Time to Replace Your Lawn? 4 Reasons Why Your Last Lawn Failed – And How to Fix Them

by Daniel Hunter

Weeds, thatch, soil compaction and disease…

Sometimes a lawn can get in such a crappy state that it’s more cost and time-effective to just start over. Either by laying turf or sowing grass seed.

So in this article, I’ll cover the issues which might cause a lawn to fall into disrepair in the first place.

And don’t you worry your little self. I’ll also explain how to prevent it from happening to your new lawn.

4 BIG Reasons Why Your Lawn Failed Beyond Repair

It doesn’t matter if you use the highest quality turf or the best grass seed. A healthy new lawn will soon deteriorate if you don’t address the issues that caused your old lawn to fail.

So take note of the issues below and commit to fixing them before you even start. There’s no point in going to the expense otherwise.

Lack of Maintenance

weedy lawn

This is by far the most common reason.

  • Leaving the grass to grow long and then hacking it short is a HUGE factor. It stresses the grass and stunts its growth. As a result, it grows thin and patchy.
  • Not scarifying causes thatch to build up. This prevents water from draining into the soil, so it sits there on the surface. In turn, this causes moss and fungal disease to spore and spread.
  • Not aerating the areas of your lawn you use the most compacts the soil. This prevents air, water and nutrients from getting to the roots. In turn, this starves the grass, causing it to become thin and patchy. As a result, weeds, moss and disease can take over.

Chances are, a neglected lawn will suffer from all these issues.

How to Fix it

Lawns need maintaining all year round so I’ve put together a 12-month lawn care program for you to follow.

Don’t worry, you won’t need to spend hours on end looking after it. That said, formal lawns do take more work.

Poor Soil/Soil Condition

compacted soil

Quality soil is the key ingredient to any good lawn.

Golf courses across the world spend billions every year on soil science. That’s how important it is.

You don’t need to understand soil science for a domestic lawn. But you should create your lawn on top of good quality soil.

If your soil is very sandy it may struggle to hold on to moisture and so it’s prone to drying out.

If it’s heavy clay it’ll be prone to compaction and waterlogging.

Even worse, if your home is a new-build, your soil is most likely filled with rubble and all kinds of crap.

How to Fix it

You could completely dig out the soil and replace it with good quality topsoil but this is a lot of work. Not to mention, it’s EXPENSIVE!

The rest of us will need to make changes to the soil when you prepare it for turfing or seeding. This is the only time you’ll get the chance.

Also, read my advice on soil for lawns.

Competing Trees/Plants

trees in lawn

Trees and large bushes can be a nightmare for lawns. In one or all the following three ways;

  • They compete for water – even small trees consume gallons of water a day through their roots. That’s water your grass can’t use. If you have a tree in your lawn or in the borders you might often see areas of dry ground around them.
  • They cast shade – large trees with overhanging branches can cover a lawn in shade for the whole day. Grass needs sunlight to photosynthesize and produce food. If it can’t, it will die off.
  • Many trees shed their leaves in the autumn – which blocks the sunlight the grass needs. They also prevent air circulation, trapping moisture on the surface. This often causes fungal diseases to spore.

How to Fix it

Cutting trees down isn’t ideal so another option would be to design your lawn to avoid those areas. This could create a pretty interesting shape to your lawn, although you’d want to make it easy to mow.

To reduce shade, you could prune them to reduce their spread.

And as for fallen leaves, that comes back to lack of maintenance. You should rake them up as often as you can.

Poor Drainage

a waterlogged lawn

Poor drainage causes water to sit on the surface of your lawn, sometimes to the point of waterlogging. It can also cause moss and dog lichen to grow.

This can render parts of your lawn unusable.

The following issues can all contribute to poor drainage;

  • Excess thatch build-up, which brings us back to poor maintenance
  • Hard, compacted soil which, you guessed it, is down to poor maintenance
  • Hard landscaping like patios or pathways which funnel water onto your lawn

How to Fix it

First, check the thatch levels in your lawn. If it’s thick then chances are it’s one of the main issues. In which case, you should scarify as part of your annual lawn care.

Also, push a screwdriver into the ground. If it takes real effort, chances are the soil is hard and compacted, so you’ll need to deal with that. Rotovating the soil will fix it as part of your preparation for a new lawn. But you’ll also need to aerate at least once a year when your new lawn has established.

If hard landscaping directs water onto your lawn, this can be tricky. You need to try and alter the run of rainwater and/or install some kind of drainage. You might want to get help from a landscape gardener.

To Sum Up

If getting rid of your old lawn and starting again is the best option, then there’s a reason why it failed.

The good news is that lack of maintenance is by far the most common cause. And that’s a good thing because it’s dead easy to fix.

Either way, you need to fix the issues which caused your lawn to deteriorate in the first place. Before you lay any turf or sow any seed. Otherwise, your new lawn will suffer the same fate.

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