Tips to Avoid Lawn Problems
When selecting your landscape, consider the amount of time and resources you need to maintain it. Drought tolerant native plants can save money, time, water, and energy. If you decide to have a lawn, choose the right type of turfgrass and maintain it properly. This will help you to have a healthy lawn, avoid many common lawn problems, and reduce the need for many pesticides—including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
Seven Tips to Maintain a Healthy Lawn
1. Choose the correct turf for your light conditions and lawn use. This will help you have a healthy lawn that requires less maintenance and smaller amounts of fertilizer and supplemental water. Keep in mind a turf’s tolerance to shade, drought, foot traffic, cold, salinity, and disease.
2. Establish an adequate depth of healthy soil—at least six inches under your turf.
3. Aerate your lawn once a year to improve drainage and reduce soil compaction.
4. Irrigate efficiently, making sure to water in the morning before 10 a.m., wet the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches, and allow the soil to dry out between watering.*
5. Mow properly, taking no more than one-third of the grass blade off with each mowing. Keep your mower’s blades sharp and clean, and mow when the grass is dry. Mow over leaves, so that they will decompose along with the grass clippings.
6. Be careful not to overfertilize. This can weaken grass and contribute to water pollution. Choose natural or organic fertilizers and always follow the label directions. Fertilize at the beginning and end of the growing season in your region.
7. Test your soil periodically before you decide to fertilize. Over-application of fertilizer can weaken your lawn. A soil test can help you determine which nutrients are lacking. Find your county Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agent, who can advise you on soil testing.
*Always comply with your water system’s water-use restrictions.
Solve Six Common Lawn Problems
Infestation: Drought stressed grass looks blue-green or silver, and individual blades curl. Footprints remain in the lawn after you step on it and the soil under the lawn is dry. All turf can survive some drought stress, although some types of turf require less water than others.
Prevention and Solutions: Choose drought-tolerant turf grass. Irrigate efficiently. For sloped areas, consider alternatives to turf.
Infestation: Shade stress occurs when certain types of turf grass do not get enough sunlight and thin and disappear, leaving bare patches of soil and areas of weeds. Buffalo and Bermuda grasses do not grow well in shaded areas and are most susceptible to shade stress.
Prevention and Solutions: Choose shade-tolerate groundcovers or shade-tolerant turf grasses, such as St. Augustine or zoysia, for planting in shady areas. Thin out tree branches a bit to brighten shady areas. Raise the mowing height on your mower to allow more grass blade to capture sunlight.
Infestation: Iron Chlorosis causes the blades of the grass to develop green and yellow stripes or to turn completely yellow. It occurs in alkaline soils with high phosphorus levels, and under cool and wet conditions.
Prevention and Solutions: Do not use fertilizers that are high in phosphorus. Topdress your turf with 1/4- to 1/3-inch of compost. Aerate your lawn once a year. For temporary relief, try adding iron supplements to your lawn.
Infestation: Take all-patch first appears as a yellowing of the grass and a darkening of the grass roots, followed by a thinning of the turf in irregular shapes. It spreads mainly during the fall, winter, and spring, but its symptoms generally do not appear until the hot, stressful days of summer.
Prevention and Solutions: Maintain good drainage. Don’t overfertilize, as excessive nitrogen seems to promote take-all patch. Raise the mowing height on your mower to reduce stress on your turf. Don’t use broadleaf herbicide, which may weaken your turf. Also, avoid urea-based fertilizers.
Infestation: Brown patch first causes circular patterns of dead grass blades. In a few weeks, new blades emerge in the center of the patch, causing a donut-like appearance. This problem occurs most commonly during the late fall through early spring and is promoted by wet weather or frequent irrigation.
Prevention and Solutions: Don’t overfertilize or overwater your lawn. Aerate your lawn once a year. At the first sign of the disease, apply a fungicide to the affected area.
Infestation: There are two types of weeds, grassy and broadleaf. They are usually the result of poor turf, rather than being the cause of it. Weeds are aggressive and reproduce quickly, invading areas of thin, weak turf.
Prevention and Solutions: Keep plants healthy to help them outcompete weeds. Monitor and remove weeds regularly, before they go to seed. Do not bring soil with weed seeds or weed roots on-site. Use drip irrigation in beds so that you apply water only where you need it. Minimize foot traffic and pet activity in shady areas.