Lawn Renovation / Grading / Sodding / Seeding

Lawn Renovation / Grading / Sodding / Seeding

How to Fix a Thin and Weedy Lawn

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re not very impressed with the current condition of your lawn. If you’re ready to take matters into your own hands or hire a Minneapolis lawn repair company like us, you’ve come to the right place! For the purposes of being thorough, we are going to walk you through some of the options that make the most financial sense and give your lawn the best chance to compete for nicest lawn in the neighborhood.

  • Lawn Grading and Leveling
  • Aeration
  • Overseeding
  • Slit Seeding
  • Top Dressing
  • Sodding
  • Fertilization/Weed Control

Lawn Grading and Leveling

For those of you thinking, “Let’s just rip it all up and start over,” that will definitely work, but that’s usually the most expensive option which isn’t always necessary. The 3 reasons it might make sense to go ahead and completely start over are:


  • Poor soil – If your soil is heavy clay or almost pure sand, the quality of your turf will be benefit greatly from the addition of new soil heavy in organic matter like a rich top soil mix. Adding 2-4” of top soil will greatly improve the ability of your lawn to retain the water and nutrients your grass needs. There are many options for soil amendments. A soil test is the best way to find out exactly which elements your existing soil is lacking.


  • Uneven Lawns – No one likes walking over hills, dips and weird bumps while they are mowing or otherwise using their lawns. Re-grading an existing lawn might be necessary to smooth out very uneven lawns to finally get the flat backyard most people want. These fixes will destroy your existing lawn and will require starting over with seed or sod.


  • Drainage Problems – If large portions of your lawn are draining toward the house and causing water problems in your basement, regrading is often necessary to correct these problems. Improving your lawns grading can create flat, usable lawn space, prevent water damage, fix wet mushy areas in the lawn, and prevent puddling where undesirable. Extensive re-grading projects will also require completing starting over with new grass seed or sod.

If you’re considering grading or renovating your lawn with all new sod or seed it’s important to break and soil before doing so. Here’s one of the pieces of equipment we use called a soil conditioner attachment. We use it to break up, level, and remove debris from your lawn prior to seeding or sodding.

If your lawn is suffering from heavy compaction, we may suggest using a tiller to loosen the soil down to approximately 6″ in depth. This is highly recommended when amending heavy clay or sandy soils and does a fantastic job of mixing in soil amendments like peat, lime, or and topsoil.

Reducing Compaction by Aerating

One condition that even on its own can cause thin poor quality turf is soil compaction. Compacted soils constrict root growth and prevent the water, air, and fertilizers your lawn needs from penetrating into the soil where they can be consumed by the roots of your grass.


As a Minneapolis and St. Paul aeration company, we prefer to use the core aeration method to reduce compaction and often times over-seed at the same time, which is a very effective way to increase turf density. The cores removed by the aeration process open the soil to allow new grass seed to get the seed-to- soil contact needed to germinate. The core’s themselves will break up and fill in the holes on their own in about 4 weeks through to rain and mowing. However they fill in the holes created by the core aeration with less compacted soil, which is exactly what we want!


Over-Seeding With The Right Grass Varieties

By over-seeding, we mean applying new grass seed to an existing lawn as opposed to seeding a new lawn from scratch. Thin lawns will benefit greatly from aeration and over seeding. Over-seeding without aerating or otherwise breaking up the soil is useless as little to no seed will germinate. Seeds need seed-to-soil contact to germinate, which is what core aeration provides. We typically double aerate, meaning we run the aerator over the entire lawn 2 times in order to provide twice as many places (holes) for new seed to grow.


Using the best possible blend of grass seed for your lawn is very important. We use customized mixtures of the highest quality new varieties of grass seed to ensure your lawn looks great in the sunny areas as well as in full shade. Our Minnesota lawns are made up of 3 different types of grass: Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescues. Fescues perform best in shade, Kentucky bluegrass creates the densest turf, and perennial ryegrass germinates the fastest. These are all considered cool season grasses, which means they perform best in cool weather between 60-80 degrees. Cool season grasses have evolved to drop their seeds in mid-summer, germinate late summer to early fall, and then spend the fall getting strong enough to survive their first winter. This is why we highly recommend aerating in the fall for best results, although we do have an effective method to achieve great results in the spring if you just can’t wait.


