How to Fix the Most Common Lawn Problems

A little maintenance (and a keen eye) can keep lawn problems, such as weeds and bald spots, at bay.

A healthy, lush lawn is an essential element of your yard. It's more than just a backdrop for your barbecues; it's where your kids play and where family memories are made. But nothing puts the brakes on a celebration or a relaxing afternoon outdoors than unsightly spots or uneven growth. Fortunately, many lawn problems are quick to identify and easy to remedy with the right products and tips. Here are 10 common problems, along with the best solutions:

1. Uneven growth in the shade

Many types of grass seed don't love very shady spots. If you've got uneven growth in the shade, take these three three steps:

  • Make sure your trees are properly and regularly pruned.
  • Find a shade-tolerant grass type for your region.
  • For textural interest, intermix a shade-tolerant grass seed, such as Pennington One Step Complete for Dense Shade, with ground cover — either blooming or foliage focused. Good ground-cover options include Ajuca, creeping golden Jenny or Vinca.

2. Patchy slope

It's not impossible to grow grass on a slope; the trick is to manage the incline so that the grass can root deeply. There are two ways to do that:

  • Match the type of grass with your region and the growing conditions. For example, don't plant a shade-tolerant variety in a sunny spot or the lawn will be stressed due to lack of sun.
  • Terrace the space by breaking up the slope with naturalistic groupings of oversize boulders, or establish more formal terraces with retaining walls. Whatever design solution you choose, stepping the incline will reduce runoff and enable the grass to grow more evenly.

3. Weeds

Weeds of all types love to take root in lawns, and they're more apt to take over when your grass isn't well tended. To rid your yard of weeds, practice healthy lawn habits:

  • Mow regularly with a sharp blade.
  • Measure the rainfall, and then supplement as needed. Most lawns need about one inch of water a week. If you're in a particularly dry part of the season, water in the morning before temperatures rise.
  • Fertilize with Pennington Ultragreen Lawn Fertilizer 30-0-4, following label directions.

4. Bald or bare spots

Patches of dirt in your lawn, whether due to heavy foot traffic or disease, are unsightly and invite the invasion of weeds. To fix, take these three steps:

  • Dig up the spots, as well as several inches of lawn surrounding them.
  • Lightly till the areas and rake
  • Add topsoil and apply Pennington One Step Complete, following package directions and watering as needed.

5. Damage caused by pets

Cat and dog urine contains damaging amounts of nitrogen, which can cause your lawn to brown. The solution is two-fold:

6. Rusts (yellow-orange powdery spots)

Plant diseases known as rusts are caused by fungal spores, which can turn your lawn reddish-brown or yellow-orange. Rusts leave a powdery residue that can rub off on your hands and make inroads on areas of grass that are underwatered, extremely overwatered, or low on essential nutrients, such as nitrogen. Rusts spread easily and weaken grass, so practice good lawn-care habits:

Additionally, it's a good idea to perform a soil pH test once a year to determine the levels of phosphorus and potassium, and help you adjust nutrients as needed. Soil tests are available for a nominal fee from county extension offices.

7. Light rings filled in with grass

Sometimes called fairy rings, these unsightly spots are often found near patches of mushrooms. Simply remove them as you would bald spots, and then plant fresh grass seed, such as Pennington Smart Seed. Always select a grass seed appropriate for your region.

8. Moss

Moss can quickly overtake lawns that are compact, wet, shady and underfertilized. To eliminate moss, try these strategies:

  • Prune trees as appropriate to maintaining their health to decrease the amount of shade and encourage grass to grow.
  • Aerate and de-thatch to encourage healthier grass and relieve compacted soil. In thin grass areas, till the ground lightly and overseed with a grass that's appropriate for the sun/shade conditions.
  • Monitor both the amount of water the lawn receives and the pH level of the soil. Perform a pH test at least once a year. For very acidic soil (a pH number below 7), treat with high-quality lime, such as Pennington Fast Acting Lime; for very alkaline soil (a pH number above 7), add sulfur.

9. Thinning grass

A lawn that's less than lush likely suffers from bad soil and/or the wrong type of grass. Test your lawn's pH levels, and adjust as needed. Then, overseed using a grass type that's appropriate for your region.

10. Suspicious holes

Critters, such as raccoons and moles, can damage your lawn by digging, creating wilted, patchy areas. What those animals are searching for are common lawn pests called grubs. Grubs, if left unchecked, could infest an entire lawn. To find out if you have grubs, peel back a little patch of lawn and look for small, white, worm-like creatures. To remedy, use Amdro Kill Ants & Spiders, which may also be used to treat grubs. Depending on the level of damage, you may need to remove the infected lawn and reseed.

A weekly inspection of your lawn can help you identify and eliminate problems before they become landscape catastrophes. Monitor the health of your grass, and it will reward you with months of green, lush growth.

Pennington; Pennington 1 Step Complete and Smart Seed are registered trademarks of Pennington Seed, Inc. Ultragreen is a registered trademark of Central Garden & Pet Company.