Many homeowners take great pride in their lawns and spend a significant amount of time, effort and money to keep them looking their best. Unfortunately all of that effort can sometimes end up doing more harm than good. Upwards of 80% of yard issues are caused by homeowners; here are five common lawn care mistakes that could be killing your precious grass.
Mistakes related to irrigation, specifically over-watering, are some of the most common and harmful practices related to lawn care. We all know that grass needs water but more is not better. Wet thatch and soil can encourage turf disease, attract harmful insects and kill grass.
Most turf grasses need between ¾” and 1” of water per week
One good deep soak per week is much better than frequent shallow watering as the water has a chance to penetrate the thatch and promote deep roots
Factor rainfall into your watering schedule, skip it all together on weeks with heavy showers or adjust accordingly
Water early in the morning (between 4am and 9am) to reduce evaporation and avoid scalding your grass with water that has been warmed in the sun all day
Drying time is equally as important as watering - if the soil or thatch remain wet for extended periods, latent diseases are more likely to activate
Cutting your grass as short as an Augusta National green may seem like a good idea, but especially in the heat of summer, it is unlikely to survive. Grass health starts at the roots and when blades are cut too short, they are less able to absorb the sun or draw excess moisture out of the ground. It is best to mow on a frequent basis (at least every other week) and cut no more than one third of the grass during each mow. Keep your mower blades sharp as dull or chipped blades will actually pull grass rather than cut it.
Fertilizer is a great tool which can be used to increase lawn health when applied appropriately. Like mowing or watering though, too much can actually damage the plants. Fertilizer is designed to add nutrients and balance the natural acidity in soil, making the grass more fertile. Over application can upset this balance and kill your grass or leave it looking burnt. Nitrogen rich fertilizers are most effective in spring and late summer, not during peak months of heat.
Misidentification of Lawn Problems
Even healthy lawns which are watered, mowed and fertilized properly are prone to pest damage. Pests can include various bugs or invasive weeds (unhealthy lawns are even more susceptible to these pests). Identifying which pests are impacting your lawn can be quite difficult as symptoms can be very similar to one another or mimic those of under-watered grass. Refer to these helpful articles to identify the symptoms your lawn may be facing or contact a professional lawn care provider.
Misidentifying lawn problems typically results in mistreating them - know thy enemy!
Mistreatment of Lawn Problems
Just as taking allergy medicines will do little good in battling a bacterial infection, mistreating lawn problems will be equally ineffective. Once you’ve properly identified an issue whether it be irrigation, lawn fungus or lawn pests, there are often many treatment options. Choosing the wrong one can further exacerbate the issue and possibly kill your grass all together. Even if your lawn survives, you will have wasted plenty of time and money. Further, if you know the issue and have the right treatment, be sure to carefully follow application instructions. There is no such thing as “deader” - using excess amounts of pesticides will not result in greater success and can possibly do more harm.
When treating lawn problems, it is best to work with a certified lawn care professional who has experience in your specific area. With so much information available on the internet and at home and garden stores to DIYers, mistakes are not uncommon. There have also been massive recalls of commonly used residential lawn care products which have recently killed thousands of lawns - professionals tend to stick with products they know and trust to avoid such issues.
Avoiding these five mistakes will save you time and money and your lawn will reward you with a great looking and functional space for your family and friends to enjoy.