Have you ever looked at a neighbor’s lawn and wondered how they’ve managed to get such a beautiful lawn?
They might only be over the fence, but their garden has thick, green grass and no weeds – the kind of turf a golf course groundskeeper would be proud of.
Especially when compared to the ragged jungle in your yard.
Well, I’ll let you into a little secret:
With good conditions, some hard work, and the right products properly applied – you too can have a patch of grass that’s just as enviable as your neighbors’.
This article is going to show you how to make grass thicker and fuller – so read on to find out!
- Too Long, Didn’t Read
- How to Get a Thicker and Fuller Lawn Step-by-Step
- Extra Tips and Tricks for a Healthy, Happy Lawn
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Too Long, Didn’t Read
Finding a gap in the schedule to do the gardening can be a bit of a challenge, let alone if you’re learning how to do it at the same time.
With that in mind, here’s the super-short version of this article if you’re in a hurry.
In order to improve the health of your lawn, you need to:
- Test the soil.
- Dethatch dead material and debris.
- Pre-emergent weed killers (optional).
- Boost the soil quality/fertilize.
- Continue to control weeds.
Certain steps will need to be repeated in order to achieve the desired look.
The real trick comes with getting it all in the right order, at the right time, and in the right quantities – and this is where a bit of extra work is required on your part.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick-fix solution, and this is where you’ll need to roll your sleeves up.
Let’s explore the stages in more detail.
How to Get a Thicker and Fuller Lawn Step-by-Step
Testing the Soil
It’s a good idea to have an understanding of what’s going on in your soil, from a biological point of view.
Don’t worry if you didn’t pay attention to this bit in school – the basics are quite simple. Your soil should be rich in nutrients, with a good pH balance.
First, get yourself a soil testing kit. You can obtain a more thorough and in-depth breakdown of this by sending samples to a lab in your area, but that’s really only necessary for dedicated produce growers.
A testing kit will provide ample information on your soil’s pH-levels, if it is acidic, neutral, or alkaline.
This will then help you further down the line when it comes to fertilizing, boosting the nutrients in the ground if required, and assisting you in catering for your lawn’s specific needs.
First, you need to get rid of dead material and debris that can choke your lawn and prevent it from reaching its true potential.
This is called dethatching, and it can be a labor-intensive process depending on how you do it.
You can simply drag a rake over your lawn, scraping up the dead material by hand.
Remember to only use a rake with steel tines – plastic leaf rakes won’t work nearly as well. I use the Groundskeeper II – which is an absolutely awesome rake with so many versatile uses.
But while this is cost-effective, it can be truly back-breaking work. Trust me, I have a relatively small yard, and it nearly did me in!
Check this article on the best dethatchers on the market for solutions to that problem – or if you just want to save yourself the hard graft.
Best done in the fall, or after the snows have melted, ridding your lawn of dead grass, debris, and other material will set it up nicely as a blank canvas on which you can create a work of healthy green art.
For more information, don’t forget to check out our ultimate dethatching guide – which will tell you everything you need to know about this important step.
The next step towards a healthy lawn, is to aerate it.
Often overlooked, I can bet my bottom dollar that a large amount of lawn problems have been caused by lack of aeration – including bare patches and weed infestation.
Is your lawn overrun with lawn dandelions?
You need to aerate.
Puddles forming on the surface after rain?
You need to aerate.
New seed struggling to take hold?
You’ve guessed it…you need to aerate!
Aerating is a process that loosens compacted soil – which can be especially dense after holding the weight of snow for months, with heavy foot traffic and drought after summer, or if it’s never been aerated before.
Which I’m willing to bet is the vast majority of lawns in the US. It’s not something that most homeowners automatically think about doing as part of their yearly maintenance schedule.
But if the soil part of your lawn is too compact, water, nutrients, grass seeds, fertilizer, and weed killers will have a hard time penetrating to the grass root system – and where they’re needed the most.
To find out if your lawn needs aerating, you should try the pen test. Simply take a pen or pencil (that you don’t mind getting dirty) and stick it into your lawn. A screwdriver also works just as well.
If it goes in silky smooth – you should be okay. If you meet any kind of resistance at all – you need to aerate.
Like dethatching, this can be a bit of a chore – especially if you’re doing it by hand.
Even heavy-duty commercial lawn aerators will take it out of you, and it can be a very exhausting process.
They’re also not cheap – and can run into thousands of dollars. If you don’t want to go down that route, you can always hire a machine, or pay a company to do it for you.
