For many people, having your own lawn is one of the big perks of home ownership. A nice lawn is an outdoor space where you can entertain guests, relax on a weeknight, or play with the kids.
But maintaining a lawn can be a lot of work, especially when problems like weeds, fungus, and insect infestations arise. Here’s how to solve the most common lawn problems.
Grubs live in your soil and feed on your grass roots. Too many of them can cause parts of your lawn to die. To check for grubs, use a soil knife to cut into the lawn at the edge of the brown patch. Pull the dead sod up – if it comes up easily like lifting a rug, you have grubs. You should also see the grubs – they’ll be white little worms with brown heads and three sets of legs. They’re usually curled into a C shape.
To get rid of grubs, you can treat the soil with the insecticide imidacloprid, but you’ll need to apply it in July or August when the grubs are immature because it won’t kill mature grubs. For a more organic solution, apply Heterorhabditis nematodes to the soil.
Soil compaction can cause areas of your lawn to become brown, dry, and even completely bare of grass. Compacted soil is often the result of excessive foot traffic, but it can also result from broken, clogged, or poorly adjusted sprinklers. Aerate your lawn once a year and make sure your sprinklers are operating correctly.
Fungal lawn diseases are a real headache for homeowners because the first symptom most notice is a bunch of dead grass. Dead spots that appear fast and grow fast are usually due to fungal disease.
If you think your lawn has a fungal disease, consult with your local agricultural extension before applying fungicides to the grass. In addition to applying fungicides to your lawn, you can also control most fungal diseases by changing your watering and fertilizing practices. Again, consult with your local extension service to figure out which fungal disease you’re dealing with before you change your cultivation practices.
Dog urine can leave a brown dead spot in your grass with darker green grass around it. The obvious solution is to keep dogs off your lawn, but this can be easier said than done. Animal repellents often don’t work against dogs, but motion-activated sprinklers might. To fix the damage, water the spot profusely, and the grass might grow back on its own. If it doesn’t, remove the dead grass and reseed the spot.
Weed control strategies vary somewhat, depending on what weeds you’re up against. If you have tap root weeds, like dandelions, you have to remove the entire tap root with a two-pronged weeding tool or battery powered lawn tools, if not the weed will grow back. To control crabgrass, apply corn gluten meal to your lawn in the early spring, then practice good lawn cultivation to encourage desirable grasses to choke the crabgrass out. Cut your lawn high, and water and fertilize as needed for your type of grass. Taking good care of your lawn is the best way to control weeds of all kinds because healthy sod will discourage weed growth. Weeds that come up anyway should be removed by hand while the soil is moist, or killed with a flame weeder or glyphosate.
Sod webworm larvae feed on grass blades, leaving irregular dead patches in your lawn. If you have them, you’ll see webs in the grass and moths flitting above your lawn at night. You can confirm the infestation by pouring soapy water on the soil – it will make the webworms come out. To treat the infestation, aerate and thatch your lawn, then apply Bacillus thuringiensis to the grass.
Chinch bugs suck the moisture out of grass blades, leaving irregular brown patches on the lawn. Lawns growing St. Augustine grass are particularly vulnerable to this infestation. Treat it with pesticides and keep your lawn well-aerated. Try planting a resistant species of grass, like the Floratam variety of St. Augustine.
Moss Growing in the Shade
Most grasses don’t like the shade, so it’s not uncommon for moss to take over shady areas of your lawn. To encourage grass growth, keep your trees and shrubs pruned so maximum light can reach the soil. You can also try seeding shady parts of your lawn with grass that likes shade, such as St. Augustine or fescue.
Don’t let lawn problems ruin your outdoor space. Take action to protect your lawn, and keep bugs, weeds, and lawn diseases at bay, so you can continue enjoying your thick, luscious grass.