Converting Old Lawns

Converting Old Lawns

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Owners with unsightly lawns in which the grass is thin and the weeds thick have three courses of action.

  • Live with your existing lawn grass: Play along with what is there. Fertilization, regular watering, and regular mowing will improve the appearance of almost any poor lawn.
  • Till the lawn and start over: Till up what is there, prepare a new seedbed, and start all over with a better grass. This represents more work and expense, but it can be cheaper and much more satisfying in the long run.
  • Convert the existing lawn: Planting and encouraging Zoysia or Centipede to crowd out weeds and other grasses makes it possible to convert an unattractive lawn to a better grass.

Conversion Techniques

Cut the lawn closely and rake out the dead thatch. Plug in the same manner as recommended for new lawns. Water thoroughly and keep the lawn closely mowed. After the plugs are rooted and new growth is evident, fertilize sparingly (approximately 10 lbs. per 1,000 square feet of 10-10-10 or similar complete fertilizer once plus ammonium nitrate at three pounds per 1,000 square feet every three weeks).

Seed - TifBlair™ Centipede
TifBlair™ Centi-Seed is especially good for converting old lawns. Rent a vertical thinning machine, thin the old lawn, rake out the dead thatch, seed at twice the rate for new lawns, and vertically thin again to mix the seed into the top layer of soil. Water well and regularly. Use little or no fertilizer until late summer, and then apply 10 lbs. complete fertilizer per 1,000 square feet. Mow closely and regularly. Complete instructions for conversion are in the TifBlair™ Centi-Seed package or read Seeding New or Existing TifBlair Centipede Lawns.

Seed - Zenith® Zoysia
No grass is likely to produce the miracle of choking out weeds and all other grasses, as advertised by sellers of Zoysia plugs, but thousands of ragged lawns can be converted to Zenith® Zoysia. Begin in April or May by killing existing vegetation with a non-selective weed killer. Once grass is dead mow at lowest height possible and remove the dead debris and thatch. Repeatedly aerify, dethatch, or vigorously rake the area to be planted. Using a broadcast spreader plant Zenith at a rate of one to two pounds per 1,000 square feet then rake the seed into the top layer of soil. Water frequently and begin regular mowing as soon as you have anything to mow. Fertilize per directions for new lawns. Expect an abundant weed crop, but use it to make a green groundcover. An application of weed and feed fertilizer in March of the next year should result in a good Zenith lawn during the second summer. Be patient, follow directions, and you will be rewarded. Complete instructions for conversion are in the Zenith® Zoysiagrass package or read Seeding New or Existing Zenith Zoysia Lawns.

DO NOT use any type of pre-emerge weed control chemical or weed and feed fertilizer for at least 90 days before seeding TifBlair or Zenith.

After seeding, do not use any weed control chemical that is not labeled and recommended for Zoysia grass.

Under favorable conditions, conversion to a better grass can be accomplished in a single season. Generally, a second year is required, but each growing month, the lawn should improve in appearance and your efforts will be well rewarded, even though final results are seldom as good as that of a lawn on a newly prepared seedbed.