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Keeping things wild is a common tendency for first-time yard workers, and I was on the extreme edge of that spectrum when I moved into my apartment last May. If it was green, I kept it, not wanting to define "weed" too strictly and preferring a long, waving lawn. For about a month, things looked pretty cool: I lived in a tiny, new-growth forest smack dab in German Village.

Thing is, though, grass gets too long, folds over and starts to kill whatever is beneath it. At first what's beneath is healthy grass, then dead grass and, finally, a bare spot collecting sticks, twigs, acrons and walnuts. As you can see in the above picture, grass left long during winter is deadly to a lawn.

Before Sunday, I had a few patches of grass, many bare spots and a bunch of useless, harmful thatch. My yard will be shady in about two weeks, so I needed to act fast to fill in this nonsense.

To better access the bare spots and perk up the healthy grass, I trimmed everything super short. This is fine in April, when it's cooler and wetter. This weekend, I -- with amazing help from my parents -- started tackling the grass as follows:

View larger image 1. Raking: We took out the heavy stuff that had been tangled in the overly long blades. We filled about four 30-gallon waste bags.

View larger image 2. Thatching: We also removed dead, crispy blades of yellow and white that formed layers under the healthy grass that remained.

View larger image 3. Edging: Absolutely nothing was growing along the fence, and this had become just a dirt pile making the healthier parts of the grass look even uglier. So I edged a foot-wide bed along three sides of the lawn, putting down the same cypress variety in the main area.

Up next: I'll finish preparing the three-sided edge bed this week. I'll also start repairing the grass using an all-in-one organic lawn mixture that has paper mulch, seeds and nutrients. I want to have everything down before May 1.