How much does lawn fixing cost?

I realize this will be hard for anyone to give an accurate number on, but here is the deal.

I Bought a house a couple years ago, and the lawn was a mess. Plants, trees all kinds of crap all over the place edgings and rocks in random places etc. I spend last summer’s free time clearing out the shit. So it is mostly flattish land now. But the grass is shit. there are a couple areas that after removing shit I put a couple bags of top soil and new seed down. This year early in spring those areas are much nicer than than the rest of the yard. I’m not a psyco yard guy. And my lawn is only slightly worse than average. Most look pretty bad around here honestly, with only 1 in 8 being what I would consider a “good” lawn. But even by my standards, it is just not good enough currently.
It has bad thatch, and I’m pretty sure the fertilizer runs off and down the drain. It’s SE Michigan, so water from the sky is pretty consistent, especially in Spring and Fall, so I don’t think lack of water is an issue, lack of effective water most likely is.
It also not that big, maybe 2500 sq feet of lawn.
So today was a nice day, and an off day. My plan was

  1. Run over with mower set high to gather leaves that were on the lawn when the snow started.
    2.Dethatch lawn with leaf rake
    3.(possible) buy hand aerator, make lawn holey.
  2. Overseed lawn
  3. Put new seed fertilizer on lawn.

The actual sequence of events was

  1. Run lawnmower over grass, doing absolutely nothing.
  2. give up on mower , get leaf rake and start scraping.
  3. Thirty minutes later start feeling enormous blister in thumb crotch, and look at handy gloves still sitting on can hood.

After 30 hard minutes of scraping I was on the disabled list, and had managed to barely kinda sorta dethatch a 10 by 15ft area.

So my plan is shot to hell. In order to get this done in any kind of time frame to get grass growing early enough in Spring, I could go spend 50 on a true dethatching rake, which would still take a crap load of time and effort, and need to wait a few days for skin healing anyway. Or I could spend +++money on a power rake, which I would likely only need to use once.

Then probably find out that the hand aerator sucks , and be in the same position of looking at spending money on a power one to use once.

So basically, has any one been in that situation recently? What does a one time(I realize it’s likely not a single visit) “Fix my shitty lawn” service cost? I am fine with mowing and fertilizing in the future, And I think If the thatch is brought under control in the first place I can handle that once in a while with hand tools. Or is a re-sod job better or cheaper possibly these days?

I just had a service aerate my lawn for me. It’s 15,000 sq ft and they charged $140. I’m glad to see you starting there, it’s really important the sod be able to breathe and this also lets moisture and nutrients penetrate. After that I spread as much composted cow manure as I could haul home. 2-3 inches is optimal but maybe a little optimistic too. It’ll get in those new holes and help keep things relatively uncompacted.

What kind of grass do you have? As long as you break up the thatch you probably don’t have to overwork yourself trying to get all the dead out. As long as water and nutrients and sun can get in there the grass will find a way out.

I can’t help you with a full service cost as I’m a do it yourselfer but they will come out a give you a free estimate and normally will offer a discount if it’s bundled with areation and top dressing.

I have no idea, and no idea how to tell.

Just get on the horn with a couple lawn services and have them come out and give you estimates. If you think they are full of shit or way too pricey, you don’t have to hire them. They can give you cost for re-sodding and for a year’s worth of treatment.

My lawn was all shitty and stupid and I was super embarrassed about all the dandelions etc infesting the neighbors’ lawns. I pay about $400/year to keep it looking good - just the front lawn of a half acre plot. Now it is beautiful and I don’t have to worry about it.

You don’t have to pay $400 a year. They should probably break down what they will do with each visit and you could decide you don’t want some of the treatments (and/or do them yourself). And you could do it for one year and take over for yourself.

Mine does include aeration, and fertilizer and bug control. Probably not de-thatching but I have no thatching now. They can and will do anything.

I don’t think an international message board is really the place to collect quotes. Gotta just get the info from the horse’s mouth. (Er, horseses mouths)

If you want to do it yourself you can rent a power rake and aerator for a day from an equipment rental place. You will need a pickup truck or trailer; they are big and heavy. You also need to know when the soil moisture is right to run the aerator; too dry and it doesn’t pull up plugs, too damp and it clogs up.

I had a service aerate my front lawn last spring, about 5,000 square feet – charged me $60. Totally worth it.

You can seed grass any time. Actually fall is best, right around Labor Day. Spring is second best. But if you water it correctly, like it tells you on the label, you can plant grass any time.

If you don’t know what kind of grass you have, in your part of the country you can assume with well over 90% probability it is a mixture of rye, fescue, and bluegrass. If it was anything else, you would have been told about it when you bought the place.

You can get a lawnmower blade for dethatching the lawn; it’s basically just a blunt blade with a couple of nails pointed down.

You said that you don’t know what type of grass you have. When I was a kid, we still had a local, independent lawn and garden center. The employees at that sort of place could probably identify your grass type. And another thing you might want to do is to get a soil sample analyzed.