The biggest challenge to successfully over seeding in the spring is that the pre-emergent crabgrass application in spring prevents not just crabgrass, but all seeds from germinating for about 10 weeks. So over seeding in the spring requires a specialty pre-emergent product to be applied that will stop the crabgrass, but won’t prevent cool season seeds from germinating. It’s a little more expensive than waiting until fall, but works great for those anxious to see results they can enjoy all summer!


Improve Your Soil Without Re-Grading

Top dressing is a great way to amend poor soils without completely ripping up the entire lawn. Top dressing is the practice of adding a thin layer of organic soil or other soil amendment material over an existing lawn. This thin layer will not hurt the existing grass and allows us to add materials like lime to correct PH imbalance or organic fertilizers to increase soil quality. Top dressing is most effective when done at the same time as aerating and over seeding in the fall or spring as it allows the soil amendments to penetrate the soil instead of resting on the top layer only. We do a lot of top dressing with organic soil in Blaine MN because of the sandy soils as well as in Mendota Heights because of the heavy clay.


Sodding Your Lawn

Sodding is the best way to instantly have one of the best lawns on the block. Sodding is more expensive than seeding, but comes with some obvious advantages. The first advantage is not waiting; your lawn is instantly green. Compared to seeding, sodding is more family friend in the sense that kids and pets can generally start using a sodded lawn within a week or two of installation. A seeded lawn can take about 12 weeks to come in (try keeping your kids and dogs off for 3 months!). If your lawn is seeded, you will have bare soil that will constantly be wet from watering, which can be a mess if your lawn in used during that period.


Some of our customers will have us sod the front yard and seed the backyard to keep costs down, but still provide the instant usable turf space in the front yard. Another area where sodding makes a lot of sense is on sloped areas where erosion can be a problem when trying to establish seed. Sod staples prevent sod installed on a slope from sliding down the hill, which is why we typically recommend sodding on slopes.

Sod Will Not Perform Well In Heavy Shade

Sod is grown in open fields that receive full sun all day long. The varieties of grass in the sod are predominately sun loving varieties, so we recommend only using sod in full sun to partial shade areas of your lawn. Sod installed in full shade with deteriorate within a year or two as the sun loving varieties die off in the shade, so we recommend seeding any sections of your lawn that are heavily shaded with a shade tolerant seed mix instead of sodding in those areas. Our shade seed mixtures are much heavier in fine fescues that you would find in sod and give the shaded areas the best chance to succeed.

Lawn Grading & sod install Minneapolis

Proper Fertilization

Lawns can thin out due to a number of reasons, but almost always the #1 culprit is a lack of nutrients. No MN native soils naturally contain enough nitrogen to support high quality turf indefinitely. So fertilizing is a must to give your lawn the 2-4 lbs. of Nitrogen it needs to thrive every year. Grass requires fertilization to become dense enough to out-compete other lawn weeds like dandelions and clovers. Properly fertilizing your lawn begins the process of strengthen and thickening your lawn, which will start choking out some of the weeds on its own.


If you’d like to learn more about out fertilizer and weed control programs, visit our Fertilizer & Weed Control Page.


Weed Control

Weeds must be removed to establish high quality turf. We use a crabgrass pre-emergent application in the spring and two broadleaf applications each year to make sure your weeds don’t stand a chance. A weed free lawn is very important, especially when over-seeding to increase turf quality, because killing the weeds prior to over seeding will provide voids in the lawn once taken up by the weeds, where new seedlings can begin to establish and fill in. We make weed control very easy and effective with all of the 3 lawn treatment packages we offer. Getting signed up is step 1 if you’re looking to improve the quality of your lawn.