So our lawn has gotten into a pretty bad state, this one in particular seems to have been caused by several factors compounding together which I can take an educated guess at because I am familiar with this particular lawn. So once we find a lawn in this condition, how and can we possibly repair it? Let's consider some options.
We need to try to understand a cause to our lawn problems first, so then we know what we’re dealing with and how to best go about treating our poorly lawn, so that we don’t find ourselves in a situation of trying to repair a lawn before fixing any root causal factor, because the cause of the problem may yet still be present and may hinder us constantly as we go about different ways to get this turf back to tip top shape. So let’s start.
I believe this particular lawn was first hit by disease, which wasn’t treated when it first appeared. Also the irrigation system may have had faulty sprinklers for a long while also, while the property tenants had the irrigation system on a set and forget system, and didn’t put any extra effort into maintaining the lawn with hand watering or other remedial actions such as applying fertilizer or wetting agents or a fungicide when the lawn first took a turn for the worse.
A little care and attention could most likely have stopped this lawn from deteriorating to the state we now find it in.
So I’m going to take a guess here and say that the primary causal agent which began this lawn decline was a disease of some kind.
Now that lawn disease might very well still be present, and is likely stopping the lawn from already self repairing in any way at all. So let’s first treat the lawn for disease before anything else.
Treatment Plans To Repair This Lawn
First I would wait until the weather was mild, a nice cool day in Spring or Fall perhaps, while the lawn is still actively growing. Avoid these repairs in hot Summer weather.
Fertilizer and Wetting Agents
I would want to get some nutrients into the soil first and foremost with a good quality lawn fertilizer, perhaps not slow release because we want a more immediate release of nutrients over days and weeks, not months.
We’re also looking at a poor quality hydrophobic soil here, so let’s put down some Wetting Agents while we’re at it, and on the same day as the lawn fertiliser. We could also put down some organic matter, such as natural organic lawn and garden fertilizer pellets at the same time, just so long as we haven't applied too much chemical lawn fertilizer, as we don't want to overload the lawn here. A little of each, both chemical and natural organic fertilizers, would be a good combination to improve soil microbial activity and lawn growth.
There is the option to top-dress the soil here with a richer soil to help give the lawn and soil a bit of a boost-along, it’s not necessary though, and it might be better to wait and see how our turf revival goes first. Though this is a personal choice and it won't at all harm the repair process and may improve it, we can do this later though, the choice is up to us individually.
Aerating the soil is also an option at this point, whereby we could use a garden fork to dig into and loosen up any compacted soil, and to help with the penetration of oxygen, water and nutrients into the soil.
Now lets water all that goodness into the soil with a decent drink of water right away.
Sprinklers, Irrigation, and Watering
I believe lack of water was a compounding factor in causing this lawn damage, so it’s a good idea to check all sprinklers are working correctly and all areas of the lawn are being watered thoroughly and for long enough.
If that’s not an option, then this is only a small lawn area and a bit of hand watering with a hose would be highly recommended from here on out.
Take A Break
Lets give the lawn fertilizer and wetting agents some time to begin breaking down into the soil, and time for the lawn to begin its fresh uptake of nutrients. As well as time for any organic matter to begin to also break down and to help bring our soil to life.
So perhaps lets take a week off to catch up on some knitting before we go any further with our lawn repair. Just make sure the lawn continues to receive adequate water.
Time To Hit The Lawn Disease
Note: treatments to lawns on hot days is never a good idea and can lead to lawn damage. Follow manufacturers guidelines carefully, try not to apply these treatments if the temperature is above 80F (27C).
Mancozeb is a lawn and plant fungicide which treats many different types of diseases, and since we don’t have a definitive diagnosis for a particular disease, an application of Mancozeb on both the lawn and the exposed soil might be a good place to begin. Be sure the temperature is under 80F (27C) before applying this lawn treatment. The Mancozeb powder is about $10.00 and is mixed in a watering can before being applied to the lawn very liberally.
Be sure to read and follow manufacturers recommendations for mixing and applying the Mancozeb fungicide.
There are other fungicides which may also be suitable for use, so be sure to ask your friendly garden stockist for some advice also, or check the websites of a garden fungicide manufacturer.
Alternatively, a mild application of baking soda could be applied to the lawn on a very cool day. Baking soda can be used to fight some lawn disease also. Just never apply this to a lawn on a hot day, it will burn the lawn and quite badly too. I generally like to mix a quarter to half of a small pack of baking soda into a watering can and then fill it with water. I then apply the solution to the lawn twice, using a weak solution to get all the way through the thatch layer of the lawn in two applications, rather than using less fluids and only treating the top parts of the lawn in a single application.
Repeated applications of baking soda to a lawn is generally not recommended as the alkaline nature can negatively affect the lawn soil if too many applications are applied in too short a time period. If using the baking soda method, and if success hasn’t been achieved after one or two applications, it would then be best to use a lawn and garden fungicide instead for any further treatments.
