Do you have the best lawn on your street, or do your neighbors snicker silently each time they walk past your house? Here are some tips on how to resolve common ‘lawn disasters’ – and prove to everybody that the grass is always greener on your side of the fence.
1. Attack of the killer weeds
They look the same, but the fact is that there are almost as many varieties of weeds as there are plants. To kill as many kinds as you can, apply a herbicide in both spring and fall. That should have your lawn weed-free by next year—unless you’ve got some really sturdy kinds. If the problem doesn’t go away in two years, start fresh. Apply a non-selective herbicide. This will kill your lawn, too, but don’t feel bad. After you replant, the lawn will grow back—but the weeds won’t.
2. Up-hill battle
If you’ve got a hilly yard, you may have trouble planting grass on slopes. Check the soil. Is it drier? Is it more exposed to sunlight? The problem is that the plants shrivel up before they can take root and get to all that moisture. You can try deep watering or laying sod, or invest in ‘hydroseed’ which is bundled in special material which slows down evaporation.
3. Bald spots
Your lawn is thriving, except for bare areas where the grass just didn’t grow. First check if these are high-traffic areas. Does your kid like digging there? Does your family cross this area to get to the neighbors’? Solve the problem by creating a path or patio, so everyone stays off the rest of the lawn. Then, in spring or fall, gently rake the area and reseed. Fence it off with small sticks and strings and water every day.
If the bald spot is under a tree, your lawn grass may not be getting enough sunlight. Plant a variety that thrives even in the shade, like fescues.
4. Weird colored spots
Your lawn may have brown, gray or even orange spots. The brown spots are caused by fusarium patches, which you can avoid by fixing up drainage and applying fungicide in the fall. However, if the brown patches appear in the late summer, you may have a grub infestation. Apply the appropriate pest control (try isofenphos, or chlorpyrifos) right after the eggs have been laid.
The bleached or gray spots are caused by dollar spots. Again, you need fungicide.
Orange spots on the grass? No, your lawn isn’t coming down with the measles. The real culprit is rust, and the fastest cure is to mow more often and then discard the clippings right away. If the spots keep coming back, apply fungicide.
5. Fairy rings
You may find circular green rings. According to folklore, a pixie, elf or fairy leaves a one every time it makes an appearance. (Fun trivia: the fairy ring in Stonge Henge is thought to be 300 years old—and it kind of adds to the character of the place, don’t you think?)
Why fairies decided to visit your lawn is anyone’s guess—but chances are, your lawn circles were caused by fungi, typically the marasmius oreades and the mycorrhizal fungi. You can solve the problem by aerating the lawn (keeping the lawn really wet for about five days) and applying fertilizer.