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Repairing a Patchy Lawn

patchy lawnA patchy lawn is often proof that the garden has been well used by the children. There are bare patches in front of the goals, under the swings, where the paddling pool sat on the lawn all summer and under the trampoline the grass is looking rather sparse too.

A patchy lawn doesn't just look unsightly, but after a bout of heavy rain, these patches turn into muddy puddles which are then walked straight into the kitchen ... am sure you know the story! Not only that, but in dry weather, the bare earth can bake quite hard and the benefit of having a lawn as a soft landing for the inevitable falls is lost.

So each autumn it is time to repair that patchy lawn - or better still, get the kids to do the job of either reseeding or replacing it!

The best time of year for either seeding a lawn or laying turf is generally considered to be early autumn, when the ground is still sufficiently warm and the weather getting wetter. If you missed the opportunity in the autumn, spring is the next favourite.

There are several ways of dealing with a patchy lawn:

  • Cut out the patchy section and either replace with a new piece of turf or reseed with grass seed – this is the official ‘proper’ way of repairing bare patches!
  • Reseed the patch without cutting out the section first – this is our preferred method for regenerating the multiple worn areas each year.
  • Avoid the problem altogether by replacing the lawn with other material – this is probably the best option for areas such as under the swings or other play equipment.

How To Repair Bare Patches Of Turf 'Properly'

1. Cut the damaged turf out using a straight-edged spade.

2. Lightly dig over the earth, if possible working in a little compost or manure.

3. Lay down a new piece of turf, filling in around the edges with some topsoil and ensuring it is level to the surrounding grass. If reseeding, ensure the ground is level with the surrounding grass first, firm it down gently and scatter the grass seed.

4. Erect a safety barrier around it to prevent the children, dogs, etc from trampling the turf until it is well established and keep it moist.

The Easy Method For Repairing Worn Patches

This is our way of repairing the multiple worn patches in our lawn - especially larger patches like that in the photo at the top of this page where the trampoline was stood during the summer. It is not the 'proper' recommended method, but it works perfectly adequately and is a lot less work than digging up pieces of turf all over the garden.

Quick-start Lawn Mix

To hasten the process of repairng a patchy lawn from seed you can pre-germinate the grass before sowing it. Put approx 1 part rye grass seed mix to 2 parts damp compost in a bucket. Cover the bucket with plastic and leave it for a few days. The temperature will need to be around 15C for the seed to germinate. Once the seeds have germinated - there is white growth appearing - spread the ready-mix over the area of lawn needing to be replaced.

1. Choose a day when the ground is nicely soft and rake over the bare patch quite firmly using a garden rake. Children can join in with their own kids garden rake.

2. If possible, work in some compost, manure or lawn feed, though some grass seed mixes include lawn feed. Water well.

3. Sprinkle grass seed over the freshly raked area and firm down gently with the back of the rake. We recommend a seed mix with plenty of rye grasses such as the Evergreen Multi Purpose Grass Seed, as this can withstand the demands of a busy garden better than the finer seed mixes.

4. Cordon the area off to avoid the kids and dogs from trampling over the grass until it is well established and can withstand such an onslaught.

Replacing Bare Patches of Lawn with Different Material

lawn wearThere are some places in a kiddie garden which are just not suitable for grass. Examples would be under the swings or other play equipment, at the base of slides or just outside the play house. Children are also likely to wear paths into the lawn (a bit like rabbits!) where they frequently run from one activity to the next or from the garden path to the sandpit etc. The result for us is a patchy lawn which turns into perfect mud whenever it rains.

As an alternative to grass around garden play equipment we can use bark. It is soft to land on, doesn’t leave splinters and water drains through it so that it is a fairly clean alternative to grass. And of course it is environmentally friendly too!

Some people like to use sand, and this used to be the favoured ground material to use in playgrounds. However, any exposed sandy area is likely to be popular with local cats ... and sand tends to get walked everywhere. An option it remains nevertheless.

Most playgrounds now have rubber matting or loose fill ... lovely soft springy ground material ... and this is equally suitable and available for normal gardens. While it is not as cheap an alternative as bark, it does have several benefits: it tends to last well, it is not going to be spread around the garden or carried inside, it is clean and finally it remains level if properly put down (thinking under swings here!).

For those paths which have been worn into the lawn the easiest way of dealing with them is to turn them into 'real' garden paths - use paving slabs or stepping stones or even decking (covered in wire mesh to reduce the chance of slipping in wet weather). When we laid our garden to lawn a few years ago, we actually waited to see where paths would naturally flow before putting down the paving slabs.

Finally, keeping your lawn healthy and strong by investing a little time and money in autumn lawn care, and as far as possible moving play equipment around the garden to give the grass a rest, will all help to avoid a patchy lawn in the subsequent years.

Garden Maintenance | Autumn Lawn Care | Mending Patchy Lawns


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