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Newly spread grass seeds starting to germinate

Updated on January 25, 2024

Do it yourself

How to Remove and Reseed a Lawn: DIY Guide

You may have spent a lot of time and effort into lawn maintenance over the years but, it might have become patchy or weedy anyways. Sometimes, the best course of action is to redo your lawn by removing and reseeding it. Follow our detailed step-by-step guide and discover our best lawn care tips!

Difficulty level: Easy
Duration: A few hours

Before You Start

There are a few different methods for removing an existing lawn, each with its own pros and cons. Perhaps you want to choose a method that is less disruptive to your neighbours or has a lower impact on the environment. You can even use a combination of methods for different areas.

A factor that may limit which method you choose is any local ordinances and homeowner association rules. Before any excavation project, you should also note the location of underground utilities as well as underground irrigation systems.

The Best Time to Reseed Your Lawn

When planting grass, aim to do so in the spring or fall for best results. In the spring, the grass will have plenty of time to take root before winter hits. In the fall, there is a lower risk of weeds taking root as well.
Person removing turf with a shovel

1
Remove the Old Lawn

Depending on the state of your lawn, the location, and how quickly you want to work, you can choose from 4 different methods when getting rid of an old lawn.

  • Apply an herbicide – The quickest way to kill your lawn is to apply a non-selective, post-emergent herbicide. If the grass is well-established, however, you may require more than one application. Make sure you choose an herbicide that targets the right types of plants, and always follow the label instructions for use. Herbicides come in three varieties: ready-to-use, pre-mixed (easiest to apply), and concentrated varieties (most economical for larger lawns).
  • Dig it up – This method involves simply removing the top 3” of soil on your lawn. While you can use a shovel, it will be much quicker and less labour-intensive to do the job with a tiller. Another option is to rent a sod cutter, a heavy-duty tool that cuts under the turf and easily slices it into strips.
  • Smother and Compost – For a method that requires the least amount of physical labour, choose smothering and composting. First, mow the grass closely and then cover it with six overlapping layers of cardboard or black-ink newspaper (not colour, which can leach heavy metals). Water the layers and then lay at least 4” of grass clippings, organic mulch, or compost overtop. After about two months, your lawn will have composted into soil that can be used right away. This process is great for most lawns except those with steep slopes.
  • Solarize the Lawn – Let the direct heat from the sun during the long days of summer do the job of killing the lawn for you. All you have to do is mow the grass as short as possible, give it a thorough watering, and cover it with clear plastic sheeting. After 6-8 weeks, you can remove the plastic and dig up the dead grass, which is easier than removing living turf.
Person holding a bunch of weeds

2
Get the Soil Ready

After you have removed the grass by one of the methods above, it’s time to get the soil ready for new growth.

  • Test the soil – Even high-quality grass seed will only grow well in soil with a balanced pH between 6 and 7.5. Perform a soil test and add amendments if necessary to ensure a healthy new lawn.
  • Pull weeds – If weeds have taken root while your lawn has been without a top layer, this is a great chance to remove them before they have a chance to proliferate.
  • Inspect for pests – With the grass gone, you can check the soil for pest issues (like white grubs) you may have not even known about. Deal with any insect larvae you find before reseeding.
  • Fix grading issues – Removing the turf also presents an ideal opportunity to address drainage issues and deal with any high or low spots.
  • Smooth it out – Finally, use a rake to smooth the surface and remove any clods.
Bag of Scotts Turf Builder lawn seeds

3
Choose the Right Grass Seeds

Cool-season grass seed is best for Canadian climates as it will ensure the resulting turf lasts through the winter. It is also more tolerant of shade. Warm-season grass is more suitable for tropical climates.

You should avoid fine fescue for high-traffic areas, especially if you like to host, as it can be quite brittle.

4
Spread Fertilizer

Use a spreader to fertilize the lawn with a starter fertilizer that contains the nutrients necessary for grass seeds to germinate and grow. Optionally, you can add topsoil or compost first and then work the fertilizer in. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions for the right spread rate to grow a new lawn.
Hand holding lawn seeds

5
Seed the Lawn

Create furrows by dragging the prongs on the flip side of a rake through the soil. Either by hand or with a spreader, spread the grass seed over your lawn according to the package instructions. Run a rake gently through the surrounding soil to cover the seeds.

6
Add A Layer of Mulch

A layer of cedar mulch over your newly seeded lawn will help set the seeds and keep the seeds from blowing or washing away. It will also aid in soil moisture retention.
Underground automatic lawn sprinkler

7
Water the Lawn

Give the lawn a thorough and generous watering until you begin to see puddles forming.

Water your newly seeded lawn 2 to 3 times a day but only for about 5 to 10 minutes at a time to avoid over-watering. A sprinkler can help ensure that your lawn receives just the right amount.

When the grass grows to a height of 1”, you can water it just once a day for a longer period.

Watering Tips for an Established Lawn

Once your grass is established, keep it happy and healthy with these tips:

  • Rather than sticking to a strict schedule, water your lawn on an irregular basis to more closely mimic natural rain and help with drought tolerance.
  • Promote strong root growth and hardy turf by watering deeply and letting the soil dry before watering again. A light sprinkle will evaporate before it can reach the roots.
  • Water early in the morning when the wind tends to be calmer and less likely to spread fungal disease. On windy days, it is also best to avoid using a sprinkler.
  • Fix any areas of runoff and erosion before the problem has a chance to get worse.
  • If you use an irrigation system with underground sprinklers, make sure to keep it well-maintained and properly adjusted.
Healthy and lush lawn

8
Healthy Lawn Care Tips

Mow your lawn for the first time when it reaches a height of about 3”. After the third mow, give your lawn 1” of water a week. After the fourth mow, prevent the germination of crabgrass by applying a crabgrass fertilizer.

Disclaimer

These DIY projects are provided for informational purposes only. The information contained in RONA’s DIYs is intended to provide general guidelines to simplify jobs around the house. Because tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes, and local regulations are continually changing, RONA inc. assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information contained herein and disclaims any liability for the omissions, errors, or outcome of any project. RONA inc. makes no representation on the feasibility of any project and the viewer bears all risks coming with the realization of the projects. It is the responsibility of the viewer to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, rules, codes, and regulations for a project. The viewer must always take proper safety precautions and exercise caution when taking on any project. If there is any doubt in regard to any element of a project, please consult a licensed professional.