WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY LAWN? TIPS ON SPOTTING AND FIXING LAWN ISSUES

You probably already know the basics of lawncare — how to mow properly, how much to water, when to fertilize. Yet sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, there’s something wrong with your lawn and you can’t quite figure it out. Makes you crazy, doesn’t it? Well, fret no more — here are the most common lawn problems, how to spot them, and how to fix them.

What does the problem look like?

If you don’t know what you’re dealing with, it’s best to start with what you’re seeing and observing first. Then you can do some research about what the problem might be so you can adequately address it before it becomes an overwhelming problem.

1. My grass looks patchy. If it’s patchy with bare spots rather than brown spots (see #5), it could be that your grass is getting shaded out by trees, or you’re using the wrong kind of grass for your sun conditions. You may have planted sun-loving Zoysia years ago when your trees were small, but now that they are mature, your Zoysia is getting shaded out. So, replace the grass with a variety that is more shade loving, thin your trees out, or consider a shady groundcover in the bare spots.

2. The tops of my grass look ragged. Could be time to sharpen your lawn mower blade! Dull blades will rip and tear, rather than cleanly cut, your grass, so sharpen that blade and mow a little slower so your mower has more time to do its job well.

3. My grass is pulling up without roots. You probably have grubs, which is the beetle larvae that eat the roots of your grass. And every lawn has grubs, but it’s when you have too many that the problems arise — up to 6 grubs per square foot is fine, more than that is not. How to treat? Use tough varieties of grass, develop a deep root system with deep but less frequent watering, and treat with beneficial nematodes in the fall.

ragged grass edges
raised garden beds

4. My grass is crunchy and not a healthy green color. You’re probably not watering deeply enough. When it’s hot outside, you might feel like your lawn needs “extra” water — but what it really needs is deep roots to withstand drought conditions. So, pinky-pact to water deeply but less frequently (once a week is usually plenty) and avoid sprinkling your grass daily.

5. My lawn has irregular brown patches in it. It could be brown patch — and yes, that’s the kind of obvious technical name for it. Brown patch is a fungal disease that’s prevalent in spring and fall when conditions are more humid and wet. So, water early in the morning to allow the grass to dry out before nightfall, avoid using nitrogen fertilizer in early spring or late fall, don’t overwater and don’t leave clippings with brown patches on top of the lawn.

6. I have weeds along the edge of my driveway or walkway. This could be damage from weed-whacking or string trimming. It’s tempting to want those edges to look so clean and neat that you scalp the grass too closely along the edges, thus allowing weeds to move right in. Just be aware when you’re performing those tasks, and attempt to trim more evenly.

brown lawn spots
weed wacking

I didn’t see my lawn problem in that list.

That’s because there are lots of potential lawn problems out there, from pest and disease issues to those that are created by inadequate care. If you have a lawn problem that is unusual, new to you, worsening, or very unsightly, here’s what you can do:

  • Take notes on what you are seeing and observing; be very detailed.
  • Take pictures on your smartphone.
  • Do a quick Internet search on what you’re seeing.
  • Consult your county extension offices for help — show them your notes and pictures.
  • Do not use a treatment or a fertilizer thinking it will help if you don’t know what the problem is — always diagnose first before using a treatment.
  • Consult a “green” or organic lawn care company — they are specialists in everything lawn and can address the problems without using synthetic and harmful chemicals.
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