A lawn is only as good as the soil beneath it. Learning how to renovate an old lawn by improving the soil is one of the best ways to upgrade your landscape. It doesn’t take an expert, just a little bit of know-how and a willingness to work.

1. Check the moisture content of the soil. Dig down about 6 inches in several places in your yard.

2. Grab a small handful of soil at each spot and squeeze it. If water drips from your hand, there is too much moisture in the soil. If no water drips, but the soil leaves a wet outline on your hand, the soil moisture level is good. Soil that forms a ball in your hand and breaks easily or squeezes between your fingers and feels slick may be borderline adequate. Dry, crumbly or powdery soil is too dry and needs more water.

3. Correct drainage problems in wet areas by raising the grade (level) of the soil with good topsoil. Use your wheelbarrow to transport larger amounts of soil. In dry areas, increase irrigation and change the grade to retain more water.

4. Check for soil compaction by pushing a large screwdriver into the soil. If you have difficulty doing this, the soil may need to be loosened up by a process called aeration.

5. Aerate the lawn. The best type of aerator is the kind that removes cylindrical plugs of soil from the ground. Follow the directions that come with the aerator.

6. Dethatch the lawn if you see a lot of dead compacted grass. Follow the directions that come with the dethatcher.

7. Determine the soil’s pH levels by purchasing a soil test kit and testing for mineral deficiencies. You can find test kits at home improvement stores. Follow the directions that come with the kit.

8. Spread new grass seed where needed. See the “Tips” section below & apply soil nutrients as indicated by the soil test.

9. Apply compost and a slow-release fertilizer to the lawn based on the results of your soil test.

10. Water daily until your new lawn seed has developed a 2- to 4-inch root system. Control weeds. Renovating your lawn does take some work, but the end results are well worth the effort.

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