Q: After years of neglect, my “lawn” is a complete wreck. It is green, all right, consisting of every green weed known to man. Should I get my soil tested? Should I chemically treat and kill the lawn and start over?
— Paul Fleischmann
A: The answer to your first question is easy: Yes. Getting your soil in good shape is the first step toward growing a healthy lawn, whether you decide to try to save the one you have or start over. A soil test will tell you which nutrients your soil is lacking, so you can feed it accordingly. It will also tell you the soil’s pH level, which determines whether the grass plants can use the nutrients in the soil.
There are other things you can do to improve your lawn, including giving it a core aeration and top-dressing it with compost. Mowing properly is important, too, because it helps the grass stay healthy so it can out-compete the weeds.
From your description, however, it sounds like you’re going to have to renovate the lawn, either by overseeding or replacing it. Overseeding involves dethatching and aerating or slitting the lawn, and then spreading seed over the existing grass. Replacing the lawn is what you referred to: killing the existing grass and planting new.
Horticulturist Melinda has written a good series of lawn-care guides for Midwestern states. The book for your state is Indiana Lawn Guide. State extension services typically have good lawn-care information, too.
Have a question about home maintenance, decorating or gardening? Akron Beacon Journal home writer Mary Beth Breckenridge will find answers for the queries that are chosen to appear in the paper. To submit a question, call her at 330-996-3756, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your full name, your town and your phone number or email address.