Holy crap have I gotten out of shape. :frowning:
Like I said it was only 30 minutes of raking before the blister made me quit. But damn are my shoulders sore and weak this morning. I had to get some swinging momentum going to get my hands up to my head to shampoo this morning.

I recommend Gatorade during, and after, doing repetitive manual labor. I also recommend a shot of Christian Brothers brandy for breakfast on those days when you can only stand next to your shoes and have no idea how you are ever going to reach them.

I suspect you’re getting blisters because you are gripping the rake handle too tightly. Lighten up, dude. It’s not a life of death struggle.

Meanwhile, for the best yard results, it’s best to find a local who understands the soils, grasses, and climate in your area. just sayin’

You’ll need to cut your grass short before dethatching. Healthy grass, with its deep roots, will survive the dethatching process better, but you have to work with what you have.
How to De-thatch a Lawn

Note - In the video, the adjustable head on the manual rake is not adjusted properly, IMHO. It’s gouging some areas and skipping over others. The straight tips will dig deeper than the flared tips. I adjust the head so the wing nuts are closer to the straight tips. 1st pass thru the grass is with the flared tips down. The 2nd pass, if it’s needed, is with the straight tips down. YMMV.

True Temper 15-in Thatching Rake


Ames 14.25 in. self-cleaning rake head


Note - The wider the rake head, the more energy you expend to pull it thru the grass and thatch. Multiplied by 1000+ strokes.

I pick up the thatch with the lawnmowers bagging attachment. (This is also a good time to decide if you intend to compost.)
Next step is aerating. Use an aerator that pulls plugs out of the ground. The aerators that simply push metal spikes into the ground compact the soil around the hole, and it makes the ground anti-barefoot lumpy and bumpy. Compacted soil is the reason you need to aerate.

My advice is to pay someone to aerate. Since you’re basically starting from scratch, consider a 2nd aeration in the fall for the first year.
Depending on your soil, the next step is adding a topping of dirt or fertilizing what you have. Don’t buy the cheapest dirt available. You many end up with more clay, rocks, and weeds than you already have.

I’ve had good results with Scotts Premium Topsoil (approx $2-$2.50 per 0.75 cu.ft. bag) and Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Soil ($6.50-$7 per 1.5 cu.ft. bag).

Use a tine bow rake, tines up, to push the dirt around and level the dirt.
Adding gypsum can improve heavy clay soils ability to absorb water.

If your grass usually looks greenish-yellow, and it’s been regularly

watered, consider adding Miloganite (iron), or a fertilizer containing iron.
How to Fertilize Your Lawn


Move to Central Florida. I get my lawn in Ocala cut for $15.

Phu Caqt

Will dethatching & aerating help with my lawn getting a little lumpy/uneven? This is something I had never heard of until this thread, so this has all been good info to me too - I live in the Chicago burbs and have about 3500 sq ft of lawn that is doing OK, but could be better. The very back has some crabgrass issues, and I’d like to fix that too. I was planning on doing the Scotts feed & seed program, probably starting in the next couple of days, but this all pretty new to me; I just bought the house last summer, and my past experience as a kid was limited to mowing the lawn when Dad threatened me enough :slight_smile: and Dad was too cheap to do any fancy fertilizer stuff.

Dethatching: You really should do some research on some lawn care websites to determine whether your lawn actually needs dethatching. Some thatch is a normal and necessary part of a lawn – removing it when you have only a normal amount will do harm, not good.

Aerating: It will help some with the lumps and bumps if you do it a couple of times per year. The way it works is the aerator pulls up plugs of dirt about the size of a medium dog turd. As the plugs dry out on the surface they will spread the dirt around, smoothing things out a bit eventually. Note that a lot of those small lumps and bumps are worm poop – and that’s a good thing even if doesn’t feel good on bare feet.

The Scotts program will work just fine. With it you will put on more products more often than someone who uses more generic stuff but it will work. Lots of people continue to use it for years, some people move on to other longer lasting less expensive products as they learn the ropes.

Crabgrass: There are different kinds of crabgrass control – sprays or powders you put on the crabgrass as it appears, and crabgrass preventer which works by not allowing the crabgrass seeds to germinate. The crabgrass preventer will also prevent grass seed from germinating, so you can’t spread grass seed when the Halts type stuff is used. There are also some newer products specifically designed to prevent crabgrass and weeds while allowing grass seed to germinate – I haven’t used them and don’t know how well they might work.

If you choose to use the preventer stuff, the right time to spread it is just as the forsythias are dropping their flowers; that is when the soil has reached the temperature where crabgrass seeds germinate. You will probably need to do a second application after the first wears off, usually six to eight weeks (read the label) – or switch to a spray at that time to kill it as it pops up if you intend to spread some seed in the fall.

If you intend to do any dethatching or aerating, do it before spreading a crabgass preventer.