"Bad" Lawn with Too Many Weeds, Start over with Sod?

Updated on September 28, 2011
M.B. asks from Milwaukee, WI
13 answers

Hi everyone! I was wondering if any of you out there are experiencing this. We moved to this house about 11 months ago. The yard had lots of dandelions and thistles which I would remove by hand. I have a 2-year-old who loves to play in the yard so I don't want to use any chemicals that are unsafe for children. We also have a big patch in the backyard of fern-looking stuff (and no grass) and lots of clover. I pulled weeds all summer and mowed then we had fall and winter. For Spring I asked here about weed control and it was suggested I use WOW pre-emergent from Gardens Alive. So I put that down as soon as I received it (March?) thinking it would prevent the dandelions and thistles. Well the dandelions came in like crazy even worse than last summer so the WOW didn't work. Not many thistles yet, though which is good. And the lawn is greener than last year so the WOW did something good.
Anyway our weed problem isn't the only think I'm writing about. The people who sold us this house had made a nice new concrete walk to the front door, and the level of grass around that is a couple of inches lower than that. So when we mow the grass we can't do a good job of cutting near the walk for fear of damaging the mower.
My hubby thinks we should build up the area along the concrete walkway by laying sod over the existing grass on either side of the walkway. I was thinking of just using a layer of topsoil and hope the grass pokes through. I don't know if either method is correct or if there's another way to raise the grass level to the walkway. Then, back to the yard, hubby mentioned laying sod over our existing front yard and back yard so we'll have grass instead of weeds. But wouldn't the weeds come back and poke through the sod? Has anyone put sod all over their yard, and what is involved? Is it expensive, or very very expensive? Is there any other options I'm forgetting to consider? I just want a lawn made of grass that is safe for my daughter to play on. I hope someone out there has some advice for me, many thanks! *Peace*! :)

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answers from Dallas on

Lots of times the weeds will be choked out by the hardier grass as summer goes on. I have put sod in patches where the dogs ran the grass down. It takes hold in just a couple of weeks.

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answers from Minneapolis on

If you don't have the patience to wait for a new lawn to come in, go with sod. We had to do this in our yard many years ago. You'll have to get rid of the old grass by either raking it, or getting a sod cutter/buster (you can rent these). Then you'll need to put in top soil, and the lay the sod. You'll need to water like crazy for a week, until the sod takes root. You will have a lovely lawn.

You can not lay sod over existing lawn, nor pathways. You will have to till the soil about 4 inches deep after cutting out the old lawn...lay fertilizer and the layer of topsoil before laying the sod.

If your lawn is really bad, and you choose to seed it instead (a lot cheaper) you will still want to remove the old sod/grass, till, fertilize, and then lay topsoil before seeding and watering.

If the lawn is still salveageable at all, you can contact a company like Scott's and have them treat the lawn and then seed it. The nice thing about this pricey option is you will get a professional assessment of your lawn.

Before doing anything at all, do a soil test. You might find your soil is totally depleted of nutrients and you may need to actually buy specific products to fertilize the soil before seeding or sodding.

Good luck...and hope your future is filled with green pastures.

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answers from Indianapolis on

We had a bad issue with crab grass last year that we couldn't get under control on our own, so we looked on Angie's List and found a lawn treatment company who's been fabulous.

We have a dog, a 2 year-old and an almost 3 year-old who are often outside. For most treatments, it states either 2 days or after watering/thorough drying for the treatment to be absorbed into the soil and safe.

We still make sure to wash hands, feet a few days post treatment.

As a recent cancer survivor (no idea what caused it), I'm really freaky about what we come in contact with, and I have no issues with their services.

Yes, weeds will certainly come through sod if laid. Any fertile ground is going to be a breeding ground for weeds and other undesirable growths.

Our parent company is in the agricultural business, and one of the biggest fallacies is that products that are "all-natural" are safer when in reality they often have little scientific data to support their safety vs. more mainstream products.

You may be able to Google organic agricultural sites to see what you can find if you're really concerned about the composition of the weed killers.

Good luck.

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answers from Austin on

Well I will probably get skewered for this, but this year after a huge drought and water rationing, my yard was covered in weeds. I This is a home that has been in the family since the 40's. It has NEVER looked so bad.

There was no way to pull all of the weeds, I worked for 6 hours one day and you could really not tell a difference. . I could not afford to have a lawn service so I purchased Liquid Weed and Seed. It is $10. a bottle and you attach it to a water hose and spray. I purchased it at Lowes.

The young guy that mows my lawn mentioned to me last week he could already see a HUGE difference, he suggested another treatment, so tonight when it cools off I will do another bottle for the front yard and another for the back..

If you go this route, follow the directions.

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answers from La Crosse on

My understanding of getting rid of dandelions is that the way to do it is with a weeding product application in the fall. Trying to get rid of them in the spring and summer is pointless. Sorry. I wouldn't lay sod over the top of your existing lawn either. So if you're going to sod, you'll have quite a project in ripping everything up first. I might choose to endure the lawn again this summer, trying to nourish and seed it as much as possible, and keep it short, and then apply a good weed control in the fall. Next summer you should see a change. Gardening is just one of those things that takes a little time. Good luck!

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answers from Minneapolis on

You'll need to fill in the area near your sidewalk with some black dirt. Depending on the size of the area you may need to have some delivered, or if it's not too big, just get bags from a garden center.

