There’s no doubt that cultivating a beautiful lawn takes a lot of work.
Dethatching, aerating, overseeding, watering, mowing…it seems there’s something to do almost every month of the year!
And then just as we think we’ve turned a corner, another problem pops up.
Thankfully, there are plenty of solutions to most of these inconveniences, and in this article, we take a look at the top seven types of lawn problems, and, most importantly – how to fix them.
Are you experiencing any of these concerns? We’ve got you covered!
- Lawn Care Issues – Too Long, Didn’t Read
- Identifying the Issue
- Thin/Bare Spots
- Bumps/Uneven Terrain
- Animal Damage
- General Lawn Care Tips
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Lawn Care Issues – Too Long, Didn’t Read
There’s a lot of information packed into this article, so it might be a challenge to condense it into an abridged version.
But here’s a glance at what we’ll be talking about, so you can jump ahead to your specific problem if necessary:
- Thin/bare spots.
- Bumps/uneven terrain.
- Animal damage.
We’ll also finish with a list of extra lawn care tips and tricks, so stay tuned for that!
Identifying the Issue
Before we dive in, it’s worth penning a few words on lawn problem identification. Understanding the issue is imperative when looking for proper ways to treat it.
If you asked any gardener – professional or otherwise – what the number one lawn care issue is, I’d bet my bottom dollar they would say weeds.
Check out this article on the six most common lawn weeds as an example – and there’s a good chance you’ve battled some or even all of them!
Come the growing season, they start to rear their ugly heads, and they can take over our entire gardens if they’re left to their own devices.
Grass can have a hard time combating weeds without help, as invaders such as crabgrass and creeping charlie can be a real challenge to remove.
So, what do we do about them?
Thankfully, there are countless methods for the control and eradication of weeds.
The type you choose will depend on a number of factors – including the location and species of the plant, the extent of the growth, and your own personal preferences.
For the control of weeds, you can try:
If you don’t have a very extensive weed problem, and you’re physically capable, the single best way to control weeds is to remove them by hand.
It’s eco-friendly, too!
You just need to make sure you get the root, otherwise they will likely come back. For dandelions and other broadleaf weeds, for example, I highly recommend the Fiskars dandelion claw.
Pre- and Post-Emergent Herbicides
Hard-to-kill weeds and plants with significant coverage require more robust methods, and turning to pre- and post-emergent herbicides is often the best course of action.
Take a look at this article on the different types of weed killer to make sure you’re getting the right one, and always make sure it’s safe for use on lawns, so it won’t harm the grass.
But you don’t have to use harsh formulas on your lawn. Take a look at this article for some more ideas on how to get rid of lawn weeds without chemicals.
Removing the layer of dead grass and debris on the top of your lawn can help control weeds. It’s also useful for preventing other lawn problems, too, and you should keep reading to find out more.
Sometimes, weeds aren’t the actual issue – they are a symptom. Undesirable plants with deep tap roots can be a sign your soil is too compact, and air, water, and other nutrients aren’t getting through.
Proper aeration is the solution, as tight compacted soil can cause more problems than a few weeds. We have more info on this process, below.
Boosting Grass Health
In the battle against lawn weeds, you have a potentially powerful ally – the grass itself.
Boosting grass health can help choke out weeds, and make the lawn a hostile environment for undesirable plants.
Using the right “lawn food” is a start, and you can check out this article on the different types of lawn fertilizer for more information.
Just don’t overdo it, as over fertilizing can cause a lot of issues itself (and we’ll discuss some of them momentarily).
Likewise, adding to the grass ranks can help you reclaim your yard, and a timely application of new seed will eventually help keep weeds at bay.
Read our complete article on overseeding to control weeds, and you’ll learn everything you need to know.
Starting From Scratch
If all else fails, and your lawn is beyond salvation and totally overrun with weeds, then ripping it up and starting again is a viable option.
It might be a last resort, but boy does it get results!
Once you’ve either removed or killed off all the plant life in the yard, you can try seeding, installing grass plugs, or laying sod.
And while the latter is the most expensive, it’s also the best way to ensure that weeds won’t come back – providing you’re using a quality product from a reputable turf farm.
Just Let Them Grow, Man!
Finally, there is an alternative to weeding your lawn, which is both beneficial to the environment, and means you don’t have to do any work!
