But lawns are susceptible to diseases and pests, especially if they're left vulnerable from poor care like underwatering. Here are eight common problems with turfgrass, and how to spot and fix each before they get bad. Some are obvious, like a dog doing its business in the grass, but others require a little more detective work.
The soil pH could be too acidic, for instance. You can test the pH balance and add the nutrients, like lime or sulfur, that are needed to correct the pH, or replace the grass and soil altogether. Garden centers sell simple pH test kits, and you can create a basic DIY one using nothing but soil, water, and vinegar and baking soda. If you suspect your lawn requires deeper investigation, county extension offices, available in every state, offer more detailed soil tests for a modest fee. If pH or another factor, like a toxic herbicide improperly applied to turfgrass, isn't the cause, the culprit may be a physical obstruction.
If only one area of your lawn is brown, check your sprinkler coverage by testing the system; you may need to adjust sprinkler head orientation to get full coverage. Most lawns have a mix of different types of grass, and some types will start to wilt or turn brown before the others. The brown blades, even when mixed with healthy green blades, are early indicators that the lawn is starting to suffer from a drought.
If you haven't increased your watering since the spring, this is the time, Cain says. Check soil moisture by sticking a long screwdriver into the ground.
If the soil is dry a couple inches down, you need to water for longer periods of time to allow the water to sink deeper into the soil. Cooler temperatures limit evaporation, but the grass will dry during the day. Watering at night leaves wet grass, which can promote fungus. What the Lawn Is Trying to Tell You: The circles, sometimes called fairy rings, are the result of a fungus in the soil.
Sometimes mushrooms will appear in the circle. The fungal threads in the soil will initially cause the grass in the circle to appear greener than surrounding grass because there is more decaying organic matter there. But as the fungus grows and works deeper into the ground, it will eventually starve the grass roots by denying them moisture and nutrients.
Watering after dark can compound the problem. A fungicide is your first line of defense against the circles.
You only have to treat the affected area, not the entire lawn. If that doesn't work, you'll have to dig up the ring and start again with new grass. Consecutive wet nights in summer are a prime cause, Diller says. If there are dead spots in the lawn, examine the outer ring of grass adjacent to the dead area to identify the problem. You might see spots or discoloration or lines across the grass," Diller says. It looks like a spider web. What the Lawn Is Trying to Tell You: Large trees can block the sun, while pine trees drop needles around the trunk, which also can kill the grass.
To be perfectly honest here: let it go. There are short cuts, but the most effective fix is to get down to bare dirt and loosen the soil surface. Mow the lawn short and strip off or rake off dead matted grass. Then dig, till or scratch up the top 4 to 6 inches. This is a great time to improve the soil by digging an inch of compost, peat moss, mushroom soil or similar organic matter into the loosened existing soil.
This involves renting a machine that makes shallow slits in the ground with blades that cut vertically as you go along. Behind each of the vertical blades is a hopper that drops seed into the slits.
All grass is not created equal. Some varieties are much tougher, greener, thicker and more bug-, heat- and disease-resistant than others. Penn State and dozens of other universities around the United States run turf trials every year, mainly to help golf courses and athletic-field managers find the best types.
You can search out the top varieties yourself by accessing all of the university data at www. At the very least, buy the best grade of the best brands you can find. Or go online to buy some of the best mixes available. Bags also give use-rate guidelines. Loosen bare soil and then seed it and tamp.
These patches are ready for water. Lightly rake it in and tamp.
What time of day should you water your yard? No, create an account now. For two years now, I have planted grass that grows well, then dies in about a month. Sherry Lee. The reason I ask about the watering and time of such is because normally improper watering is what causes Brown Patch as it is a fungus.
Grass germinates best when pressed into the surface and mixed into the top one-quarter inch — no deeper. This means at least a daily sprinkling — maybe more in hot, dry weather.
Figure on 10 to 20 days for seed to germinate. A very light layer of straw helps retain moisture and prevent runoff. Water enough to dampen the top inch or two but not so heavily that it runs off and washes away the seed. Some people have good success using bags of lawn patch, which comes with seed, moisture-holding newspaper fiber and a mild dose of fertilizer.