How to Turn Over a Lawn to Reseed

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Things You'll Need

  • Work gloves

  • Spade or shovel

  • Eye protection

  • Rototiller

  • Soil amendments

  • Seed spreader (optional)

  • Garden rake

Healthy soil has a balance of nutrients to feed your lawn.

If you plan to turn over and reseed your lawn, it's probably not because you enjoy hard labor. Many conditions can result in an unhealthy lawn, including disease, poor soil and even the wrong grass seed. Dig up a sample of your soil and take it to your local college extension for analysis. The results will show which materials are lacking and guide you to the right amendments to mix in and balance your soil.


Step 1

Put on work gloves to protect your hands. Dig into the soil and turn it over with the spade or shovel. Work along the edges of your driveway, borders of your flowerbeds and other areas where the rototiller's turning blades could damage plants or be damaged by concrete or other hard materials. Push the shovel approximately 6 inches into the ground. Lift up a shovelful of soil, turn it over and drop the dirt. Chop the sod and dirt clumps with the tip of the spade to break them apart. Continue until you have manually turned the soil around all obstacles in your yard.

Step 2

Put on eye protection to guard against flying materials. Take hold of the rototiller's handles, tilt the machine back toward you and roll it on its back wheels to the starting spot. Many people till soil in rows, back and forth across the yard, as if mowing the lawn. Set the machine upright and start the motor. Engage the blades to make them turn, if necessary. Some machines engage their blades automatically, while others require the use of a button or switch.


Step 3

Walk behind the rototiller, holding the handles. Let the machine turn the soil and move forward at its own pace.

Step 4

Tilt the machine back onto its wheels when you reach the end of a row. Maneuver it around in the opposite direction to begin the next row or to make another pass over the same row. Even powerful rototillers can require several passes over the same area to loosen the soil to the right depth, reports Popular Mechanics. Turn the soil throughout your yard until it is broken up to a depth of about 6 inches.

Step 5

Turn the machine off. Tilt it back onto its wheels and roll it off the yard.


Step 6

Apply soil amendment materials evenly across the dirt, including the areas turned with the shovel. FIll a push-cart style spreader with soil amendment and push it across the yard to distribute the fine materials. Use gloved hands or a shovel if the amendments are dense like mulch or compost.

Step 7

Tilt the rototiller on its wheels and roll it back to the starting point again. Repeat the tilling process across your yard to mix the amendment materials into the soil. This encourages deep, healthy grass roots and prevents the nutrients from washing away.

Step 8

Turn the machine off when you reach the end of the last row. Tilt it back and roll it off the yard.

Step 9

Rake the yard with an inflexible, metal garden rake, using long, even strokes. Distribute the soil evenly, redistributing any dips and bumps to flatten and level the soil.


Take a new soil sample to the college extension for analysis after adding amendments.

Choose appropriate grass seed for your climate and soil.


Keep hands and feet away from the tiller blades while they are turning. Some rototillers can jump or take off quickly, so use a firm hand.

Several hours of hard, physical labor is required.

Remove diseased grass with a sod cutter instead of turning it back into the soil.


references & resources

Lee Carroll

Lee Carroll

Carole Oldroyd, a writer based in East Tennessee, has authored numerous DIY home improvement, Human Resources, HR and Law articles. In addition to holding a degree in paralegal studies, she has more than 10 years of experience renovating newer homes and restoring historic property.