Allowing weeds to grow is great for pollinators, for example, and it’s time “no mow May” was a more acceptable, widespread practice to give bees all the help they can get.
And let’s be honest, lawns aren’t that great for Mother Nature, anyway! Perhaps it’s time to consider alternatives, and this fascinating article on the history of lawns will tell you more!
When we look at our lawns, we always like to see a lovely shade of green. That means photosynthesis is working, and the chlorophyll is doing its job!
Alas, this isn’t always the case, and unsightly, discolored grass is a common problem.
This can happen for any number of reasons, including sun scorching, fertilizer burn, pet urine, frost damage, diseases, and even improper mowing.
As such, lawn discoloration is often a symptom of an underlying concern, rather than a “problem” itself.
For some of these issues, the first response is adequate irrigation. Flushing the area can help begin to reverse the effects of discoloration if you see brown or yellowing grass on your lawn.
This article on how to water your lawn correctly will tell you more, but again, in order to properly treat discoloration, it’s vital you understand what has caused it first.
Overwatering can cause more harm than good, and you might end up with a problem you were trying to prevent!
This article on how to protect your lawn from frost can help reduce the effects of the cold stuff, and how to winterize your lawn is a more in-depth look at seeing your garden through the dark times.
How to reduce fertilizer burn tells you how you can help your garden bounce back if you’ve been overzealous with the fert, or you’ve had an accidental spillage.
Go here for a full guide on seeing your lawn through a drought – which is a common cause of discoloration that pretty much happens every summer.
For pet urine, see our animal damage section, below.
Bear in mind that discolored areas of grass might not actually be a result of damage to the plant itself, but rather evidence of extensive thatch choking out the lawn.
This layer of dead organic material and debris can cause all kinds of lawn care problems as a knock-on effect, and it needs to be kept under control.
Check out our ultimate guide to dethatching – including how and when to do it – and if you need to dethatch in the first place.
Remember – a thin layer of thatch should remain, and it’s important that you don’t remove too much – particularly when summer is around the corner.
Patchy, bare areas of lawn can be the final result of general surface damage, and/or any number of the other problems contained in this article.
Basically – no grass is growing in that spot, as it might well have died off.
If this is something you’re experiencing, then, once you have discovered the underlying cause of the issue, you typically have three choices:
- Grass plugs.
- Laying sod.
Take a look at our article on grass plugs, which contains plenty of information about all three options, so you can decide which course of action is best for you.
For overseeding tips, take a look at the video, below:
Have you ever gone outside after winter and felt there was something odd about your yard? Specifically, lumps and bumps that weren’t there before?!
It can be quite alarming!
But this is a natural process to do with the freeze/thaw cycle, as the soil in our gardens expands and contracts throughout the winter.
It can also be a result of animal damage – but more on that problem is coming up.
The only guaranteed way to fix this is to lift the dirt and level it all off – but that’s a job nobody wants to do year in, year out.
Instead, you can always try a lawn roller – and that link has some of the best on the market. It’s not part of our essential lawn tools list, but it might be worth a go, nonetheless.
Don’t miss this step-by-step guide to leveling out your yard, which will explain all the tricks and techniques you need to maximize your chances of seeing effective results.
And you can check out this article for more advice on how to care for your lawn immediately after winter, to coax it back to life after the stresses of the cold.
Lawn diseases and mold can happen at any time of year – depending on the region you live, the type of grass you have, and any number of other factors.
Here’s a brief summary on how to fix the main culprits:
If you see circular areas of discolored grass on your lawn, you could have a brown patch issue. Check an individual grass blade to see if it has the tell-tale signs of tan spots with brown borders.
Thankfully, brown patch can be treated by simply improving the air circulation in your lawn, which can lower the humidity it likes to thrive in. Proper dethatching should also help.
Check out our ultimate guide to lawn aeration for tips on how to do it, and help prevent other lawn diseases at the same time!
And be sure you’re not over watering or fertilizing – particularly in hot conditions.
Easily identified as multiple small spots of tan or bleached grass, dollar spot is a problem for both cool and warm season grasses.
To prevent/treat this disease, you should take care with fertilization, avoid mowing too low, and maintain a moderate irrigation schedule.
Alternatively, you can improve your lawn care regime, and wait until it grows out naturally.
To combat snow mold, you need to stay on top of leaf litter and other debris in your lawn late in the year.
