Preparation is important to get the most out of your lawn reno! This means making sure your lawn is actively growing, and spraying herbicide to kill any weeds before you start (measure the size of your lawn first, so you apply the right amount of product).
It also means having the equipment to get the job done right. You’ll need a mower, lawn dethatcher, core aerator, wheelbarrow and levelling rake. This equipment is readily available at your local Kennards Hire branch.
So let’s go! A two-day lawn renovation in four steps. Day one, scalp and scarify. Day two, core aerate and top dress.
To start, you’re going to scalp your grass with a mower. The scalp is important to get rid of the above-ground thatch and allow the scarifier and core aerator to get in deeper.
Then when you top dress, it shows you where the low spots are, so you can get the top dress in there for a nice, flat lawn. At the end of the day, that’s what a lawn renovation is all about!
I like using my trusty rotary mower for this, because it can get down to 7mm, although you may have to start a bit higher. Don’t worry if you end up with dirt spots on the higher areas and green spots where the lower areas are.
I think sometimes we over-glorify scalping to the dirt. You don’t need to annihilate the lawn – you’ve still got the scarifying to go!
Leaving a bit of ‘extra meat on the bone’ means the lawn will recover a bit quicker. It’s a fine balance of scalping nice and low to let the scarifier and core aerator in deeper, and to see where your low spots are. But it also gets to a point where maybe you’re just going too hard when you don't need to.
The next step is to use the dethatcher also known as a scarifier on the lawn, digging the blades right down into that thatch layer. A lot of people say it’s better to use a dethatcher with the catcher off, then pick up the grass with your mower afterwards.
I think the machine performs a lot better without the catcher on. The catcher can tilt the machine back when it gets full, because it’s quite light.
After you have scarified, run across the whole area with a rotary mower, just to clean things up a bit before day two.
Now its time to sit back, crack a cold drink, get an early night and be up bright and early for day two!
Day two, we roll on! I’ve picked up a core aerator from Kennards Hire to rip some cores out of the lawn. People often skip this part, but it's really important for the process and fantastic for the health of the soil.
Go nice and slow, on really low revs, to avoid bashing into brick or timber edging with the tines and damaging the machine.
Coring allows lots of air into the soil and water can penetrate deeper through the holes. Filling them with sand in the top dress adds to the drainage.
It’s worth the effort and the cost of hiring the aerator, even if you only aerate every second year.
Once the cores have dried out, pick up them up with a rotary mower set nice and low. The lawn is now ready for top dressing. I generally like to apply a grub control product and a fertiliser before top dressing.
If you’ve got awful, sandy, infertile soil, you want to top dress with a composted soil. If your main focus is on levelling and drainage, you want to use fine, triple-washed sand, because it’s not going to sink and break down over time.
Shovel the top dressing into a wheelbarrow and spread over the lawn. Make sure you spread it when it’s dry, because it’s much harder to handle in wet clumps.
Use a levelling rake to level it down. The core holes will gobble up the sand or soil. What looks like a heavy top dress soon gets flattened out.
You may have to add the odd shovelful of extra top dress in spots. (Hint: hire an automated top dresser if you want to spread it the easy way, great for large areas!)
Once you’ve got it all nicely levelled out, give it a good soak. Water first thing in the morning and again around lunchtime. If the days are warmer, get a third water in.
Then? Sit back and look forward to the green, green grass recovery. Tell you what, this might seem like a lot of work, but once you see the results you’ve never go back!