How to replace your yard grass

Replacing your yard grass means getting rid of the existing one then growing a new lawn.

It’s a three-part process–killing the grass, preparing the land, then planting the new grass.

Give your lawn a fresh start: Kill the grass with your preferred method

If more than half of your lawn is unhealthy, start from scratch. First, choose your preferred method of killing the lawn.

Here are the options I’d go for.

1. Herbicides

Spray your existing grass with a non-selective herbicide which will kill all vegetation it touches.

Solarizing- focusing the sun on lawn areas at their highest heat level will cook the roots and effectively kill them. 

You can use an old window or black plastic to hone the sun and heat in on the area. The optimal time for solarization is summer when the sun is at its hottest.

2. The shovel method

If you do not mind a bit of hard labor, you can manually remove your grass by digging it up first, stop watering your lawn so that it will turn brown and die. Then, grab a shovel – and hopefully some friends – and start excavating once it is dead.

3. Vinegar

Vinegar is a good choice for folks looking for an inexpensive, natural method for killing grass. You can simply spray your lawn with vinegar and wait for it to die. Choose a day with no wind and no rain in the forecast for the best chance at success. Hotter temperatures help with this process.

4. Layering

If you have access to a lot of newspaper or cardboard, layering is an effective method for killing grass and improving the soil for whatever you want to grow in that area once your lawn is gone.

All you need to do is mow your lawn, add multiple layers of newspaper or cardboard (or both), wet it down, and then cover it with a layer of mulch. This method usually takes a few weeks to about two months to kill the grass, but the layer of mulch will make the area less of an eyesore during the process.

5. Mulching

Mulching is similar to layering but without the newspaper or cardboard. However, instead of depriving your lawn of sunlight and air with newspapers, you will do it with a thick layer of mulch.

Mow your lawn as short as possible, cover it with 10 to 12 inches of heavy mulch – such as wood chips – and wait a few weeks to let your grass die.

Do not skimp on the mulch since a thin layer will just nourish your grass and allow it to grow up through it.

Prepare your lawn for new grass

In two steps, you’ll be ready to plant new grass.

1. Rake repeatedly

Next step in repairing your lawn? Get a power rake.

Power raking will remove excess organic material and aerate the soil to allow your new lawn to take root, so you want to leave just the barest layer (about 1/4 inch) of thatch on the ground. Then rake off the remaining debris.

You will know you have raked enough when you see equal amounts of bare soil and dead grass stems. Then spread a thin layer of compost over the soil and rake it in evenly.

2. Tilling the soil

With the vegetation killed off, it is time to till the soil.

Turn over the ground to a depth of five or six inches. Incorporating all of the dead organic material.

Now is the time to add organic material like humus, manure, or organic compost.

The added material helps loosen clayey or compacted soil or improve the water retention of sandy soil. It also introduces beneficial microorganisms.

Planting and care for the new grass

Now, this is the part you’ve been waiting for.

1. Seed the lawn

Now it is time to plant new grass.

There are two ways of planting new grass and reviving a dead lawn. The first is to lay down seed. Use a high-quality grass seed. Follow the instructions on the package to determine how much seed you will need to use.

Planting the right amount of seeds is vital because your lawn could turn out thin and scraggly if you do not use enough.

To make the seed application uniform, spread half the seed in a north/south direction, then turn around and apply the other half in an east/west direction (you will be less likely to end up with bare spots).

For a more extensive lawn, you can rent seed spreaders from your local garden store. After the seed gets laid down, cover it with a thin layer of soil.

The second method is to lay down sod. Sod is grass already growing and comes in rolls or squares with the roots and soil attached. To lay down sod, place it over the soil, making sure each section is set tightly against the one next to it to avoid empty patches. If you only fill in dead spots, you can use plugs to fill in wherever you need new grass.

2. Cover the seed

Turn the broom rake upside down and drag it side-to-side over the furrows until only 10 to 15 percent of the seed remains uncovered.

3. Compact the soil

Whether you use seed or sod, follow up planting by rolling. Rolling sod helps press it down into the soil so the roots can attach to the ground. Rolling seed helps push the seed down into the earth so it can take root and grow strong.

Fill a sod roller halfway with water and roll the seed to pack the soil and seed mixture.

4. Water your new lawn well

Once everything gets planted, you will need to keep your renovated lawn moist. Water frequently but only enough to keep the soil moist, never soggy. 

As the lawn begins to establish itself, reduce the frequency of watering, and increase the quantity. 

It is also crucial to water evenly so that your seed does not wash away, creating bare spots.

5. Feeding your renovated lawn

When the grass shoots are about an inch tall, you can apply lawn fertilizer if you want. It encourages growth (you can also skip the fertilizer and try an organic lawn care option like compost). The same goes for sprigs and plugs: After you see a couple of new shoots, it is time for fertilizer if you want to use it. Just be sure to wait until there is growth. You can burn roots if you fertilize too early.

6. Make the first cut

Mow the new lawn once it reaches a height of 3 inches. 

It will discourage weeds and encourage the spread of your new grass. This simple step makes a huge difference in the success of the project.

