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A Majority of Problems
Crabgrass Taking Over Lawn
Crabgrass is a type of annual grass that emerges in warmer seasonal weather. It's a very stubborn grass with a strong root system that colonizes very quickly. It can cause a flatness or depression in your lawn that has a matt-like appearance. It looks like its name, a crab. The weed is very aggressive so if you spot it, eradicate it quick-like! They take over and squeeze out your desired grass and if not removed, the following year it can double its volume.
The best method is removal by hand. Make sure to remove each one pulling up the entire root system. Pre emergent herbicide applied in spring is the best preventative measure. There are post emergent herbicides available but keep in mind you may suffer discolorations in the lawn. If using a post emergent, early June is the best time to apply when crabgrass is less than an inch tall. You may need to re-apply two to three times before completely eradicating the crabgrass. Commercial lawn services will have the best post emergent herbicides at their disposal for treating young crabgrass. You might want to seek their help or at least get a quote before trying this on your own. Personally, I find it much more gratifying grabbing those suckers and yanking up the entire root system. I've captured some that were worthy of shellacking and mounting!
Remind yourself to apply a pre emergent herbicide next spring. You don't have to treat the entire lawn if you don't want to. Just treat the areas where crabgrass was prevalent the previous season and where the ground has been disturbed.
Lawn Turns Brown
Let’s consider that this brown discoloration is not from lack of water. You know this because your neighbor’s yard looks great. If your lawn is looking brown and it’s not from drought, chances are you’ve got thatch issues.
The primary component of thatch is turfgrass stems and roots. It accumulates as these plant parts build up faster than they breakdown.
Thatch problems are due to a combination of biological, cultural, and environmental factors. Cultural practices can have a big impact on thatch. For example, heavy nitrogen fertilizer applications or over watering frequently contribute to thatch, because they cause the lawn to grow excessively fast. Avoid over fertilizing and over watering.
Despite popular belief, short clippings dropped on the lawn after mowing are not the cause of thatch buildup. Clippings are very high in water content and breakdown rapidly when returned to lawns after mowing, assuming lawns are mowed on a regular basis (not removing more than one-third of the leaf blade). A thatch depth of ¼ inch or less is acceptable. Your clippings are collecting and decomposing at a good rate.
If you’ve got a ¼ inch or more it’s time to think about thatching or aerating. With a thatch that's too thick you’re inviting unwanted guest and preventing your soil from getting much needed moisture as well as oxygen to your root systems. Thatching is done in many ways. You can do it manually with a rake.
A good wire rake, or a heavier thatch rake will do wonders.
You can use a power de-thatcher. Many local gardening suppliers will lease equipment. Keep in mind; when you rent this type of machinery, it will take two or more to transport. If you’re not familiar with operating one you may want to hire some one. There are thatching mower blades you can use in place of your cutting blade. And again, if your not familiar with changing blades on a lawnmower, I highly recommend you get some one else to do it. There’s a lot more involved than what meets the eye. Aeration holes can be very beneficial, but unless your soil is completely compacted where rain water runs off, it’s not necessary to tackle thick thatch. It is, however, great for your soil and your grass roots.
Or you can use the simplest method of all and aerate as you stroll through your yard. Landscape USA makes this possible with a pair of aerator shoes. Keep in mind, "simple" or the "easy way out" can always bring on a new set of problems. The majority of reviews regarding these wonder shoes that we've read have common complaints in the strap design.
There are also decomposition products available at garden supply stores and nurseries that you can spread on your lawn to help decompose thatch by means of microorganisms. Ringer's Lawn Rx ™ is a product that will do this and you won't have to break your back. Thus far, organic thatch control through biological means has proven inconsistent.
Brown Spots on Lawn
If you find small dead spots on your lawn and you suspect it’s from dog tinkle, because everywhere else is healthy Scottish green and you only notice it near the bases of trees or hydrants, you’re probably right. If that’s the case heavy watering over time will bring the green back. Or you may just want to re-seed. If dogs aren’t an issue and you have more than one or two obvious dead spots, most likely you’ve got an insect problem. There are a number of good granule insecticides available and most will eliminate a vast majority of insects. You can even find some that are mixed in with a fertilizing blend to knock out two bugs with one, well, I won’t go there but I may already have. We take a closer look at bugs in the Pest Control Pages. There's a home-made soapy insecticide recipe there. Look for "Yellow patches in my lawn " article to find a great recommendation for chinch bugs. The "Chinch Bug Home Remedy" is very beneficial.
When weeds take over a lawn it usually means there has been poor maintenance of the soil and improper mowing practices. When the soil is airy and nutrient rich, grass will grow healthy to crowd out weeds. But when soil is poor, grass becomes too weak to fight back. Weeds will annex territory. No matter what you do some weeds will just simply find a way in and what kind of weed varies from soil conditions. In the Weeding Solutions page the article Kicking Weeds Out Of Your Beds I mentioned a soap based herbicide that effectively kills weeds. Spot spraying is a technique which often refers to and recommends before mowing, and occasionally after the mowing if needed. A broad leaf herbicide is often effective and does not injure the grass blades. Natural methods perform as a better method. They’re not always the easiest, but anything that has value, like a picture perfect lawn, won’t come without any effort. Remember, a good gardener doesn't necessarily have a green thumb, but has dirty knees instead.
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