I would recommend pulling weeds by hand where it's practical, and spraying once or twice where it's not. Just get rid of them.

Then keep adding grass seed, and have the yard aerated. If you can keep the grass healthy, the weeds won't grow back. Don't mow too short, either - our lawn guy recommends only on the tallest setting so the grass can develop a healthy root system and not be too stressed.

If you decide to do sod, it's a huge and potentially expensive job as others have noted.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Can you live with a smaller lawn?

Try maintaining a weed free small patch, and let the rest grow wild. I welcome all plants into the non-mowed parts of my property, except poison ivy. It's a lot easier to maintain a small patch AND go chemical free. Those lawn chemicals are pretty bad, no matter what the manufactors say. And the wild parts attract some pretty cool wildlife like migrating songbirds, etc.

It appear to me that people only use small parts of their lawn and the rest of those big mowed yards are there for the benefit of people who apparently enjoy mowing.

P.S. We live in a suburb where everyone else has a big mowed yard. Guess what? We're the most popular house on the block. All the kids come over to play and explore, and we are friends with all their parents now.

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answers from Chicago on

To really get sod to take, you need to place it on freshly turned soil. The best instructions for it are loosen soil for 2 to 3 inches and then lay down the sod, using a roller to get it to lay properly so it can take root. It may not root well if you just lay it on existing grass. A few years ago the gas company dug up the ground in front to put meters outside. The landscaping company did a horrible job putting new soil and sod. The grass in front looks absolutely horrible. We are going to rake it, put more soil where the dirt does not match the sidewalk --almost 3 inches in some spots--and put down some grass seed. This is the cheapest option as well. For our yard, this year is awful with the dandelions. We use Weed B Gone every year and donot let the kids play in the yard for a week. It is only a week and it gives us a chance to put down some seed to get more grass growing.

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answers from Minneapolis on

for your area that is lower sodding it or filling and then reseeding would work. For the rest of the lawn the best way to keep out weeds is to have more grass. (the grass crowds out the weeds) So seeding is a good bet. It will tae some time for it to grow in enough to crowd the weeds out and you will likely always have at least a few weeds unless you do some weed control. I grew up helping my dad with his lawn and tree care service. He sprayed our lawn several times every season and basically we just needed tostay off it for a few hours until it dried. We are all fine and healthy. ;) Good luck

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answers from Minneapolis on

I would love to have your lowered lawn next to the concrete walkway. Our soil is a little higher than the concrete, which means that water stays on the walkway and freezes in the winter. At least you have a place for the water to drain off the walkway.
For your sod questions, check the internet how-to's. I don't know much about it, but I don't think sod will grow unless the ground is prepared carefully first.
I'm glad you're thinking about your daughter and keeping the chemicals off of "her" lawn.

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answers from Des Moines on

Some weed seeds live in the soil for many years. You can remove the existing dandelions by various methods but those that have gone to seed will sprout again the following year. It may take several years of diligence to rid all of the dandelions.

Laying sod on top of exisitng sod & weeds is not a good idea. If you don't want to use a chemical to get rid of all of the weeds & grass before laying sod, then you should at least rototill (turn everything under and loosen the soil) the area to be sodded. Rototilling will remove some weeds but weed seeds that live for years will remain in the soil. With a new, healthy, thick lawn it will be difficult for those weeds to come up again.

Unless you're worried about people falling off the edge of the sidewalk onto the lower sod area, you can make a "mowing strip" along the edge of the sidewalk by putting in rubber lawn edging about 4 inches from the sidewalk (you'll have to remove the grass along that edge) and about 3-4 inches deep, then fill in that area with pea gravel, small decorative rock, etc. Bark will blow away. Some weeds and grass may occasionally creep into the mowing strip unless you lay a weed barrier of landscape cloth in the trench first, but it isn't difficult to pull out. When you mow you run the edge of the lawnmower wheel just over the edge of the rubber edging strip. That way the grass will not grow up next to the sidewalk and you won't have to trim either.

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answers from Fort Wayne on

I used to work for a lawn care company. I'm not a professional, but I'll tell you what I know! I don't know of any non-chemical ways to get rid of the weeds. Dandelions are really difficult to get rid of. Digging them out by hand probably isn't going to get rid of them, so you're just wasting your time, sorry :( Same with the thistles. A pre-emergent is generally for the control of crabgrass, not weeds like dandelions and thistles.
If you want to sod, you really should cut out all the old lawn first. You can rent a sod cutter. It's a machine that will put cuts into the existing lawn and you pull it up and get rid of it. It's not difficult, but is VERY labor intensive. You can lay sod yourself, you pretty much just unroll it, but it looks much better if it's done by a professional. Chances are, for the first year you lay the sod, you'll see the lines. It takes a time for the grass to grow over them. Theoretically, if you have a nice thick lawn, the weeds aren't able to push up through the grass. So, putting sod down should lessen your chance of having weeds.
As far as the sidewalk goes, you can get a weed whacker and trim that area after you're done mowing, if you don't want to get sod. You could put dirt down to level it and then throw some grass seed overtop of it.
You can always have a company come out and look at your yard and see what they recommend. Lots of places will come out and do a free estimate for you.

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answers from Detroit on

I will say that you start over, goto your local Construction equipment rental company and get an excavator, move the earth and the garden to start a-new, then redo the garden, aerate and over seed and you should be good to go... http://www.compactpowercenter.com/

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