how to have a healthy lawn

How to have a healthy lawn without these 3 things and less work

Lawn care can be challenging, it’s hard to know which solutions are best and even harder to choose the right lawn care company. Below are three things you may be thinking of doing or getting done to your lawn this year, but you’ll be surprised to find out what shouldn’t be an annual lawn service in most cases.

How to have a healthy lawn without Dethatching

Dethatching, sometimes called “verticutting” or lawn thinning, is a useful treatment for a lawn, but only when your lawn really needs it. It’s essentially hard raking your lawn on steroids. There are a lot of people getting their lawn dethatched yearly and it’s just not necessary, and in these cases, you’re actually doing harm.

How do you know if you need to dethatch?

First, we recommend never dethatch a newly seeded lawn, this includes a lawn that was seeded in the year prior. It’s just too destructive, and there is more than likely no thatch layer,d to begin with. This goes for new sod too!

The best way to know whether or not to detach is by getting on your lawn and inspecting it. Look for a spongy surface, but don’t be confused by moss (also spongy). More often than not, thatch will build up from a poorly mowed lawn in combination with poor fertilization often a few years after new sod installation.

When is it ok to detach my lawn?

If your lawn truly has a thick layer of thatch, you will want to get rid of it. This is because thatch repels water and some nutrients your lawn needs to thrive. However, all lawns need some thatch, there is a sweet spot, this is because thatch can also block harsh summer sun from drying out and overheating the soil.

Rule of thumb: Only detach after a lawn inspection, it helps to have a trained lawn care professional but DIY homeowners can certainly learn the tricks of the trade.

How to have a healthy lawn without Lawn Levelling

There are two ways to level your lawn: by lawn rolling, or topdressing with sand. Again, these are useful in severe cases but can be the most harmful treatment on this list if misused.

Lawn leveling by rolling

Compacting your lawn the same way a steam roller compacts dirt for road construction. In short, soil compaction is the enemy of plants, some plants can tolerate it but the threshold is low. Just don’t roll your lawn if you are okay with some bumps.

Lawn leveling by topdressing

The other way to level a lawn is by topdressing with sand using a fancy leveling rake, more labor-intensive than rolling and there is no way of undoing it. Sandy soils are useful in golf courses because they drain really well and resist compaction. (Remember, compaction is the enemy). However, because sand drains water so well, it requires significantly more irrigation and fertilization, it just can’t hold much moisture or nutrients. This isn’t a problem for daily groomed golf greens, but it’s not practical for a residential lawn.

Why a level lawn is good

Aside from the aesthetic appeal, a level lawn distributes nutrients and water uniformly across the turf which will reduce localized dry spots in high spots and reduce moisture-prone fungus in low spots. A level lawn will also decrease the likelihood of soil crusting, in short crusting will reduce the amount of water and nutrients that can penetrate the soil. This is almost never an issue but can occur in extreme cases under certain weather conditions and soil types.

When should I level my lawn?

Like most things, leveling a lawn requires an inspection, a lawn may look uneven but before you get out the sand, look out for signs in the turf itself. Noticeable colour differences and growth rates are what you’re really looking for. However, leveling with sand is only meant for a bumpy lawn, if you have a large dip it is better to raise the grade with topsoil and then re-seed.

When leveling with sand, be sure to use the minimum amount possible, over-doing it can lead to new problems in the future.

How to have a healthy lawn without Aeration

This one may surprise you. I’m sure you’ve seen the annual door-to-door aerators offering lawn aerations every spring and maybe you’ve had one recently, or maybe it’s something you get every year, but it’s not something every lawn needs all the time and it’s not even the best way to prevent compaction.

When should I aerate my lawn?

There is a time and place for aeration, In Ontario, crabgrass can be a real problem and worth a post of its own later… Did you know that crabgrass seeds can be viable several years after being dropped? Spring aerations can bring dormant seeds of all kinds back up to the surface and provide ample room to grow, including the persistent crabgrass. This is just one of the reasons that fall aerations are superior unless of course, compaction needs to be relieved immediately.

What are the benefits of aerating my lawn?

Soil compaction is the enemy of all plants, although some can tolerate more compaction than others. Generally taproots “nature’s aerators” are better suited to compact soils and the number one culprit in Ontario is the dandelion, among many more.

Turf-grass has fibrous roots that cannot penetrate compacted soils and naturally, you may think aerating to be necessary to prevent detrimental compaction. But like many “quick-fix” strategies, aeration doesn’t fix the problem, just the symptom. The real problem is that certain soils are prone to compaction and certain practices can accelerate the compaction. High traffic is a given, but low mowing and poor water management are issues too.

Preventing compaction

To prevent compaction, proper management of the lawn is required so the soil structure can change. In a nutshell, healthy soils form aggregates over time and are constantly needing to be formed, any farmer can tell you just how important these aggregates are to the soil structure. These aggregates are formed by physical interactions and chemical interactions with microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi (the good ones). These are delicate living ecosystems that aerating destroys, so the only thing annual aeration will do is ensure you need annual aeration.

How do I really prevent soil compaction on my lawn?

The trick is patience and consistency, healthy soil does not form overnight. What you can do as a homeowner is to follow recommended mowing and water management practices, and take a different path from your door to your shed when you can. The next best thing isn’t aerating but instead, it’s organic matter. This means leaving the grass clipping on the lawn, choosing fertilizers with high organic matter, and most importantly, applying fresh compost to the soil when it is practical. Compost is mostly organic material that will be used to form soil aggregates, and do so better than any other kind of treatment. An annual compost topdressing is magnitudes better than annual aeration. If your property is much too large for a topdressing to be feasible, then compost pellets are an option but other options may be alfalfa or really any plant material you can acquire. A fertilizer program based on organic matter is another way to stay ahead of compaction, this is where synthetic fertilizers just don’t hold up.


Healthy lawns aren’t simple, what may seem like a quick fix can often do more harm than good. You need to be able to trust the judgment of your lawn care provider and I always recommend asking questions. A beautiful lawn is a healthy lawn, synthetic fertilizers, aerations, dethatching are things that may work for a period of time, but they won’t work forever.

Renewalawn treats the core problems, rather than the symptoms of your lawn, with innovative and organic lawn care solutions that leave your lawn green and healthy. For more information, check out our lawn care services in Kingston.

Table of Contents

Get local lawn alertsđź””

%d bloggers like this: