of the soil somewhat.

Using sand to flatten the lawn

It took quite a lot of bags of sand (4) but the garden is now pretty much lightly dusted with the stuff, some of the really big dips are still there but the whole things looks a lot better. The grass is quite nice to walk on now, certainly a lot less muddy when it is wet!

The large lumps and bumps are still present and I intend to remove them by digging up various bit of turf and shifting soil around but that sounds like a big project for another day.

Aerating the soil

As a final treat to the grass I decided to aerate the whole lawn using a fork. I just worked up and down the lawn area sticking the fork into the soft ground (it had just rained), giving the soil a bit of a tug upward and then moving onto the next patch of grass. It seems to have worked well, the whole drainage is a lot better and the grass doesn't seem at all upset by having its roots disturbed in this way.

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"You forgot to mention that reseeding should be done with the same (or compatible) type of grass. I had the same situation as you and followed the same steps, but ended up with a horrible patchy lawn because I bought various grass seed mixes from hardware stores without paying attention to grass types in them."


"Thank you for these tips,I'm off out to sprinkle the seeds now. I have been told by a friend that if you sow thickly the grass should strangle most of the weeds,we shall see lol!!!"


"Hi! Followed your advice as my lawn was exactly the same and I have to say it's looking so much better now. Many thanks for posting this page, I had no idea where to start, now I feel I'm a bit of an expert!!"


"just buy 25Lt bags of lawn repair add your seed and fill in your low and bare spots its £4 a bag its a ready mix of loam fine sand feed and lots more its great they use it on golf coures to repair divots on the tee boxes you can buy it on line or at BQ "


"found it very helpful and straightforward and most of all its not going to be the sun only hits my lawn.half is in full sun and half in shade[hence the moss]going to give it a good try thanks a lot"

e. punshon

"loved this article, wish you had an after picture though!"

i want a bowling green

"I have the same problems uv had been in new house for a year at least i will know wat i'm doing now and where to start thanks - it' not hopeless i was going to dig all mine up bt will persevere now xxx "

lou moran

"I'm going through this process - interesting read - How do you sow grass seed in the bare patches AND mow the rest of the lawn. Does the mower not disturb it at an early stage? should you just let the lawn grow until they are established?"


"i found thit information very easy to follow this is exactly what is wrong with my lawn many thanks"

e taylor

"Brilliant, thanks for the tips! I have every problem you had at least I now have an idea where to start"

Katie, Herts

"I will try out the soil mix but what is sharp sand?"


"Great read! I too have spent 2 weekends sowing grass seed - digging bare patches and wondering if what i've sown is going to grow before the birds eat it!!!!"


"After a year of pain I now have a answer. Gonna concrete over the ruddy lot;)"


"Ditch the lawn and get some astro turf, you never need to water or cut, only kiddin some good tips there"


"I've just mowed my lawn for the first time this year, and what a shock i got, there's no grass its all moss! Reading your page has given me a bit of encouragement, all i need now is a kick up the bum to get me started!"


"Just about to sort my crap lawn out , had no idea what to do , your way seems a good way , i'll give it a go . Cheers"


"cheers mate very interesting im going to try that out mixing seed and compost"


"Ifyou mix in sharp sand with your seed when sowing this helps the drainage and the roots to establish Also when you airate your lawn at the end of the season throw a little sharp sand on and brush wirh an old broom or one made out of twigs, this will fall into the holes and improve drainage and allow your lawn to breathe."


"Useful info, cheers!"