Proper dethatching can help remove and prevent it, so give your lawn a good going over with a dethatcher or rake.
And read this article on rakes vs leaf blowers for the best leaf control solution – it might surprise you!
Keep fertilizer use to a minimum, and maintain a suitable mowing schedule – don’t allow your grass to get too long in the fall.
So-called because of the hue it shares with metal rust, this fungal spore coats the leaves of grass with a rust-colored powder. New lawns are a prime target for this condition.
To prevent it, you should continue to observe a good fertilizer regimen, and mow frequently – but not too low. Collect the grass clippings this time, rather than mulching – as you need to remove infected grass blades.
Try to stay off the grass if it has rust disease, as it can easily cover your footwear and then the expensive hallway carpet.
Aside from improper mowing, watering, and general yard maintenance, lawn diseases are caused thanks to poor fertilizer application and use.
Dispensing an out-of-date product is one culprit, for example, and you can discover some interesting facts about fertilizer shelf life at that link.
And read this in-depth article on the four most common types of lawn disease – and how to treat them, if you’re looking for more information.
Even in residential areas, wildlife can be pretty eclectic, and we can experience all kinds of visitors to our yards at any time of day or (perhaps more commonly) night.
Some of these critters can be beneficial to our lawns, and others – not so much. The most common “usual suspects” include:
Moles – burrowing under the lawn, mole damage is unmistakable – raised tunnels and dirt mounds.
Raccoons – on the hunt for grubs and other insects, raccoons can go to town on a lawn, and almost do the equivalent work of a tiller.
Skunks – if you spot small holes dotted across your yard, then you’ve likely had a skunk visit looking for worms.
Ground squirrels – desperate to chow down on your flowers and veggies, ground squirrels don’t care where they dig their trails.
However, our four-legged-friends are also guilty-as-charged, and urine damage can be a problem when we let our pets out to do their business.
It’s pretty much like dousing the area with an undiluted fertilizer, and you should treat the area the same as you would with a fertilizer burn.
Either way, the discovery of animal handiwork can be extremely frustrating and disheartening to lawn care enthusiasts, as while they might be relatively easy to treat, addressing the cause can be more of a challenge.
Thankfully, we can point you in the right direction, and have several, dedicated articles on the subject.
Go here to learn how to prevent skunks from digging up your yard. And ditto for these links that focus on raccoons, and this catch-all article that covers preventing lawn animal damage in general.
In short, one of the most important methods for keeping these animals at bay is adequate grub and insect control.
Which leads us nicely onto our final section.
The product of beetles laying eggs late in the summer, grubs eat grassroots, and an infestation of the insects will bring all the animals to the yard.
You might have a grub problem if you notice excessive animal damage (as mentioned above), or patches of brown, discolored grass.
There are a few ways to get rid of grubs in your lawn, and you can follow that link for a complete guide on how to do so.
General Lawn Care Tips
To finish, I’ve included a selection of the best general lawn care tips and tricks that might well keep all of these grass problems at bay.
- Proper mowing is vital – don’t mow low! Read our essential advice on how to mow your lawn.
- Be sure you’re using the right equipment – this article on the different types of lawnmower will ensure you have the correct machine – and keep that blade sharp!
- Don’t overwater – not only is it wasteful, but it can also promote disease and water damage.
- Test your soil every year before applying fertilizer – understanding what your grass needs is crucial!
- Learn the different types of gardening methods – you might find the one you’re using isn’t the best option!
- Take great care when using chemicals or harsh products in your yard. When in doubt – choose a more organic method. Try this article for an eco-friendly DIY fertilizer, for example.
- Learn how and when to fertilize, as improper use can be the cause of all kinds of problems in your yard – and in the wider environment.
Remember, the most common causes of lawn problems are attributed to factors we have control of – watering, mowing, and fertilizing.
So don’t miss our complete, month-by-month lawn care calendar, which contains everything you need to know on the who, what, why, where, and when of lawn maintenance – because prevention is better than cure!
There are several types of lawn care problems that can give keen gardeners a headache every single year.
But armed with this information, you should be in a better position to find a solution, and get things back under control.
Drop us a line in the comments and let the community know your best approaches to tackling these issues. What works for you – and what doesn’t?
In the meantime, stay safe out there, and happy gardening!