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Moving into a house with an overgrown lawn is unfortunately all too common. It’s exciting to be in your new home, but looking out the back window you’re greeted with a yard filled with knee-deep, overgrown grass.

Never fear. Under that sea of unkempt grass is a lovely turf waiting to be revitalised. Taking care of overgrown grass to return it to a functional lawn is a process, and it takes a bit of patience, but here’s what you need to know…

Reduce the lawn height slowly but surely

When a lawn becomes overgrown, the thatch layer (that brown, matted layer near the base) and the crown (the part of the plant from which the grass grows) are raised. The reason you can’t just take your mower and wrestle it through an overgrown lawn is not just because that’d be a difficult thing to do, it’s actually because if you mow through that crown, you’ll kill the lawn.

So, returning an overgrown lawn to its former glory is about easing the height down until the thatch layer and crown are at a normal height for you to begin to mow it again normally. The crown and thatch will naturally lower as you lower the height of the lawn.

Return overgrown lawn to its former glory

Depending on how seriously overgrown we’re talking, you may even need to start with cutting implements other than a mower in the first stages. If the grass is so tall you can’t take a mower to it, start with a scythe, a sickle, or a strimmer (or even just hedge trimmers), all of which you should be able to find in your local outdoor store.

Cut about one third off the grass height. Then sit back and wait for a few days. Give it a water, keep it hydrated and healthy, but don’t cut any more just yet.

Then, after a few days to a week, cut another third off and wait another week. After this stage you may be able to get a mower on to it.

Mow once every few days reducing the height of the lawn by no more than one third each time. Water between mows and mow in overlapping lines to guarantee nothing gets missed.

Top tips for best results

It may be inconvenient for people moving into their new home in early winter, but taking care of an overgrown lawn really should be left until spring and early summer. Winter is a dangerous time to try to restore a lawn – it’s risky that the lawn may not cope with the cold weather AND the distress of frequent trimming.

Try to cut the grass on warm (but not hot), dry days. Not only is cutting wet grass more difficult with patchier results, it’s also riskier for fungal infections. If it’s been raining and the lawn is wet it’s better to leave it a few days and let it dry out than still attempting to cut it.

If you notice areas where it looks like you may have scalped the lawn, stop mowing and give the lawn a chance to recover – it may spring back. If after a few weeks it’s definitely not recovering and you’ve well and truly scalped it, remove the dead grass, mow the rest down to height, then reseed.

When you’ve got the lawn low enough to bring out the mower, mow in opposite directions with each session to allow every blade of grass to see the sun’s rays and grow straighter.

Restoring the lawn once it’s at a manageable height

When you’ve got through the saga of mowing the grass down to the height you want it, it’s time to get the whole lawn in to A1 condition.

First, trim up the edges with an edge trimmer so that your lawn is neat. Then, take care of any weeds and pests with herbicide, pesticide, or even manual removal. Apply a fertiliser and over-seed any bare patches. If you’ve noticed areas of poor drainage, fill them up with sand or level them out.

It may take a bit of time and patience, but you may just find your solid family lawn under that overgrown grass in your new yard!