Your lawn is a key part of your home’s appearance and curb appeal, and a lush, healthy lawn shows pride of ownership and dedicated care of your property. Even a well-maintained lawn, however, can develop problems. Fortunately, many common lawn problems are also easily fixed, once you recognize the difficulty.
The exact problems any lawn may develop depend on the grass type, its overall condition, soil composition, regional climate, moisture levels, and other factors. As many of these factors can vary from year to year, it isn’t unusual for a lawn to suddenly develop a problem it may never have had before. Once you recognize the problem, however, you can take steps to fix it.
- Thin Patches – Turf can become thin and worn in areas where it is overused, such as where pets or children play most frequently. Stressed grass under drought conditions can also experience thinning, and if left unchecked, thin grass may develop bald patches. Weeds can easily infiltrate both thin turf and bald patches.
- The Fix – Test your soil to ensure it is a good pH for your turf type, and use different amendments to enhance the soil if necessary. Reseed or overseed thin areas, or use patch repair for bald spots. Fertilize and water appropriately, and protect grass from overuse by spreading activities throughout the yard.
- Uneven Growth – In lawns that have some heavy shade and some full sun, grass may grow unevenly. This can lead to mowing problems as some areas are mowed too often, or others are scalped too low for the healthiest cuts. Poor drainage can also cause boggy patches and uneven turf growth.
- The Fix – Use the proper type of grass for sunny areas and shady areas, or opt for a mixed blend that can prosper in different conditions. Improve drainage in very wet areas, and in deep shade, prune trees judiciously to let more sunlight in and even out light levels for more uniform growth.
- Weeds – All types of weeds can invade even a healthy lawn. They will crowd out turf and may spread different blade shapes, runners, or flowers in all directions. A weedy lawn is unsightly, and could invite a wider array of pests and other problems, including weeds that may be dangerous or toxic to pets.
- The Fix – Inspect your turf regularly and note any new weeds. Identify the unwanted plants carefully so you can use the proper elimination techniques, including pre-emergent herbicides, targeted herbicides, or good old-fashioned pulling. Use appropriate watering and fertilization for a healthy lawn that will resist weeds.
- Pet Damage – Pets can damage lawns in different ways, from marking territory and urinating to digging. This can cause dead or brown patches, and will disrupt both young plants as well as established turf. This damage can also be a way for weeds and unwanted pests to enter your lawn and cause further difficulties.
- The Fix – Train your pet to use a specific area of the lawn for their needs so any damage is confined to an expected region. Soak urine patches as soon as possible to dilute the salts that damage turf, and reseed patches that need extra help. Also take steps to keep stray animals out of your yard to avoid the damage they can cause.
- Rust – Red or orange discoloration that rubs off on your fingers is a type of lawn fungus. These fungal spores can quickly spread and cause unhealthy turf all over your lawn, opening the door for other problems, including pests and weeds. This is most common during dry spells or when grass may be exceptionally slow-growing.
- The Fix – Do not over- or underwater your lawn, both of which can slow growth and encourage rust. Aerate grass to improve drainage and air circulation, and mow regularly to encourage ongoing growth and vitality that will inhibit rust. Check that your soil has adequate amounts of nitrogen for good growth.
- Grubs – A wide variety of grubs can become problems in the lawn, causing wilting or dead patches. An especially heavy grub infestation will also invite raccoons, armadillos, and other wildlife that will dig into the turf in search of a meal, and may also cause other damage to plants or property.
- The Fix – Identify the grubs carefully to ensure you are taking the appropriate preventative measures. Choose the right insecticide for your lawn type and infestation level, and apply treatments according to the instructions for optimum results. Remove other items, such as outdoor pet food, that could also attract unwanted wildlife.
- Dry Spots – Any part of your lawn that isn’t properly irrigated or where moisture can’t regularly reach can develop dry spots, leading to thin, brown patches or dead grass, typically in one concentrated area. Weeds will easily infiltrate these areas, causing more problems that can be a greater challenge to eliminate.
- The Fix – Check your sprinkler coverage regularly, noting if there is anything blocking water from reaching one part of your lawn. Adjust and repair sprinklers as needed, and adjust irrigation schedules to compensate for rain. Aerate your lawn if necessary to improve drainage so moisture will more easily reach the roots.
- Thatch – Some thatch is good for a lawn and can protect the roots and soil, but a thick, compacted thatch layer will stifle turf, create a spongy texture, and disrupt proper drainage. Thatch can also harbor fungus, grubs, and insects that can cause further damage to your turf and landscape plants.
- The Fix – Check your thatch in several spots around your lawn, and use hand raking or a power rake to dethatch as needed, disposing of the unnecessary material. Adjust your soil’s pH to encourage optimum decomposition of organic material, and aerate your lawn when needed to improve drainage that will help break up thatch.
- Mushrooms – Mushrooms and toadstools can suddenly sprout even in the healthiest lawn, and generally indicate poor drainage, dead wood decaying under the turf, or an excess of organic material that is fostering fungal growth. While mushrooms aren’t necessarily damaging, they can be unsightly and removal may be preferred.
- The Fix – Pick up fallen branches, bark, and twigs before they are buried in the turf, and dethatch your lawn when needed to minimize excess organic material. Improve overall drainage and adjust irrigation to avoid overwatering. Consider a fungicide application that could help control mushrooms.
The best way to minimize any common lawn problems is to maintain a healthy, well-kept lawn. Stay alert to your lawn’s condition so any problems can be detected and treated early, and adjust your mowing, watering, fertilizing, and other care schedules for the different needs of each season. Be sure your mower is sharp to cut grass with less stress, and check your soil condition and pH regularly so you can make any adjustments as needed. A healthy lawn will resist problems more easily, and you’ll enjoy all the beauty and benefits of your own patch of luscious lawn.