How to Fix Thinning Grass?

Thinning grass refers to thin patches of grass on a lawn. These thin grass patches not only make the lawn look unsightly but are also an indication of some underlying problems in the lawn like thatch buildup, too much shade, nutrient deficiency, and drought conditions, among others. Fixing thinning grass include procedures like removing thatch using a thatching rakeaerating your lawn during the growing seasonwater properlyapply fertilizerweed controlsow grass seed and correct lawn mowing.  

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Eden discusses the causes of thinning grass, the different ways to fix them and the possibility of reviving a thin lawn. Also, it is important to know the right tools required to fix thinning grass so that you see the results you desire, and therefore, Eden has listed them here. Let us start with understanding how to fix thinning grass.

Remove thatch using a thatching rake

Thatch is the layer of tightly twisted living and nonliving organic matter like leaves, stems, and roots that forms between the layers of soil and growing grass. 

The step-by-step procedure of removing thatch from the lawn or dethatching using a thatching rake is given below.

Thatching Rake

  • Mow your grass short (about 2 inches tall) so that the thatch is easily visible and reachable.
  • Place the dethatching side of the rake (the side with crescent-shaped tines when viewed from the side) on the spot you want to start at.
  • Pull the rake towards you to pull up the thatch.
  • Push the rake away from you while remaining at the same spot to clean the rake head.
  • Repeat the process.
  • Continue to pull and push in a pattern resembling vacuuming a carpet with overlapping passes till the entire area is dethatched.
  • Use a leaf rake to collect the thatch that has been removed.
  • Fill any low spots with soil.
  • Use the other side of the dethatching rake to work the soil properly over the area.

Aerate your lawn during the growing season

Aerating your lawn refers to the process of punching small holes into the lawn to loosen hard and compacted soil. Compacted soil prevents water, air, and nutrients from circulating in the soil properly, which affects the growth of the grass. Also, compacted soil does not allow the roots of turfgrass to grow and spread, creating a shallow root system that leads to a thin and weak lawn. 

The step-by-step procedure for aerating your lawn during the growing season is given below.

  • Irrigate your lawn a day before the aeration to ensure easy penetration of the aerator into the soil.
  • Use a manual or mechanical lawn aerator according to the size of the lawn.
  • If you have an irrigation system installed on your lawn, make sure to mark the position of the sprinkler heads before you start aerating your lawn to prevent any damage.
  • Mow your lawn short 
  • Move across the compacted area with your lawn in one direction.
  • Make a second pass with the lawn aerator in a direction perpendicular to the first one to ensure proper coverage.
  • Leave the removed plugs on the lawn to break down their own. If you want them to decompose faster, you can use a bow rake to break the plugs down after they dry.
  • Spread a thin layer of topsoil over the area (about one inch). This is optional, but it will give the seeds enough soil to germinate.
  • Spread grass seeds over the topsoil.
  • Fertilize the area with the right amount of fertilizer.

Water Properly

Watering the lawn properly refers to following the correct lawn watering practices to ensure a healthy and dense lawn. Incorrect watering practices like overwatering, underwatering, and watering at the wrong time encourage fungal diseases, shallow root system development, and weak and thin grass growth. Therefore it is necessary to water your lawn properly.

An instructional list of correct lawn watering practices is given below.

  • Water your lawn only once or twice a week depending on the weather conditions, as lawns only need around 1 inch of water per week. Deep and infrequent watering encourages deep root growth, keeping the lawn healthy and dense.
  • Water your lawn before 9 am to prevent water loss due to evaporation caused by the midday heat and so that the lawn has enough time to dry during the day. 4 am to 8 am is the best time to water your lawn according to experts.
  • Avoid watering your lawn in the evening as this causes the lawn to remain moist at night, encouraging fungal diseases.
  • Monitor your irrigation system to ensure that the lawn is receiving adequate water according to the soil moisture level.
  • Use rain gauges and soil moisture probes to determine how much water the lawn is receiving and retaining, and then set your irrigation system to provide the deficit.
  • Install irrigation systems that distribute water evenly and slowly to the soil to avoid water and nutrient loss due to evaporation and runoff.

Apply a fertilizer 

Applying a fertilizer refers to feeding the lawn with the right amount of nutrients so it can grow healthily and become dense. If a lawn does not receive an adequate amount of nutrients, the grass will grow weak, leading to thin patches on the lawn. 

The step-by-step process of applying fertilizer to the lawn is given below.

  • Do a soil test to determine the nutrient deficiencies in your soil and buy the fertilizer with the appropriate ratio of nutrients.
  • Water your lawn a day or two before fertilizing to ensure the lawn accepts all the nutrients readily.
  • Choose the correct spreader for your lawn; this can be a broadcast spreader or a drop spreader.
  • Read the directions given on the product label carefully to determine the appropriate rate of application.
  • Adjust your spreader’s setting to apply fertilizer at the rate determined in the previous step.
  • Fill in your spreader with the fertilizer.
  • Apply fertilizer to the edge of the plot first and then fill in the middle with alternative passes similar to the ones you would make while mowing.
  • Clean any product that might have fallen onto the driveway or pathway along the edge of the lawn.
  • Store the remaining product carefully for future use.

