Sad Sod

Q. We installed a new sod lawn three years ago and it’s now in terrible shape. There are bare spots and lots of different weeds and grasses. What can we do to salvage the lawn?greenlawn

A. Right now I wouldn’t worry about the undesirable grassy weeds and instead concentrate on the broadleaf weeds and the bare spots. Here is why. There are no selective herbicides for seasonal grasses in desirable turf except for Crabgrass. Crabgrass is an annual problem that is not present now as it is when to seed in the fall. It will start to germinate in the next month. If you see a network of wiry brown stems, this is probably Bermuda Grass, which is often referred to as crabgrass. Turflon Ester is the recommended control for Bermuda grass in desirable turf, as the crabgrass controls are ineffective. Bermuda Grass is currently ‘greening up’ from its winter dormancy so you should wait until May or June when it’s activity growing to apply Turflon Ester. For all the other seasonal grasses you’ll have to spot treat them with Round Up or a similar product and then reseed the new bare-spots.

It might be better to live with these grasses, as it could be an endless battle in ridding the turf of them permanently. Today, I’d apply a ‘weed and feed’ type fertilizer if the turf hasn’t been fed this year; otherwise, I’d spray the area with a selective herbicide for broadleaf weeds like Dandelions. There are several products available such as Weed-B-Gon, but be careful with any product labeled ‘weed and grass killer.’ Many of them are a non-selective type herbicide and will kill the desirable along with the non-desirable grasses. If you’re not sure, ask the nursery professional for a recommendation. In about three weeks this unwanted weeds should be dead.

Next, review the irrigation system to see if that is part of the problem. The sprinklers should overlap each other one hundred percent so each section of the grass gets the same amount of water. Poor sprinkler placement or coverage is a primary cause for sections of the turf to die thus creating bare spots when the weather turns warm and windy. If you have any low spots this would be a good time to fill them in. You should tamp these areas down so the ground is firm. Now you’re ready to reseed the bare spots.

Since you planted sod, the existing grass is more than likely some type of tall fescue. Scott’s Ez Seed or any one of the many grass seed blends available should blend in nicely. You’ll need to scratch the soil first, sow the seed and then cover it with a thin layer of peat moss or soil conditioner. Depending of the temperatures, you should moisten the seed a two to three times a day until it starts to germinate. Your lawn makeover should take about seven weeks.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is and you can send questions by email at or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523 and on Facebook at