Renovate Your Lawn Like A Landscaper

by Ben Bowen

You have a lawn and it is lousy. Full of weeds, lots of thatch, bare dirt, lumps.... I haven't even seen your lawn but I know what it looks like.

Good news:

Fixing your Portland area lawn is less work than you think it is. All you need is a lawn mower, possibly a wheelbarrow, and these instructions.

renovate your portland grass

How To Renovate Your Lawn (5 Steps):

  1. Get rid of weeds. Pull them or poison them. This being Portland you should probably just pull them.
  2. Get rid of moss. If you have moss in your lawn you need to kill it. Get a liquid or granular moss treatment at your local hardware store. It is just iron, so no guilt is needed. This will rapidly kill the lawn. Now spread lime to adjust the Ph and reduce moss issues in the future. Wait a week before the next step.
  3. Mow your grass really short. You might need to make multiple passes, but eventually you should be mowing as low as your mower can be set. Watch out for rocks!
  4. Spread a thin layer of blended soil. When I say "thin" I mean under an inch. Use a little more to fill holes and divots. Get your soil in bags at the big box store, or have it delivered from one of these local garden supply stores.
  5. Spread grass seed. Use JB seed or a mix from Protime Lawn Seed.
  6. Spread a starter fertilizer. Any old grass fertilizer will work well.
  7. (Optional) Cover seed. Spread a very thin layer of blended soil or turf mulch (a very fine hay).
  8. Water, a lot. The seed must be kept damp while germinating. In the summer this means watering in the morning and again late afternoon. Keep this up for at least 2 weeks.
  9. Mow, eventually. Wait as long as you can to mow for the first time. When you finally do, keep your mower set as high as possible. Over the next 3-4 mowings you can bring the height down.

That's it. No tilling, no aerating, no de-thatching. I have renovated many lawns like this, including my own. But what if the problem is moss?

Moss in your Portland area grass?

I like moss. Actually, I love it. I love the delicate textures and vibrant colors. We incorporate it into our landscape designs and have experimented with cultivating it. Did you know you can buy it? Yep- this Washington nursery carries it.

However, even a moss fan like me has to acknowledge that it isn't desirable everywhere in your landscape. If you have a moss filled lawn you probably don't like it.

What can be done about moss in your Portland turf?

How To Get Rid Of Moss In Your Lawn

The first step is to get rid of your moss. This can be done manually or with iron, often a combination of both is best. You can use a stiff rake and just rake it out. If you have just a small patch in your lawn this may be the best choice. Lawns full of moss can be very labor intensive to clear this way. Iron kills moss quickly. If you use the liquid iron available at your local hardware store it will be black within an hour of application. Iron pellets or powder takes a little longer, but is more practical for large lawns.

Once the moss is dead you have two choices. It will eventually break down and disappear. But if you don't want to wait you can rake it after it's dead. Now that your lawn is free of moss, how do you keep it that way?

How To Prevent Moss From Appearing In Your Lawn

Our landscapes here in Portland tend to be shady and wet- a perfect place for moss. Even in dense shade, however, most moss can be prevented. How? Application of lime. Moss prefers acidic soil, we are also prone to acidic soil here. Lime increases Ph and makes the soil less hospitable to moss. Lime will not get rid of moss that you already have but it can greatly reduce the amount that appears every winter.

Conventional wisdom is that you should have a soil test done before applying lime. This is not a bad idea, but not absolutely necessary here in Portland. Because we are so prone to acidic soil it is pretty safe to assume that moss means low Ph.

Wow, Lawns Are A Lot Of Work...

Perhaps you are beginning to wonder if you want a lawn at all. You are not alone. Here are some options for replacing your lawn.