Types of Grass
The two classifications of lawn grass are warm-season and cool-season grasses. Warm-season grasses flourish in the hot, humid summers and mild winters of the southern US. However, warm-season grasses are brown through the winter months. Warm-season grasses include Bermuda, centipede grass, St. Augustine, and zoysia.
Cool-season grasses predominate in lawns in the northern US and much of the West primarily because, as perennials, they remain green almost year round. Cool-season grasses include tall fescue, fine fescue, bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass. Tall fescue is an excellent choice for a year-round green lawn. In the Transition Zone, a region where both warm- and cool-season grasses can thrive, lawns are sometimes composed of grasses of each type.
Discolored grass. Discolored grass during the growing season is generally a sign of trouble. However, discoloration can be a symptom of a variety of lawn ailments. The causes can include the lawn being under watered, injured, stressed, nutrient deficient, or diseased. Since there are so many potential reasons for discolored grass, homeowners should have a lawn care professional perform a lawn assessment to diagnose the exact cause of the problem as well as the most appropriate remedy.
Diseases. Two common lawn diseases are Dollar Spot Disease and Brown Patch Disease. Dollar Spot, which is most common in Bermuda grass, appears as a series of brown spots—each about the size of a silver dollar. To fix the problem, the affected area is fertilized. The symptom of Brown Patch Disease is brown circular patches of grass. It is more common in St. Augustine and is usually treated with a fungicide.
Insects. Some insects, like white grubs, can be found plaguing lawns throughout the country. Others can be found in certain regions, such as chinch bugs that affect St. Augustine grass in southern states during summer, usually starting in June and lasting until September. These two insects will cause large areas of the lawn to turn brown and die if not properly treated. A lawn treatment professional will be able determine which pests are most likely to threaten your lawn.
Weeds. Weeds are a year-round problem. The two main groups of weeds are grassy weeds and broadleaf weeds. Grassy weeds, which include crabgrass, goosegrass, and Dallis grass, are most common in the spring and summer. Pre-emergent treatment can prevent some, but not all, grassy weeds. Broadleaf weeds, which include thistle, dandelion, and chickweed, are most common in the fall, winter, and spring months. A thick, healthy lawn prevents weeds by starving them of both nutrients and sunlight. However, it is often difficult to cultivate enough thickness for an adequate defense. Lawn treatment companies often apply pre-emergent to the lawn to stop weeds before they grow and post-emergent to control weeds already growing. To limit overall stress, post-emergents are used sparingly during summer heat. Professional lawn treatment technicians custom design their treatment programs to address each lawn’s specific problems.
Seeding and fertilizing. Early fall months are generally considered the best time for seeding. If the area’s soil is very acidic, a lime application to balance pH levels is also recommended. Balancing the pH of the soil will provide your grass seed with a better chance to flourish. For cool-season grasses, fertilization and aeration should also be done some time in late summer to early fall. Fertilizing helps a lawn recover from environmental stressors and encourages the natural thickening process of the grass.
Aeration is the process of allowing air to move through the thatch layer of the lawn and into the soil. Lawns that see heavy traffic or drain poorly are good candidates for aeration. Core aeration removes plugs of soil and grass and puts them on top of the lawn. Spike aeration pokes holes into the ground so the air and water can move into the soil profile. If grass seed is applied first, the spike aeration process will drive the seed into the ground. Both methods of aeration loosen the soil, allowing water to flow in and fresh air to oxygenate the soil. In addition, loose soil increases the efficacy of applied treatments. A lawn treatment professional can advise whether or not your lawn would benefit from aeration.
Keeping Your Lawn Healthy
Maintaining a healthy lawn is the most effective way for a homeowner to minimize the need to use lawn treatment services. Lawns that have been injured, stressed, or ill maintained are more likely to experience a variety of problems, including weeds, disease, and stunted growth.
Proper mowing is important to the health of a lawn. For one thing, it encourages turf grasses to grow more densely. Regular mowing encourages healthy growth and makes your lawn less inviting to insects and other pests. Additionally, it also helps grass use both sunlight and ground nutrients more efficiently. In effect, mowing helps strengthen grass so that it may form its own natural barrier to weeds. A general rule for any type of grass is never to remove more than one-third of the leaf height in any mowing session.
Similarly, making sure your lawn is receiving an appropriate amount of water is crucial to its health, especially during extremely hot or dry weather. Experts generally recommend giving your lawn at least an inch to an inch and a half of water during the growing season (March to September) and even more during prolonged hot and dry spells. Lawns not receiving enough water will turn brown, thin out, and become more susceptible to diseases and insects. True to their opportunistic nature, weeds will attempt to gain a foothold as your lawn falters due to water stress. Conversely, overwatering can make lawns more weed friendly and damage grass root systems by preventing oxygen from reaching them, essentially drowning them.
The sheer number of potential lawn ailments mean that the best way to determine the health of your lawn is to consult with a professional lawn care provider. A reputable contractor will be able to provide lawn assessments or evaluations for homeowners in addition to recommendations for the appropriate steps that should be taken to either improve or maintain the health of the lawn.
Lawn Treatment Companies
Because the quality of lawn treatment companies varies greatly, do not pick a company based on price alone. Some companies try to save money by taking a reactive stance; failing to apply the needed products; applying inexpensive, poor-quality products; or simply applying too little product to do the job correctly. If you care about the quality of your lawn, it is best to hire a reputable lawn treatment company.