That’s it, time for another break. Hard work eh… how’s that knitting coming along?
The Long Wait To Repair
At this stage we’ve done all we can do, for now, all that’s left for us to do is taking care of the lawn and waiting. This lawn is very poor with a lot of bare soil so a full repair will take some time, and the lawn will need to be properly cared for in that time.
This is a Saint Augustine lawn so there are no underground runners (rhizomes) to help repair this lawn, the lawn can only repair from the runners you can see above the soil (stolons).
If we have other healthy lawn of the same Saint Augustine type elsewhere in the yard (which this home does have), then we could pull out some of the Saint Augustine runners creeping into garden beds elsewhere and replant them here in the front lawn to help speed up recovery. Just be sure to keep any transplanted runners moist at all times for the first couple of weeks after transplanting. This could be done a few days after applying the fungicide to the rest of the lawn and soil.
Ensure adequate watering is kept up to the lawn throughout the entire repair process, never letting the soil and lawn dry out, we need to pay attention, taking a quick look each day.
There’s no need to apply any more fertilizer, wetting agents or fungicide for a while yet.
Hopefully we should begin seeing the lawn start coming back to life over the coming weeks, and to begin spreading out.
We could apply a very light application of lawn fertilizer again after 6-8 weeks, but only if it’s applied at very low rates, perhaps a third of suggested quantities. We don’t want to over-fertilize as this too can cause damage to a lawn.
That’s about all we can do now, is wait, water, monitor, and knit… how’s that new sweater coming along?
Ongoing Lawn Maintenance During Lawn Repair
Lawn disease was determined to be the primary causal factor which began the process of such damage to this lawn, so we need to keep an eye out for recurring lawn disease at all times.
The primary signs to watch out for of lawn disease throughout this repair process are:
discoloring of patches of lawn to a different shade of green or yellow or brown
patches in the lawn which appear to have wilted leaves, also discoloring
brown legions or brown or rust colored spots on any of the lawn leaf
These are the primary signs of lawn disease developing, we must always keep an eye out for these changes. If left unchecked and untreated, then these tiny legions and discolorations can quickly begin to develop into new bare patches developing in the lawn again, and we’re back to square one again.
So if we see any signs mentioned above which may indicate lawn disease as being still present, then we treat the lawn again with a fungicide or a baking soda solution.
I wouldn’t be mowing the lawn at all until it was nice and healthy again, no need to create stress in the plant and there’s no need to force the lawn to use its energy to repair cut leaf material rather than to use that same energy in repairing and spreading itself out, Besides, the extra photosynthesis from the longer leaf length will only aid the lawn in better health for the time being. Mow when the lawn looks healthy again and is nicely spreading out.
Is The Lawn Repaired?
All I can do in this article is to outline what my own course of action would be should I be faced with repairing this particular lawn. What I’ve written is what I would do.
Your own lawn problems may not be disease related and this treatment plan may not be suitable for your own needs for your lawn problems, hopefully though it may be of some help in learning how we go about repairing lawn problems step by step.
So what did this all cost us in time, effort and energy?
Mancozeb was about $10.00 - with plenty left over for future use.
Alternatively a baking soda solution would have cost under $2.00
Lawn fertilizer was perhaps $20.00 - with plenty left over for future use.
Wetting agents were about $20.00 or less - with plenty left over for future use.
Organic natural fertilizer pellets were about $20.00 - with plenty left over for future use.
Though in reality, we should all have lawn fertilizer on hand and in use as part of our lawn care program, this shouldn’t therefore be considered a cost of repair, but only regular needed lawn maintenance, which if it had been utilized earlier may have helped this particular lawn before it got into such a bad state.
Wetting agents likewise, this is a poor quality soil and wetting agents once a year is recommended.
So really we can say that the repair cost would be between $2.00 and $10.00.
$30.00 if we also added some organic fertilizer pellets to the soil.
Applications of wetting agents, fertilizer, fungicide and keeping up the water, only took minutes.
Transplanting some lawn runners from the backyard into the front yard perhaps took 30 minutes.
Oh and don’t forget all that knitting while we waited for our lawn to repair, we got ourselves a brand new hand made knitted sweater in the process… yes… that was humor :)
Lawn problems don’t need to be a huge drama, or a huge expense or hassle to repair, and there’s no need to waste hundreds of dollars on buying new turf either, especially if we don’t determine and treat the cause of the lawn damage to begin with, as without first treating the causal problem we could only then expect the same problem to re-emerge again, only to destroy yet another lawn in the process, and wasting all that money all over again, buying new turf is not cheap.
Ongoing lawn care really is also easy, to prevent these problems from ever reoccurring, or to treat quickly if they ever do return.
I wish you the best with your own lawn repair, and your knitting!