Some of the first signs that a lawn is struggling is that its growth slows, it loses its healthy green color and begins to thin. Later it may become covered with white dust or develop brown patches, which may be dirt becoming visible or areas of dying grass. If they aren’t cared for promptly, most lawn problems gradually spread and eventually overtake the whole lawn.
In this article, we are going to share 4 lawn problems that we see on a regular basis and give you an overview of how we treat them, so that if your lawn begins to grow weak, you will know where to find the help that your lawn needs to regain its health and vigour.
1. Lawn Pests
Caterpillars are the most common lawn pests in Australia. There are various types of caterpillars, including armyworms, cutworms and sod webworms, but they all spend their nights eating lawn grass and growing until they are ready to build chrysalises and become moths.
A lawn that is being attacked by caterpillars has visible patches of brown dirt and if you look closely, there will be holes in the grass blades and stalks of grass that have been cut off at ground level.
If you suspect that your lawn has a caterpillar infestation, there are two ways that you can confirm it:
- Flood a section of your lawn, preferably an area where you can see damaged grass, and then watch closely for any caterpillars that might be floating in the water or climbing to the top of grass stalks.
- Turn a light on outside of your house at night and watch for moths. If an abnormal number of moths begin swarming around the light, you probably have a caterpillar problem or will have one in the near future.
We treat caterpillar infestations, as well as a few other less common lawn pests, with commercial insecticides. Some of these insecticides are curative and others are preventative. We apply the curative insecticides to lawns that are currently being damaged by older caterpillars. The preventative insecticides usually come in pellet form and we spread them on lawns that have reoccuring caterpillar problems. These preventative pellets are effective for several months and kill the caterpillars as soon as they hatch.
Both the curative and preventative insecticides must be applied with care, but once they are on the lawn and have dried or sunk down to the ground they will not harm adults, children or dogs and cats.
2. Lawn Diseases
Most lawn diseases are caused by fungi. Fungi are unicellular or multi-cellular organisms that attach themselves to the grass in order to steal its nutrients and they spread across the lawn by way of spores.
A lawn can be invaded by only one type of fungus or various types of fungi at the same time. Common symptoms of a fungi problem are:
- White, yellow or brown dust on the blades of grass
- Discolored spots on the blades of grass
- Black spots near the roots of the grass
- White slime on the surface of the ground
- Patches of dying grass
Fungi must have a generous amount of humidity to survive, so allowing a lawn to dry out completely between waterings will often resolve minor fungal infestations. We treat widespread fungal problems with fungicides. There are two classes of fungicides that we can use depending on the need. Contact fungicides dry on the outside of the plant and keep the fungi from penetrating the leaf blade, while systemic fungicides enter the grass’ vascular system and kills the fungi as it absorbs nutrients from the plant.
Lawn fungicides can be toxic, but we handle them with care and we will help you know how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Weeds are wild, unwanted plants that invade lawns and begin competing with the grass for sunlight, water and nutrients. Some common weeds include dandelions, nutgrass, bindii and clover. Most weeds grow and spread faster than grass and given enough time they can take over a whole lawn.
If a lawn has a minor weed problem, we usually try to kill the weeds with an appropriate weed killer or even dig the weeds up by hand. Any lawn, however, with a serious weed problem must be partially or completely replanted. To replant a lawn, we remove the existing grass and topsoil, spread new soil and then either sow grass seed or lay turf.
4. Nutrient-poor Soil
Lawns which are sickly, but don’t have caterpillars or other pests, fungi or weeds, are usually lacking vital nutrients. Lawn grasses need 13 essential nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur and calcium, from the soil in order to thrive. Sometimes the soil becomes depleted of these nutrients and the grass becomes thin, yellow and vulnerable to secondary problems.
We can usually correct nutrient-poor soil by applying a balanced fertilizer on a regular basis. Fertilizers come in slow-release and fast-release formulas. The slow-release formulas tend to be a little more expensive, but they don’t have to be applied very often. Fast-release fertilizers must be applied in frequent, small doses. The benefit of fast-release fertilizers is that they can significantly improve a sick lawn in one or two weeks.
Nutrient-poor soil can also be corrected with a topdressing. When we are doing a top-dressing, we mow the grass extra low and then spread rich organic dirt mixed with a balanced fertilizer all across the lawn. A topdressing’s main purpose is to give the lawn the nutrients that it needs, but it has the additional benefits of leveling the surface of the lawn, strengthening the natural flora in the soil, reducing thatch and also improving the soil structure to improve water retention.
If your lawn is looking weak and you suspect it has an underlying problem, contact us and we will be happy to look at it and help you know what it needs.