Be sure the mower blade is sharp the first time you mow; a dull blade could rip the seedlings right out of the ground. 

Then mow as you usually would keep the grass at the height you want it. For the health of your turf, do not cut off more than a third of the leaf length during any one mowing.

During this time, it is also important to avoid stressing the lawn. Avoid foot traffic and keep mowing to a minimum, only cutting after the grass has grown.

You can also opt to replace your lawn with grass alternatives. Here’s a list of options you can pick.

Fruit trees

Replacing your natural grass lawn with a family orchard transforms your lawn area into a functional, food-producing space. You can enjoy this with your family for years to come. To limit weed growth and make it as low-maintenance as possible, install a drip system and cover the bare earth between trees with mulch, gravel, wood chips, or bark.


  • Adds shade to your yard.
  • Can lower the cost of heating and cooling your home, depending on tree placement,
  • Adds food-producing trees to your property.
  • Can increase the perceived value of your home when selling.
  • Enhances privacy of outdoor living areas, depending on tree placement.


  • May block views as trees grow.
  • Requires regular watering, which can get accomplished with a drip system.
  • Requires some routine maintenance, such as fertilizing and pruning.

Vegetable garden

A vegetable garden is an excellent addition to any backyard and can be an attractive landscaping feature when done right. Install raised planting beds for a tidy, uniform look.


  • Saves money by supplying some or most of your family’s produce needs,
  • Provides a fun activity the whole family can enjoy.
  • Reduces chemicals in your food if grown without pesticides and herbicides.
  • It is a great way to teach kids about how food is grown.
  • Helps to create functional landscaping.


  • Requires regular watering, which can get accomplished with a drip system.
  • Requires regular weeding, which can get reduced by using ground covers around plants.
  • Many plants will need to get replanted for each growing season.


If you have a shady yard or a shady area in your yard, moss can be a great, low-maintenance alternative to grass. This low-growing ground cover comes in many varieties, which allows you to choose between a smoother texture or options that look more like grass.


  • It is a low-maintenance ground cover that thrives in the shade.
  • Attractive appearance.


  • Most varieties cannot stand up to traffic or playing.
  • It requires regular watering in drier climates.


Hardscape features of any type will take up space in your yard to allow you to avoid a grass lawn or limit its size. Patios, in particular, are a good option since they provide a high level of utility and can be used to entertain, relax at the end of the day or cook family meals on your grill or in your outdoor kitchen. It is also a good option for combining with an artificial grass lawn for an overall low-maintenance, functional backyard design that can get enjoyed throughout the year.


  • Low-maintenance option.
  • Many attractive designs are available.
  • It provides a good surface for outdoor entertaining, grilling, and more.
  • It could potentially increase the value of your home.
  • Easy-to-clean surface for pet areas.


  • It can result in scraped knees and elbows if used in children’s play areas.
  • Concrete patios can crack over time.
  • Initial installation costs are higher than some other options.


If your natural grass lawn functions primarily as a play area, but you would like to remove it to save water and reduce the time you spend caring for your yard, installing a playground might be your best option. Once you remove your lawn and choose the play structures to install, you can use mulch or artificial grass as a ground cover beneath the play equipment.


  • Creates a fun, inviting space for your children and their guests
  • Designates an area for play, leaving other places for different purposes
  • If using artificial grass or similar ground cover, it can be used all year and right after rain (unlike natural grass)


  • Children will outgrow installed play structures.
  • Limits use of the area.
  • Play structures can be expensive to purchase and install.
  • It may require maintenance, depending on the ground cover and play structures you choose.


Adding a fire pit with a seating area is a great way to use space in your yard. It adds an attractive, helpful landscaping feature. A simple rock or paving stone fire pit can get surrounded, then, followed by gravel, or a patio made from concrete or pavers, to provide an excellent spot for entertaining guests or roasting marshmallows with your kids.


  • Low-maintenance option
  • Provides space for entertaining and family activities
  • Could potentially increase the value of your home


  • Depending on design and materials, installation costs may be higher than other options.

Here’s how to know your yard is due for a fresh start.

Diagnose the lawn problem

Before you start renovating your lawn, it is essential to step back and see the big picture.

Take a moment to figure out what the problem is. It could help you avoid similar issues after you have replanted.

For example, if grubs are the problem, you will need to treat them first. But if your lawn is suffering because there is too much shade in parts of your yard, you would be better off replacing sun-loving grass in those areas with low-maintenance ground covers that thrive in the shade instead.

Or you could consider adding landscaping features like a fire pit wherever grass struggles to grow. That will have the added benefit of cutting down the amount of mowing you need to do.

Collect samples for a soil test

Plunge your spade about 6 inches deep. Pull out a handful of soil. Then slice off a section of the handful (top to bottom). Remove the grass and rocks and mix all the samples.

Contact a local extension service or search the Internet for a soil-testing lab near you. Select three different locations around your lawn and collect samples.

Mix them and scoop them into a container. It will help you get a report with recommendations about which fertilizers or soil treatments to add.