Every homeowner wants a lawn that is thick, full, free of weeds and that feels great under bare feet. Having a lush green lawn will help your property stand out and conveys pride of ownership. Plus, it feels great when you pull into your driveway and see that perfectly maintained green carpet awaiting you. In this article I’ll cover the basics and explain how to make grass thicker and fuller in a few easy steps.
The reality is that no two lawns are exactly the same. Some are shady, some grow in full sun, and you may have clay or sandy soil.
There is no one-size-fits-all method to make your lawn green, but on this blog I provide a variety of articles that will answer pretty much every question you could have about caring for your grass, preventing weeds, fertilizing your lawn, and much more.
For beginners to lawn care, there are a few steps you can take that will improve your lawn no matter its location and present condition.
And that’s what I’ll be covering in this article as I tell you how to make grass thicker and fuller and create a yard that will be the envy of your neighborhood.
Follow these tips, but remember … after your initial work, you’ll need to do regular upkeep to keep your lawn in tip top shape.
Let’s get started!
Getting Your Soil into Shape
Having a healthy lawn relies on having healthy soil.
If there’s one thing that I see lacking from lawn care gurus online, it’s the fact that amending your soil with chemical fertilizers actually makes your turf less healthy.
Your grass will start to depend upon these quick-release synthetic fertilizers, and the soil that’s supposed to feed your grass will become less and less healthy.
I use slow-release, organic fertilizer on my lawn and amend the turf by broadcasting screened compost every second or third fall as well. There’s a time and a place for synthetic fertilizers, but if you rely solely upon them you’ll be in an expensive cycle of lawn care that is not sustainable.
Getting your soil into shape to nourish and support a healthy lawn is how to make grass thicker and fuller.
Test Your Soil
My advice? Start with a soil test – one you send to a lab. This will tell you exactly what your lawn has, and what it needs to thrive.
You’ll be surprised by how much money a good soil test will save you – allowing you to unlock what’s already in your soil instead of just adding nitrogen (when it might not need any).
I use this one from Amazon every spring. You dig up some soil in a few different spots in your lawn, mix it together, and mail it to the lab. Access your results online in a few days – couldn’t be easier!
You can also buy a basic DIY kit from your local garden center. It’s cheaper and the results are immediate, but they’re less accurate.
These basic tests will tell you your lawn’s pH levels, while more complicated tests tell you nutrient information.
I strongly recommend submitting your soil tests to a lab to get more accurate results. As I’ve mentioned, these tests are more expensive (but usually less than $30), but you’ll get very accurate information, and I’ve found that the money you invest pays for itself by saving on lawn care products your soil doesn’t actually need.
These high-end soil tests will give specific recommendations regarding how to improve your soil, and if you’re wondering how to make grass thicker and fuller well, that’s how you start … you give your lawn what it needs to thrive.
Fine-Tuning Your Soil’s pH Level
Your lawn’s pH levels tell you whether your yard is acidic, neutral, or alkaline. In the United states, yards tend to run acidic. Sowing lime in your yard lowers the pH levels and makes it more suitable for grasses. Lawns are healthiest with acidic pH levels between 5.5 and 6.5.
When applying lime to your lawn it’s better to under-apply than to overdo it. You can always add more later as needed.
Fertilize As Needed
Additional information on nutrients gives you specific guidance on what fertilizer to use, and how much your lawn needs.
If your lawn is lacking in specific nutrients, you can tailor your fertilizer to provide it the nutrition it’s missing.
Lawns primarily need three nutrients, which are listed on fertilizers as their NPK rating. This stands for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (which is listed by “K” as it is on the periodic table).
Every fertilizer offers a slightly different ratio of Nitrogen – Phosphorous – Potassium.
After your soil test you’ll know that your lawn is Nitrogen deficient, and would benefit most from a high-nitrogen fertilizer.
Or you may understand that your soil lacks phosphorous, and applying a starter fertilizer that is high in phosphorous will help your lawn grow thicker and fuller by giving your grass the nutrition it needs to improve its root system.
As you can see, the soil test will guide you toward the right product, keeping you from wasting time and money on nutrients your lawn doesn’t actually need to thrive.
It’s best to fertilize early in the season, just as grass comes out of winter dormancy. The exact date will vary based on where you live.
I recommend you follow that initial application of fertilizer up every 4 to 6 weeks with organic slow-release fertilizer. I ammend mine with Iron to achieve a dark green lawn.
Nitrogen is the key component to making your yard green and lush. Nitrogen helps plants grow leaves, and that’s pretty much all you want from grass.
Typically, you’ll find Nitrogen as the high number in lawn fertilizer NPK ratios, but during my first application of the year I will sometimes choose a starter fertilizer with some extra phosphorous. This works especially well for new lawns that are still developing their root system (phosphorous is what plants use for root development).