Alternatively, you can take a look at this article on the best lawn aerators and find one that suits the size of your yard and budget – and how much physical effort you’re willing to put in!
Some extra tips:
- Always water your lawn before aerating – but not too much. You want it damp but not muddy.
- Plug aerators are much better than spikes. Spikes are still better than not doing it at all, but the tines are simply forcing soil downwards, compacting it below the surface, so it’s a step forward and a step back.
- Plug aerators actually remove plugs of soil from the lawn, allowing the whole area to breathe a sigh of relief. Think of it as loosening the waistband after a heavy meal.
And don’t dare touch those soil plugs – while they might initially look like animal droppings all over your yard, they will decompose eventually and naturally fertilize your lawn.
Remember – it’s important that you don’t miss this step, as many professionals swear by it. You should also read this article to find out how often you should aerate your lawn.
Pre-Emergent Weed Killers (Optional)
Now, it’s at this stage that you can – if you think you’ll need it – apply a pre-emergent weed killer to your lawn.
The reason this is optional, is that while it can help keep unwanted plant life at bay, it can be expensive, time-consuming, and yield mixed results.
And we’re hoping that when the new grass seeds you sow during the next stage germinate and take hold – they crowd out undesirables later in the season.
As such, it’s up to you if you want to lay down a weed killer at this point. Obviously, you need to choose a pre-emergent herbicide that is kind to lawns and can be ready for seeding a short time after it has soaked into the soil.
Check out this review of the best pre-emergent weed killers on the market if you think it will suit your lawn.
Some folks get lucky, for others this is still an essential step not to be missed.
If this is your first time, my advice is to skip it and see what happens. Then you’ll know what course of action to take the next time around.
Folks often confuse this as being a negative step, as “overdoing” anything commonly yields poor results.
However, when it comes to making grass grow thicker – it is a vital part of the process.
It simply means going over your existing lawn with the right kind of grass seed. Seeding over rather than putting too much seed down.
How do you know which kind is the right kind? It depends on where you’re living.
Different grasses thrive in different climates and regions, so you should do your research to find out which species is most suitable for your neck of the woods.
Check out the video below for some more advice on how to choose what’s best for you in your area, or head over to this article on how to choose the right grass seed.
Then, it’s advisable you pick up a good seed spreader (you can do it by hand, but it won’t be as even, and it will take much more effort), and follow the recommended application directions with the seeds you’ve chosen.
Remember to check which time of year it’s best to seed where you are – and the rates the seeds should be distributed at.
You’ll also need to lay down a lot more for new lawns and barren patches than you would if you are simply overseeding existing turf.
Good-quality grass seed products should provide you with all this information on the label. Regardless of the info you might find on the internet, I highly advise that you stick to the producer’s own guidelines.
Pro-tip – it’s highly recommended you lightly go over your grass with a rake after overseeding, helping some of those little seeds get acquainted with the soil and away from the hungry reach of birds.
Fertilizing (Depending on the Soil Test)
This step can be taken before or after overseeding – or sometimes not at all. If you have a healthy soil with a good pH balance, you might not need it.
But for many folks, applying a starter fertilizer will help those new seeds take hold, and could well make the difference between failure and success.
Some fertilizers also have weed-preventers added, which is a bonus if you decided to skip the pre-emergent weed-killer step.
Either way, if you want to give your little baby seeds the best chance of germination, I would highly recommend fertilizing them with the right product for your soil.
(Of course, you’ll know this, because you did step one.)
Pro-tip – don’t do this immediately after overseeing. Wait three to five days to let the seeds get cozy, and prevent the existing grass from having a sudden growth spurt and crowding out the little guys.
Take a look at this article on liquid versus granular lawn fertilizer, and find out which one is better for your lawn. There are also some application tips thrown in for good measure.
Now, this is where you really have to pay attention, as watering your lawn is a key part of how to grow thick grass that can make or break all your hard work.
And again, it will depend on what part of the world you live in. Southern and northern climates vary significantly, so too the weather they bring with them.
New or overseeded lawns need constant moisture to encourage the seeds to germinate and boost their chances of thick growth.
But this shouldn’t be done all at once – which is a common, rookie mistake. You need to get the balance right.
To begin with, the rule of thumb is – less water, but more frequently.
After overseeding, you should be looking to water your lawn two-three times a day, but for no more than five to ten minutes at a time.
Again, this can vary depending on where you live, and how much rain and sunlight the lawn is getting.
Existing lawns also have a higher chance of retaining moisture, so you won’t need to water them nearly as much.
