Renovating a lawn: step-by-step guide

Sometimes a make-do patch and feed is not sufficient for a lawn and more drastic remedial action is required.

1) Rake out the dead grass and accumulated debris from the existing lawn – referred to as scarifying or dethatching. We have a manually operated tool for this purpose which is easy to use. You can also use a garden rake or there are powered machines which you can hire. Remove the piles to the compost heap.

2) Level out bumps and hollows, bringing in clean topsoil if required. Ideally you want the top soil to be free of weeds. Where possible, rake to a fine tilth but if you are working over an existing lawn, you can only do this in the bare patches. Too much raking and scarifying can remove the existing grasses that you want to keep. Preparation is the key to a good lawn – there are no shortcuts.

3) Grass seed is best bought and sown fresh. The packet will give the recommended application rate. Measure out a sample square metre and weigh out the recommended quantity so you can see the correct quantity. Don’t rely on guesswork. Broadcast the seed by scattering to get a feel for how thickly to spread it. We applied it about half rate because we were over-sowing existing lawn which still had some grass growing.

4) Compress the soil. Traditionally, lawn rollers are used for this process although we used our lawnmower which has wide tyres. Any rolling weight is fine. You are compressing the top layer, not trying to compact the entire lawn.

5) We chose to spread a fine layer of compost about one centimetre thick to hold the grass seed and give it a good start. We raked out all twigs and larger pieces from the compost. This was spread after rolling.

6) The greatest peril is birds – every seed eating bird in the district will be trying to get the grass seed. The worst offenders are sparrows and finches. It is worth the effort to cover the sown areas until it is clear that the grass is germinating and starting to look green. We used a combination of bird netting and old shade cloth and left it on for about three weeks.