Reviving a Dead Lawn

A dead lawn with retro chairs on it.
What You'll Need
Power rake
Aerator machine
Lawn fertilizer
Pre-emergent herbicide

No one likes the look of a dead lawn. Sometimes a portion of a lawn may die or burn out from disease, drought, or infestation of insects. A dead lawn can also be caused by a lack of watering, thatch buildup, improper mowing, or fertilization techniques. The most important thing to do first is to determine the cause of the problem.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Use a pre-emergent herbicide on your lawn in the early spring to control weeds."

Thatch Buildup

Thatch is a buildup of dead and organic material between the soil and the grass. A large degree of thatch on your lawn will give the appearance that the lawn is dead. A dethatching machine, also known as a power rake, will loosen dead grass and any other growth between the grass and soil and bring it to the surface. Run the machine in three or four different directions so that the entire lawn is covered. This will promote an even appearance and help with the growing process.

TIP: Susan recommends, "Spray a pre-emergent herbicide after dethatching to prevent seeds from germinating."


Lawns that are not watered during very hot and dry spells will quickly take on the appearance of being dead. To revive your lawn, provide at least one inch of water a week. Water early in the morning and set your sprinkler to a slow release setting. It is better to water for a longer period of time on a slow release setting than on a shorter period of time on a fast release setting.

TIP: Susan suggests, "Water your lawn for three days before dethatching."

Soil Test

It is important to take a soil test to determine the health of your soil. The soil test will diagnose any problems and make recommendation as to the type of fertilizer necessary as well as whether or not you may need lime to lower your soil pH.


Be sure to use a lawn fertilizer that is made for your particular type of grass. Use fertilizers that have more than one ingredient and contain nitrogen. Water-soluble lawn food doesn’t last long, so you need to reapply it regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Aeration increases drainage in lawns, breaks up thatch and allows oxygen to reach grass roots. An aerator machine has a T-bar and four hollow pipes that plunge into a lawn and remove cores of soil. If your lawn is large, try a mechanical core aerator instead. Be sure to follow instructions on how to operate them safely and effectively.

TIP: Susan advises, "If you have heavy clay soil you should aerate twice per year. Avoid aerating a newly planted lawn until the roots are established."

Reviving your dead lawn will only take a little tender love and care. You will have a yard your neighbors will envy in no time!