Turn Your Garden Back into a Lawn in 4 Easy Steps

garden turn into a lawn

So you’ve decided to give up on your garden, or perhaps you want to relocate it but don’t know what to do with that bald space where the old garden used to be. This step-by-step guide contains everything you need to turn your garden back into a luscious lawn in four steps.

Step 1: Clear out

clear out
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Clearing out may end up being your most complicated and time-consuming step. Therefore, the first thing to do is stop and assess the state of your garden. Has it been left unattended for months? Do you have a ton of plants to clear out? Maybe there’s a small tree that you’re not sure how to get rid of.

The approaches for clearing out an old garden may differ slightly depending on the type of garden:

  • Vegetable garden: Make sure to harvest as much as possible. You don’t want anything to go to waste. Consider starting a compost with scraps from this project. To harvest, cut at the base of each plant, and place into a bowl. Then, wash them with cold water before bagging.
  • Flower bed: Salvage plants that you want to keep and, dispose of or compost those that you don’t want. Remove any rocks, mulch, or rubbish and dispose of them properly.

Removing a small tree or shrub takes more time and planning, as you’ll want to ensure that there aren’t any removal restrictions for that type of tree and that you’re removing the plant in its entirety. This means digging up its root system. See Lawn Love’s articles on How to Cut Down a Tree Safely and How to Remove Bushes from Your Yard for more detailed information.

Remove weeds and dead plants from your old garden space. The key is to make sure that there are no weed seeds left behind. Weed killers that contain glyphosate, such as Roundup, will kill any existing weeds and ensure that any weed seeds left behind don’t germinate for up to four months. However, glyphosate has been linked to health problems. For alternative options you can buy at the store, see our lists of the best weed killers overall and the best weed killers for flower beds specifically.

For something more natural, check out Lawn Love’s 10 Non-Toxic, Natural Ways to Kill Weeds. This article has great recommendations for ways to smother weeds. A common way to do this is through a process called solarization, which can take up to eight weeks from start to finish. It involves covering the area with a clear, plastic sheet and letting the sun do its job. Most weeds, weed seeds, pests, bacteria and fungi in the soil will die. 

Make sure to plan ahead, giving you enough time to take the necessary steps, and prepare to plant your grass seed in time for the growing season.

Step 2: Till and amend your soil

Man Digging The Garden Bed
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Sowing seeds on compacted, infertile soil is not the best way to establish a new lawn, so you’ll want to know what kind of soil you’re dealing with. 

Purchase a soil test to evaluate the acidity and nutrient content and determine which amendments you’ll need. Lawn Love has another great article explaining the different types of soil amendments.

Next, remove any extra soil and flatten out your garden bed. The fertile topsoil can be used to start a new garden if you want.

Add a thick layer of compost and then a starter fertilizer high in phosphorus, which will help establish a strong root system. Additionally, add anything that you may need based on the outcome of your soil test. For example, if your soil is low in nitrogen, you’ll need to add a nitrogen-rich fertilizer or composted manure, as grass requires nitrogen to grow. 

Till the soil to aerate it. This allows roots to expand, breaks up compacted ground, and warms the soil. It also mixes your fresh compost and fertilizer into the soil. 

Then, use a rake to level the soil evenly with the existing grass.

Step 3: Lay seed

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Apply starter fertilizer again before laying the seed. Make sure that you’ve matched your new grass seed to your lawn’s existing turf. Sprinkle the seed in a thin, even layer across your space, being careful not to crowd them. To ensure proper grass seed coverage, seed your lawn in an east-to-west pattern, and then in a north-to-south pattern. For large areas, you can use a broadcast spreader, and for smaller areas, a handheld spreader will do. Of course, you can always seed by hand as well. 

Drag the back of a metal rake through the soil to mix your freshly laid seed and fertilizer into the top ¼ inch of soil. Add another fine layer of compost to lock moisture in while the seeds begin germinating.

Pro tip: Birds and other animals will feed on grass seed. Invest in a bale or two of straw or some mulch to cover your newly seeded area until the seeds germinate.

Step 4: Water, water, water

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This final step is the easy part. Keep the area damp until your seeds germinate, grass sprouts, and your space starts to look green again. 

Although some grass species require more water than others, a good rule of thumb is to not let the top half-inch of soil get dry. Gently sprinkle your seeds with water one to three times per day with a spray wand or shower nozzle to avoid displacing the seeds. 

Watering frequency depends on the type of soil, outside temperature, and of course the weather. You don’t need to water as often during the rainy season.

The germination process could take up to 21 days. Once grass is growing and established, you can pull out the lawn mower and start mowing like normal.

Follow these tips to keep your new lawn healthy and thriving!


Q: What is solarization?

Solarization involves heating soil to a high temperature by covering the area with plastic to kill weeds, pests, and harmful organisms over a period of weeks. The heating process leaves the soil clean and ready for replanting.

Q: What amendments will I need to add to my soil?

It’s safe to say that you will need a good compost and fertilizer prior to laying your grass seed, however, using a soil test to determine the structure of your soil will help you choose the right amendments for your particular soil.

Now that we’ve simplified the process into just four easy-to-follow steps, you are well on your way to getting your lawn back.

And remember, our Lawn Love lawn care professionals are just a few clicks away should you need their assistance.

Main photo credit: greg_nunes | Unsplash

Madeline Hoppe

Born and raised in Tampa, FL, Madeline Hoppe is a customer service expert with a deep respect for the written word. In her down time, she enjoys low-key nights watching movies with her family or heading to one of Tampa Bay's local beaches on a summery day.