At one time or another almost all lawns have problems. These problems can range from poor color to thinning and dying. This guide is designed to take you through several steps to find out what's causing the problem. This is by no means meant to imply that these are the only things possible that can go wrong but more a way to get started toward a healthier more beautiful lawn.
The first step may seem very obvious but it is probably the most important. You must know precisely what type of grass you have. The more precise you are in this regard the more likely you are to quickly solve whatever issue you may be having. An example of this is St. Augustine. There are numerous varieties of St. Augustine and many have very different care requirements. This is also true of Zoysia and Bermuda grasses.
It is also important to know how much area in your yard is covered by grass. This becomes critical when you are fertilizing or applying an insecticide or Fungicide. The area is most often stated in square feet.
A soil analysis should be performed annually to assure that the soil is well balanced in terms of nutrients and pH. You can have your soil analyzed by taking random bits of soil from around the yard, mixing them, and taking a pint of soil to the extension service or others providing soil analysis (i.e. Lesco).
With all the above information in hand you can approach problem areas with a better chance of finding a good solution. Below are, in no particular order, some things to look at when your lawn starts to look bad. Irrigation ... too much or too little. Insure that all the heads are operating properly. This includes proper flow, range of motion, not blocked or restricted, etc. The objective of irrigation is to moisten the soil to a depth that will sustain the plant while not saturating the root zone.
- Are there harmful insects present? This is, at times, hard to determine. It is important to know the "usual suspects" as pertains to your type of grass and the signs of their presence. A soap flush is a useful tool to help get the bugs up where you can see them. This is done by mixing 8 oz. of dish detergent into a pail with 1-2 gals. of water. Gently stir so as not to create suds. Pick an area that shows possible damage and pour all of the liquid into a 2' by 2' spot making sure you incorporate "undamaged" grass as well as damaged. In a short period of time, 15 seconds to 10 minutes, you will see whatever bugs there are come to the surface. You can have these identified by the county agent if necessary.
- Diseases are also a common problem in maintained turf. Some grasses (St. Augustine and Zoysia grasses are more prone to disease than others (Centipede and Bermuda) but no grass is completely immune. Disease usually shows up as discoloration in an area or spots or lesions on individual leaves. The discoloration can be as small as a soft ball or much bigger. There is often a yellow and or russet color to the leaves in general. These may increase in size in short periods of time. Spots on individual leaves can take several forms. You may see small ovate spots or you may see the margins of the leaves with a concave discoloration. The key to diseases is to treat with a fungicide as soon as possible. Disease left untreated can do serious, long-term damage to a lawn. Fungicides are available "over-the-counter" and are effective when used properly. If you have doubts about the disease or treatment call a professional.
- Plants are like most other living creatures ... they need to eat in order to thrive and stay healthy. Each variety of turf grass in our area has it's own needs in terms of the fertilizers that are appropriate for good overall performance and health. Know the type of grass you are growing and feed it according to established guidelines. These guidelines can be obtained through the extension service or through Internet research.