Tackle your worst lawn problems with our roundup of simple solutions to the most common grass woes. Whether your yard gets full sun, full shade, or something in between, we’ll help you transform it into the greenest — and healthiest — grass of your dreams.
Every year it’s the same story: The lawn starts out looking great. Then the bugs and fungus hit, and by the Fourth of July, that once-lush-and-lovely lawn looks like a war zone. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This season, arm yourself with information to win the battle.
Follow the one-third rule: Never remove more than a third of the total grass-blade height with any one mowing. When the grass is growing fast, you might need to cut it two or three times a week. Be sure to mow with a sharp blade. Sharpen it at least once a year.
If your lawn is covered with deadened spots, you may be able to blame it on Fido. Sprinkle the lawn frequently with water to dilute the salt content of the urine. If your lawn is littered with dark green spots, chances are you have especially poor soil, and the nitrogen in the urine is acting as a fertilizer. Train your dog to find another rest stop.
War of the Weeds
Sparse, underfertilized lawns commonly are infested with weeds. Avoid weed-and-feed products. They don’t work that well, and they unnecessarily put herbicide on every inch of the lawn. Instead, mix up a tank of herbicide containing Trimec, then spot-spray the weeds.
One of the biggest issues most people face is they simply don’t know how much or how often to fertilize. To make it easier, pick out some holidays and use them to prompt you. For cool-season lawns, Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween are good choices. Labor Day and the Fourth of July work well for warm-season lawns.
Moss is difficult to get rid of. Chemical controls aren’t very effective, and physical methods, such as raking or hoeing, don’t often get the job done. If moss is a problem, turfgrass isn’t the best choice for the location. If your lawn receives less than three to four hours of direct sun daily, choose a shade-adapted groundcover or a mixture of shady perennials and mulches.
Diseases produce dead spots and pockmarked scars. The best solution is to water only in early-morning hours to discourage diseases. If you suspect a lawn disease, check with your garden center about disease-resistant cultivars or call a Master Gardener (available through your county extension service) for help.
Grasses are full-sun plants. If your grass gets four or five hours of sun, consider shade-adapted species such as fine fescue, turf-type tall fescue, St. Augustine grass, or centipedegrass. If it’s less than four hours, forget about it and plant shade-loving perennials or groundcovers.
Ugly, wide-blade grass plants are usually crabgrass. Try to keep the lawn thick and green to naturally shade out crabgrass seedlings. As soil temperatures warm to 55°F, apply a preemergent herbicide such as pendimethalin. Consider a second application six weeks after the first.
Substantial dead spots in the lawn often are caused by grubs. Thanks to new products, grubs are easier to control than a decade ago. The key is to identify which species of grub you’ve got. Apply an appropriate insecticide about three weeks prior to egg hatch.
When soil particles get smashed from heavy traffic, the grass roots no longer have access to adequate air space for good growth. Clay soils are more prone to compaction than sandy soils, but any lawn can be compacted. A common symptom is water puddling after a rainfall. Aerate the lawn when conditions are favorable for growth. After aeration, consider top-dressing with dry compost to create a more favorable growing medium for the roots.