Do note, however, that phosphorous is not environmentally friendly and is regulated in certain areas due to run-off concerns.
Choosing the Right Type of Fertilizer for Your Lawn
There are two types of fertilizers, synthetic and organic.
Synthetic fertilizers are stronger, manufactured, and have high NPK ratings. The nutrients in these fertilizers are available to grass immediately after application, and these fertilizers will deliver quick results.
But synthetic fertilizers put in the legwork for the grass itself, and they mess with the natural balance of your lawn. In essence, your lawn will learn to depend upon them, and won’t be able to fend for itself if you stop applying them.
Organic fertilizers take longer to notice results, but they offer homeowners a safe, sustainable way to nourish their lawns.
Organic lawn fertilizer creates healthy soil conditions, and as a result, these fertilizers will help you achieve better long-term results.
It’s a more natural, and environmentally friendly option, and it’s the type of fertilizer I use on my lawn with great results.
I’m not here to judge you, or anyone else for using one type of fertilizer or the other.
But I will say that you should use a soil test to inform your decisions and keep track of nutrient levels in your lawn.
Next Steps You Can Take to Make Grass Thicker and Fuller
There are a few core lawn maintenance projects that you can complete to improve the condition of your lawn.
Anyone asking how to make grass thicker and fuller probably has a yard that would benefit from these three projects, and you can do all three at the same time in a single weekend.
Early in the fall is the best time to tackle these projects, though spring can work too.
Compacted soil means the grasses aren’t able to get as much air, and water to their roots, which is essential for the health of your grass and its ability to absorb nutrients.
Clay soil is notorious for being dense and compact, and many lawns that have high foot traffic from pets and kids likely will benefit from aeration.
Aerating your lawn is something you can do yourself by renting a machine for the day, or you can hire a lawn professional to aerate your lawn for you.
I have an in-depth guide to lawn aeration that is a great place to start.
Thatch is a layer of dead organic matter (dead grass clippings, leaves, etc.) which sits between the soil and your grass blades and prevents your lawn from getting the nutrients it needs.
Dethatching your lawn will remove the thatch buildup that is there, allowing water, fertilizers, and more to penetrate your turf and be utilized by your lawn.
Similar to aeration, you can hire a pro or rent a dethatcher for the day to quickly improve your lawns ability to absorb water, nutrients, and thrive.
I have an in-depth guide to lawn dethatching that will you get started with this project, and a guide to help you choose the best lawn dethatcher as well.
The Dethatcher I Use & Recommend
For lawns up to a half acre there’s one clear choice when it comes to dethatching tools. I recommend The Greenworks 27022 10AMP Electric Dethatcher.
It works really well and will pay for itself after a few uses when compared to renting a power rake.
Overseeding your lawn is the process of sowing new grass seed into an existing lawn. This helps your grass grow in thicker without the hassle of removing all your grass and starting from nothing.
Many people who want to make grass thicker and fuller will find that over-seeding their lawn in the spring and fall for a few years will get them to the promised land.
I recommend that you over-seed your lawn right after you core aerate and dethatch it. This allows your new grass seed to get great contact with the turf and will improve your germination rate.
Find out from your local provider what grasses are native to and grow well within your climate. Picking a grass that is suited to your area will make your life a lot easier because it removes the need to create the false conditions to make it grow. For instance, if your lawn is shaded, pick a grass that’s suited to shade. If your soil is clay, choose a grass seed that thrives in clay soil.
I have a guide to choosing the best grass seed for overseeding that may help you here.
Steps to Overseed Your Lawn
You can read my Lawn Overseeding Guide, but I’ll summarize it here for you as well.
Start by mowing your grass to lower than 2-inches and sow seed over the grass. Using the back of a rake, gently press it into place and cover with a thin 1/4″ layer of compost. This will help keep your grass seed moist and will also feed your lawn.
A starter fertilizer with high phosphorous levels will help your new roots grow in quickly. I use this one from Scott’s when I overseed, and I spread it prior to putting down my grass seed.
Spring and fall are the best times to overseed a lawn in New England (where I live), and any cooler climate.
If you live in the southern US, late spring is the best time for you to over-seed warm season grasses.
As the new grass grows in, it will fill in the areas between the existing grasses and help your lawn grow in thick and full.
Let your new grass grow to at least 3-inches before mowing it for the first time. Cut no more than a third the height of the grass, and bag your clippings on the first mow (you can mulch them into your lawn after that).
Maintaining Your New Lawn
To keep your lawn looking good, the most important thing to do is to water it regularly.
Your new grass will need regular, frequent watering for about two weeks after overseeding. After that, you need to water less frequently, but deeply once a week.
This transition will help your new grass grow deep roots that seek out that deep water when the surface of your lawn dries out. This will make your lawn strong and resilient.
Water in the mornings for best results.