Nothing adds more curb appeal to your home than a beautiful, lush, well-manicured lawn. But sometimes droughts, fungi, insects, or other problems can wreak havoc, turning the green sea of grass into a mishmash of ugly brown spots, wilted blades, or matted grass.
Brown Spots There are several reasons why brown spots, or even dead spots, can appear. Some are obvious, like a dog doing its business in the backyard, but others require a little detective work. The soil pH could be unbalanced, or something toxic could have been spilled in the yard, killing the grass. You can test the pH balance and add the nutrients that are needed, or replace the grass and soil where nothing will grow. Sometimes an obstruction just under the surface keeps the roots from growing. A lot of times, in inch below the soil, there can be a rock or stones, causing the roots to dry up. You have to physically dig up the rock and remove it.
Grass Is Wilting or Turning Brown It probably needs a deep watering. Most lawns have a mix of different types of grass, and some types will start to wilt or turn brown before the others. The brown blades, even when mixed with healthy green blades, are early indicators that the lawn is starting to suffer from a drought.
If you haven't increased your watering since the spring now that temps are higher and it's probably raining less frequently, this is the time to do so. Stick a long screwdriver into the ground to see how deeply moisture is penetrating the soil. If the ground is bone-dry a couple inches down, you need to water for longer periods of time to allow the water to sink deeper into the soil. You want to water infrequently but longer to encourage the roots to go deeper. Watering light everyday is not as good as a deep watering three times a week. The ideal time is between 5 and 9 am. The water won't evaporate too soon, and it won't stick to the blades overnight, which can promote fungus.
Circles Pop Up in the Grass The circles, sometimes called fairy rings, are the result of a fungus in the soil. Sometimes mushrooms will appear in the circle. The fungal threads in the soil will initially cause the grass in the circle to appear greener than surrounding grass because there is more decaying organic matter there. The decay is giving more nutrients to the ground and giving it more moisture. But as the fungus grows and works deeper into the ground, it will eventually starve the grass roots by denying them moisture and nutrients. Watering after dark can compound the problem. Watering in the evening can create a microclimate and make the fungus worse. A fungicide is your first line of defense against the circles. You only have to treat the affected area, not the entire lawn. If that doesn't work, you'll have to dig up the ring and start again with new grass.
Grass Is Matted Down This, too, could be a fungus problem. Fungus can be caused by consecutive nights of wetness. If you have an environment of dampness and warm temperatures, this environment can lead to fungi. You'll need to examine the blades of grass close up to see what the problem is. If there are dead spots in the lawn, examine the outer ring of grass adjacent to the dead area to identify the problem. The key is to look not so much at the dead as at the dying. You might see spots or discoloration or lines across the grass. With fungus, the morning dew hangs on it, so it's easier to see. It looks like a spider web. University extensions can help you identify the specific fungus, and they offer fact sheets or advice for treating it.
Grass Won't Grow Under a Tree Large trees can block the sun, while pine trees drop needles around the trunk, which also can kill the grass. Trying to maintain healthy turf under the tree can be a constant challenge. You'll have to trim back branches to let the sun shine through, or continually rake up needles. Even then, the grass may not grow. You're better off not fighting it. You're better off not having the competition between the tree and the turf. There's no point fighting Mother Nature. Instead, he recommends putting mulch around the base of the tree to add color and create an attractive border.
Insects Taking Over Insects can take up residence in your lawn, which can be a nuisance, especially if they decide to move into your house. The trick is to get down and get a close look to determine what the insect is. Once you know the insect, you can buy an insecticide to eliminate it. Knowing what you're going after is the key. It's important to use an insecticide that is labeled for that insect. You want it to kill the target insect you're going after.
Lawn Has Yellow, Brown, or Dark-Green Streaks Rows of pale yellow, burnt-brown, or dark-green grass are typically the result of an uneven fertilizer application. The areas of the lawn that received the proper amount of fertilizer will have healthy grass and turn a dark green. Parts that didn't receive enough fertilizer, or maybe none at all, will be a pale green or even yellow. Finally, grass that is overfertilized will "burn" and turn brown. To fix the problem, water the lawn well to encourage all of the grass to grow. If the burned grass doesn't bounce back, you'll need to remove the dead patches and reseed or resod the problem areas.
Grass Is Coming Up in Clumps If clumps of grass are coming up by the handful, there are probably grubs under the surface eating away the roots. Without the healthy root system, the turf will become loose and peel away. When you pull on the grass, it comes up like a welcome mat. You can see the grubs right there in the soil. Grubs look like short, white, fat worms. You can wipe them out with a grub killer, which can be applied to the lawn.