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News >  Home and garden

Water Cooler: Repairing a damaged lawn

Aug. 26, 2021 Updated Thu., Aug. 26, 2021 at 9:35 p.m.

Dandelions grow near the basketball court and splash pad at Chief Garry Park baseball fields last May in Spokane.  (Dan Pelle/THESPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Dandelions grow near the basketball court and splash pad at Chief Garry Park baseball fields last May in Spokane. (Dan Pelle/THESPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Grass turf can take a lot of maintenance. If yours went by the wayside this summer, here are a few tips to get it back in shape.

The cool temperatures of early autumn (and maybe summer if the Inland Northwest cool weather trend keeps up) offer a great environment for lawn repair. Lower temperatures allow for better moisture retention in the soil and is generally less stressful on the grass.

Before getting started, select a seed mixture appropriate for your local climate.

Kentucky bluegrass is a cool season grass that does very well in full sun. It tends to require more fertilizer and water than other grasses, but it can take a lot of heavy use and heat in return.

Perennial ryegrass is much quicker to germinate than Kentucky bluegrass, but it isn’t as long-lasting. It can make for a very durable and rich turf when combined with Kentucky bluegrass.

Fescue grasses are low maintenance and drought tolerant with the ability to thrive in sandy and rocky soil. For a classic lawn, make sure to select a creeping or spreading variety. Other fescue varieties tend to form in clumps.

Use a garden rake or hand rake to remove thatch from areas of dead or patchy grass. Once the thatch is loosened, be sure to loosen the top layer of soil as well to be sure it makes contact with new seeds.

Heavily sprinkle seed in the area you wish to repair. Sprinkle a layer of nutrient-rich compost or topsoil over the seed and water. You can also spread a thin layer of straw over the repair area in order to protect the seeds, lock in moisture and encourage successful germination. Water frequently, keeping the area relatively moist. Don’t mow any of the newly germinated grass until its blades are about three inches in height.

Alternatively, you can also germinate the grass seed inside before transferring to the lawn. This is especially useful for planting in less than ideal times, like early summer or late fall. One common method is to wrap seeds in a piece of cheesecloth or a cotton bag and soak them in water in a covered container. Soak the seed for three to five days depending on the variety and keep it at room temperature. Change the water every 12 to 24 hours. Once it is done soaking, sow directly into prepared soil.

If you prefer to save yourself the hassle, you can lay patches of sod on the damaged area instead. The preparation is the same, but make sure you dig about an inch deeper so the new sod will be level with the rest of the lawn once you put it down. Press the patch of sod firmly into the soil, even walking on it a bit to help secure it in place. The edges of the sod should be snug up against the existing turf. Water deeply and regularly until the roots are established.

It’s also important to evaluate whether an area of lawn should be repaired at all. If the grass was damaged by high traffic, consider installing a foot path instead.

If the grass went dead because it’s an area of your yard that you don’t spend a lot of time in and tend to neglect, consider installing some native grasses or other plants instead of turf. Lower maintenance options like these can save you a lot of work and money.

Rachel Baker can be reached at (509) 459-5583 or

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