You can do this by hand, or you can choose to have a sprinkler/irrigation system set up – which is preferable for larger areas, or if you just want to let the gadgets do the work.
Try these hose carts with wheels to make things easier – especially if you’re watering in several areas around your property.
Once you’ve advanced further into the process and after germination, you’ll want to slow down how many times a day you’re watering – but water more when you do.
This is especially true in drier climates.
You should try to achieve 1-3 inches of water in all seeded areas, which will usually mean watering for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on your system.
How do you know how much water your lawn is getting? Use a rain gauge. Alternatively, you can use an empty food can and measure how full it is after a set amount of watering time.
Take a look at this in-depth article on how best to water a lawn for more information, tips, and tricks.
By now, if everything has gone according to plan, you should have a lush, green, thick and healthy lawn.
But the work doesn’t stop quite yet (if it ever does).
Now, you’ll need to return to your best mowing practices, in order to achieve that beautiful, putting-green carpet we all desire.
Especially if you want that coveted striped-lawn finish. Follow that link for pro-tips on how to get that look.
First, you need to be patient. If you go in with lawnmower blades blazing, then you could damage the seedlings before they’ve even had a chance of freedom.
Wait as long as you can before the first, post overseed mow, but make sure you do it before the existing grass gets so long it prevents sunlight filtering down to the new stuff.
At the end of all this, you’ll be better at balancing than a high wire acrobat!
Pro tip – make sure that your lawnmower is in tip-top condition before attempting to cut the grass. A machine that’s in bad shape and poorly maintained can damage your lawn.
Head on over to this article for a complete guide to lawnmower maintenance, and a full checklist on how to keep your mower operating as intended.
Also, make sure you’re using the right mower for the size of your yard. Follow this link for the best lawn mower for small gardens, or perhaps these zero turn mowers might suit you if you’re at the other end of the scale.
Either way, you need to be efficient about it, and don’t spend too long tramping or driving over your new grass.
Take a look at this article for more of the best lawnmower tips in general, even if you’re not overseeding, and you’d just like to get better at the practice.
Even if you did use pre-emergent weed killers and/or fertilizer, you might find that suffering the odd unwanted growth is unavoidable.
As such, you should try to spot-treat weeds as soon as you see them come up, in order to prevent them from getting out of control.
If you’re not comfortable using harsh chemicals on your blossoming baby, you can check this article for non-toxic weed killers for lawns.
Alternatively, if it’s safe for pets, it’s likely safe for lawns, so you should look at this post on pet safe weed killers for some additional choices.
This is ideal if you have a four-legged friend who likes to raid the garden every day. And you can read this article for tips on how to keep dogs off the lawn while the concoctions are working their magic.
Remember, though, you’re aiming to prevent weeds from returning naturally throughout this whole process.
With the right product application, watering, and mowing technique, your new grass should crowd out undesirables over time – even if that means it takes a couple of seasons.
Rinse and Repeat
Unfortunately, it’s not just a few steps until you can sit back and bask in the best lawn on the block. Having a lawn looking this good takes regular care and maintenance.
This is particularly true when the summer heat kicks in, and you should read this article on how to keep your lawn green under the sun.
For the most part, adequate watering, mowing, and regular weed treatment should be enough to keep your lawn looking in prime condition.
But you need to stay on top of things, repeating certain steps where necessary, and identifying any problem areas as and when they arise.
Extra Tips and Tricks for a Healthy, Happy Lawn
Below is a handy checklist of some common mistakes, things to avoid, and extra advice on how you can achieve the lawn you’ve always dreamed of.
- Don’t over or under water. It’s a balancing act – but not that difficult to get right.
- Likewise, don’t over-fertilize. If you do, read this article on fertilizer burn.
- Don’t ever use commercial, non-selective weed killers. Unless you want to murder just about everything that’s green.
- Choose the right grass seed for the area you live in, and stick to the label’s distribution and care instructions.
- Keep mower blades sharp. Or just buy a new lawnmower blade if you can’t be bothered.
- Enjoy the process – if it doesn’t work the first time, try again next season. You’ll get it right eventually.
Achieving the lushest lawn in the neighborhood requires hard work, the right products, and ideal conditions – but anyone can do it with a bit of dedication and the desire to sucSEED.
Sorry, not sorry.
I hope you have learned how to make grass thicker and fuller in this article, but if you have any further questions, feel free to drop a message in the comments below.
Or, if you have any top-tips and lawn-care advice, feel free to share them with the community.
I wish you the best of luck, and may all your lawns be a luxurious carpet fit for a PGA Tour.