At some point, a lawn gets old. The exact longevity of a lawn depends on many factors: local growing conditions, type of lawn, level of care, degree of use, and the presence of pests, diseases, and weeds. Unfortunately, there comes a time when it's necessary to turn the old clunker in for a new model.
In some cases, renovating and overseeding your washed-up lawn with fresh grass is sufficient (see the earlier section "Aerating and Renovating Your Lawn" for details). But when you're faced with a lawn that's mostly weeds, full of holes, and generally pathetic, it's time to roll up your sleeves and start over. Some work is involved, but replacing a lawn isn't that difficult for the average gardener. Here's how to do it:
Using a hand sod cutter or a (I'll look the other way) pollution-spitting gas-powered sod cutter, which you can rent. Compost the sod. (See Chapter 16 for details on composting.)
2. Rototill the soil, incorporating a 1-inch-thick layer of good organic compost into the top 5 or 6 inches of native soil.
This method brings life to the soil and gives you an organic-matter content that's ideal for turf grasses.
3. Finish-grade the area, being sure to direct water away from the house.
If your soil is sandy or loamy and drains well, consider making the lawn concave so that it soaks up rainwater, which will reduce dependence on irrigation. However, this technique isn't a good idea for heavy or easily compacted soils, where heavy use may be a problem if the soil is frequently wet — especially if you live on a geologically unstable site.
4. Install a sprinkler system if you'll be using one.
You have a few system options to choose from; see Chapters 7 and 8 for the scoop.
5. Use sheet mulching to kill the weeds.
If you have persistent perennial weeds that come back from the roots, visit Chapter 16 for info on sheet mulching.
6. When you're sure that the weeds are gone, remove the mulch and cardboard, and seed or sod the new lawn.
If you want to go one better than lawn, put in a meadow. Meadows require much less watering, fertilizing, and mowing than lawns do; they're also diverse and beautiful, and you'll be the envy of all your neighbors. Visit Chapter 19 for details on low-impact lawns and lawn alternatives.
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