With the promise of warmer weather right around the corner, homeowners are beginning the annual task of getting the lawn in shape for the warmer summer season. Surprisingly, many of the same lawn complaints are as commonplace in chilly Montana as they are in the tropical environment of Florida. While many of these areas may have the same issue, the solution may also depend on the climate.
Thin or Bare Patches
Drought, insect infestation, and heavy foot traffic are among the most common causes of bare patches on the lawn. Long-term solutions to this issue require uncovering the cause of the patches and implementing fixes, but it’s almost always a good idea to overseed your lawn in spring to fill in any gaps in your green. Visiting a reputable seed store for your springtime overseeding project can go a long way in ensuring that the problem doesn’t recur.
Patchy Lawn Growth on a Slope
Working with steep slopes in your yard can be challenging. Soil erosion, wind, and rain make it difficult to supply the area with the necessary nutrients for healthy lawn growth. In addition to these adversities and depending on the severity of the slope, ground compacting winds may also be an issue, along with possibly dangerous mowing conditions.
Attempting to ride a lawnmower or lawn tractor horizontally on a slope greater than 15% places the machine at risk of tipping over and causing a horrible tragedy. Each year almost 6500 people are seriously injured due to lawnmower accidents, and they remain the most common cause of child limb loss in the United States.
While growing and maintaining healthy grass on a steeply sloped lawn is not impossible, the process requires more care and pre-planning than in flatter parts of the yard.
Pet or Animal Damage
Most homeowners are keenly aware of the damage that pets and wild animals can unleash on an unsuspecting yard. Bare spots caused by urine and heavy traffic and holes from digging dogs can take a toll on an otherwise well-kept lawn.
Water can help lessen the damage caused by high levels of salt and nitrogen in pet urine. Setting aside a place for pets to urinate in the yard helps contain further damage. Treat any affected areas as soon as possible to reduce the impact on the grass.
Powdery Lawn Fungus
Mildew is the cause of powdery lawn fungus that resembles talcum powder on blades of grass. Humidity and lack of air movement are significant contributors to this fungus that can occur in any climate but is more common in the hot, humid parts of the country.
Removing trees or other shade-causing structures will open the area up to more airflow and sunshine, which will reduce the amount of fungus in the area. Watering the site in the early morning is preferred overwatering the site in the evening as this can worsen the infestation.
Although it is native to tropical and subtropical regions, crabgrass can spring up in nearly any area of the United States. This abundant weed is an eyesore on an otherwise beautiful lawn. Crabgrass is an annual plant completing much of its growth during early spring, stealing valuable nutrients from the actual grass in the yard.
Keeping bare spots out of your yard makes it difficult for crabgrass to move in and take over as the weed struggles in healthy lawns without extra space. Seeding or adding sod or plugs to thin areas of the yard help ensure crabgrass doesn’t take hold.
Grubs and Other Insects
Dead or thinning grass that appears at irregular intervals in the yard and areas that feel “spongy” or soft and shallow-rooted grass are some common signs of grub damage in your lawn. Grubs are the larval form of several types of beetle that burrow deep in the ground and feast on healthy grassroots.
Most hardware or garden supply stores have pesticide treatments available to eliminate a grub problem. Still, many homeowners successfully use everyday ingredients found in the home to treat the issue and keep these pests from moving back in. One is spraying a dish soap and water solution over the affected area to smother the larvae and beetles.
The roles of natural predators in controlling grub populations can make the homeowners’ task much more manageable. Birds and squirrels routinely snack on grubs as a supplement to their diet.
Lawn moss is a shallow-rooted plant that invades lawns by filling in bare spots and is a common reaction to poor drainage, sunlight, and compacted soil. Periodic mowing and inadequate fertilization exacerbate the problem of lawn moss, allowing the vegetation to thrive.
Controlling an infestation involves evaluating the area’s conditions and ensuring the soil has an adequate pH level for healthy grass growth. The soil analysis also reveals unmet nutrient needs for the lawn patch.
Lawn Moles, Skunks, and Ground Squirrels
Ground squirrels and lawn moles are burrowing creatures that cause severe damage to lawns by constructing intricate underground tunnels. In the best-case scenario, these tunnels damage the lawn’s root system and adversely affect the health of the grass.
But in some instances, these pests construct these subway systems underneath your home, causing the risk of structural instability and causing an absurd amount of damage. Areas of the house or yard near drains or septic runoff are particularly vulnerable since these creatures prefer living in moist soil.
Unlike ground squirrels and moles, skunks routinely dig holes in the yard, searching for grubs and other underground treats. While skunks are voracious eaters and can quickly eliminate the lawn grub issue, this can cost you your lawn.
Depending on infestation, there are a few options for eliminating these ground pests from your lawn. These little critters have sensitive noses and do not enjoy heavy odors. Many homeowners have had success by strategically planting mint or spicy varieties of pepper in the yard as a deterrent. But if the infestation is severe, it may be time to call in a professional.
Homeowners have struggled with growing grass in shady areas for almost as long as homes have had lawns. While pruning overgrown shrubs and trees can help reduce the size of the problem area, growing grass in deep shade is largely impractical. Even the most shade tolerant grasses require four to six hours of sunlight each day, making a ground cover solution for shady areas of the yard challenging.
While St. Augustine and Zoysia are shade-loving grasses that may reduce the issue, why not think outside the box for other ground covers that grow well in the shade?
Sweet Woodruff is a fast-growing ground cover that grows well with little sunlight. This deciduous herb keeps its deep green color well into autumn and grows to a maximum height of 15 inches. Wild ginger is another low-maintenance ground cover that grows well in low sunlight. This deep-rooted evergreen is also drought tolerant, making it an ideal choice for low-water areas.
Few things can frustrate homeowners more than spending countless hours cultivating a beautiful lawn only to have the grass develop differing shades of green. While this inconsistency can be perplexing, the cause is usually uneven access to either sunlight or water. Depending on the specifics of the lawn, this condition may or may not be fixable.
Creating and caring for a beautiful, healthy lawn takes work and a commitment. But once established, the yard will become a natural gathering place for fun social functions for years to come.