Another way to apply fertilizer to your lawn is to make perpendicular passes across the lawn. To do this, you need to fill your spreader with half the amount of fertilizer required for the entire lawn and then make passes in one direction. 


Control the weed

Controlling weeds refers to preventing weeds from taking over parts of your lawn. Weeds compete with desirable turfgrass for resources like water, nutrients and sunlight, which means that the more weeds present in your lawn. 

Weeds can be prevented by following the correct cultural practices given below.

  • Follow the correct mowing practices mentioned above.
  • Prevent thatch buildup.
  • Aerate your lawn to loosen compacted soil.
  • Ensure your soil has good drainage.
  • Maintain the soil pH level.

If the weeds are already present on your lawn, follow the methods given below to get rid of them.

  • Identify the types of weeds in your lawn if the infestation is larger.
  • Apply the appropriate systemic and selective post-emergent herbicides to the weeds when they are young for effective control.
  • Apply selective contact herbicides to annual weeds as it is a cost-effective method to get rid of them.
  • Spot treat weeds that do not respond to selective herbicides with non-selective herbicides. Ensure this application does not drift to your desirable plants and turfgrass.
  • Overseed and fertilize the treated area with the grass seeds of existing turfgrass to fill the bare spots.
  • Do not prune or mow for a few days after the post-emergent application to allow the weeds time to absorb the product.

Lawn Mowing

Sow grass seed

Sowing grass seed refers to the process of overseeding a thin lawn. Overseeding a lawn helps to cover any bare or thin patches of the lawn with turfgrass making the lawn thick and dense. 

The step-by-step procedure to overseed your lawn is given below.

  • Clear the area you want to overseed by raking away leaves, thatch and any other debris, to expose the bare soil beneath. The seeds need proper contact with the ground to germinate well.
  • Loosen the soil if it is compacted using a garden rake or bow rake. If the soil is too compact, you can use a lawn aerator.
  • Add some compost and topsoil to amend the loosened soil and ensure the seeds have all the nutrients they need to germinate healthily.
  • Rake the topsoil to even out the layer and mix it with the area adjacent to the spot you are overseeding.
  • Spread the grass seeds evenly over the topsoil. These grass seeds can be of the existing grass type or a grass type that is compatible with the existing grass type.
  • Rake the seeds into the soil lightly to ensure full contact with the soil and to protect them from any external activity.
  • Water the area after overseeding and ensure it remains moist throughout the day.

Restore Soil pH

Most plants and turfgrasses prefer a soil pH between the range of 6.0 to 7.5. The right soil pH levels are necessary for proper bacterial activity, preventing nutrient leaching, and maintaining soil structure, among other things. 

The step-by-step procedure for restoring soil pH is given below.

  • Collect a soil sample in the right manner.
  • Understand your results well.
  • Treat the soil with lime or wood ash to raise the pH level if your soil is acidic.
  • Skip the fourth step and treat your soil with sulfur, sphagnum peat or aluminum sulfate and iron sulfate to lower the pH of your soil if it is alkaline.
  • Ensure you apply the right amount of product. Don’t over-treat your soil.
  • Test your soil pH every three years to ensure it remains in the preferred range.

Correct Lawn Mowing

The right mowing practices will produce a healthy and thick lawn that can tolerate harsh conditions and is resistant to pests and diseases. The correct lawn mowing practices to prevent thinning grass on lawns are given below.

  • Ensure you mow the lawn with sharp mower blades as mowing with dull blades rips the grass blades instead of making clean cuts, putting extra stress on the grass.
  • Do not mow a wet lawn, as the moist soil will cause the lawnmower to pull the grass out and create mower tracks on the lawn.
  • Clear any debris from the lawn (sticks, small stones, pieces of trash, etc.) to prevent damage to the lawnmower and injury to the person mowing the lawn.
  • Mow the lawn according to the recommended height for your grass types, as different grass species need to be mowed to different heights to maintain their health.
  • Use an alternating pattern to mow your lawn instead of mowing in one direction, as it will cause the grass to lean in one direction. Changing your mowing pattern will keep the grass standing tall and give you an aesthetically pleasing lawn.
  • Do not collect the grass clippings after mowing the lawn. Leave the clippings to break down and return nutrients to the soil.

Can the Homeowner fix a Thinning Lawn, or does it Require Professional Help?

A homeowner can fix a thinning lawn if it is caused by simple reasons like improper mowing thatch buildup, but if it is caused by deeper issues like weed infestation, disease, or incorrect soil conditions like pH imbalance and nutrient deficiency, then Eden recommends consulting a professional. 

After fixing a thinning lawn, it is essential to follow the correct lawn care practices to ensure that the problem does not repeat. If you are having trouble identifying the reasons behind your thinning lawn, contact Eden’s professional lawn care services. Our experts will identify the cause and fix it to bring back your lush and healthy lawn.

Grass cutting taking up all your time? Call us, and we will do it for you!

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