If you’re a dog owner, chances are good that you have a recurring problem every spring: a backyard dotted with bare patches where your beloved pooch has urinated.
Not to fear: Blogger Thea, of Time With Thea, struggles with the same conundrum thanks to her golden labrador retriever Duke—and she has found an easy and affordable solution. Here are Thea’s three steps to ridding your lawn of “burn” spots:
1. Rake the patchy areas to remove as much dead grass as possible.
Time With Thea
2. Apply a layer of extra-fine ground limestone. Water the area to help the limestone absorb, then let it sit for a week.
Time With Thea
3. Cover the patches with top soil then sprinkle grass seeds over them. Gently water the newly seeded area with a garden hose, taking care not to wash seeds away. Continue watering daily (unless it rains, of course) for a few weeks.
Time With Thea
Thea said she has used this process to keep her lawn looking good for 10 years! For more details and helpful hints on the process, visit Hometalk and Time with Thea.
- Preventing Lawn Dog Damage From Pet Urination
- Colorado State University
- Gardening Health and Safety Tips
- Dress to protect.
- Put safety first.
- Know your limits in the heat.
- Tips for persons with disabilities and physical activity.
- Enjoy the benefits of physical activity.
- Get vaccinated.
- What to do about brown grass after Winter, how to prevent brown grass after Winter
- How to Fix the Most Common Lawn Problems
- Cinch Bugs
- Pet Waste
- If Necessary, Call in the Experts
- Ounce of Prevention
- What is causing these brown patches in my yard?
- What is going on with my lawn?
- Disease Control
Preventing Lawn Dog Damage From Pet Urination
We all love our pets. However, as fun and rewarding as dogs are, lawn dog damage remains a serious problem and a challenge for pet owners. Urine damage from dogs is a leading cause of dead spots throughout the lawn. There are things you can do to help lessen the damage and to stop almost all urine damage. This page contains several ideas and strategies that may work for you.
You should expect a certain amount of lawn dog damage if you have pets. The best solution is to teach your pet to use only a small section of the lawn. Some people have even installed a gravel section and have trained their pet to use only that area. If training is not an option, there is always your neighbor’s lawn. (Just kidding, don’t do that.)
Understanding How Urine Turf Damage Occurs
Urine turf damage is probably the most common lawn dog damage affecting turf. Although both male and female dogs can cause urine damage, females are more frequently thought to be the culprits. Whether this assumption is fair or not, know that someone actually gave it a name. It is called “Female Dog Spot Disease”. It is not really a disease, but the “disease” label makes it sound more official.
The primary reason female dogs are singled out as the chief culprits of lawn dog damage is because they tend to squat in one place while males often go in less amounts in multiple places. This is not a hard rule. My large male golden retriever can go in one place for what seems like several minutes.
What Lawn Dog Damage Looks Like
Lawn dog damage is most notable on grass that is green or actively growing. Lawn dog damage takes a somewhat round shape from a few inches to a foot or more wide depending a lot on the size of the dog. Hot, dry conditions speed the grass’ demise. Occasionally there will be a green ring of taller grass growing around the perimeter of the dead spot. This dead spot is caused by an overload of nutrients in the urine that is concentrated in a small area. The green outer ring received less urine and is acting more like fertilizer, thus causing a dark green and rapid growth. It is also common to see the green ring around dog feces that have been left on the lawn for several days. Again, this is related to the nutrients leaching into the soil.
Why Urine Damages Grass
Urine actually contains many elements that are in grass fertilizer. Lawn dog damage occurs when an excessive amount of urine is concentrated in a single area. It is like spilling some fertilizer in a single spot on the grass. This concentration of nutrients is more than the grass can handle which burns the roots and the grass dies. The primary nutrient responsible for the damage is urea, a form of organic nitrogen. Commercial urea comes in many forms and is a popular nitrogen source found in many fertilizers. Besides nitrogen, urine also contains potassium and phosphorus. You may have noticed that nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are the main ingredients (N-P-K) in fertilizer. If urine is diluted with water it could actually be applied as a fertilizer. Believe me, I don’t need cheap fertilizer that badly. Urine also contains salts that can be harmful to some plants.
Most grasses can handle a certain amount of dog urine without adverse effect. (Smaller dogs more so than larger dogs) Tiny dogs may leave behind no damage at all. The exception may be during the heat of summer when lawn dog damage is most prevalent. During high temperatures of 90 degrees or above, pet urine may result in root burn, which can kill the grass. Sometimes the grass recovers as long as the dog doesn’t return to the same spot repeatedly.
Important: Drought conditions can increase the chances of nitrogen burn from pet urine. Nitrogen is the principle cause of lawn dog damage from pet urine. Roots are often waiting for water and will instantly absorb as much liquid as possible. To prevent lawn dog damage, implement proper lawn irrigation techniques during dry periods to help lower incidents of burned spots.
Affects of Heavy Clay Soil and Lawn Dog Damage
Heavy clay or compacted soil often drains more slowly leading to more lawn dog damage. This is because clay and compacted soil keeps moisture and nutrients in contact with roots longer. Well-draining soils, those with higher amounts of sand and/or organic matter, can either absorb moisture or allow moisture to drop below the root zone faster. Sandy soils do not hold moisture well, so nutrients tend to leach more quickly.
Adding organic matter, such as compost, helps solve many problems with clay soil. Please visit our page on Clay Soil to see how it can be done. However, we do not recommend adding sand to clay soil. Unless the sand is added in extremely large amounts, for example, creating a 50 percent sand to clay ratio, then you will likely create more problems than you solve. Adding just a little sand can make clay rock hard.
Ways of Decreasing Lawn Dog Damage
There are many home remedies that encourage your pet to drink more water thereby diluting their urine. However, avoid certain remedies that requires adding salt or baking soda to their food. Many pet foods (especially bargain brands) may contain a lot of salt already making the food more palatable. Adding even more salt for the purpose of increasing thirst may lead to other health problems down the road. Baking soda is a home remedy designed to raise the pH in urine, but extended use may lead to an increase in specific bladder stones.
Spraying water over urine spots: Using a water hose and spraying water over the area where you dog just urinated will dilute the urine and wash the nutrients down below the root zone. If you do this within several minutes after you dog has gone you will likely prevent any problems. The problem with this method is in trying to be vigilant all the time.
GrassSaver Dog Supplements: GrassSaver is popular among those seeking to prevent lawn dog damage. The product contains DL-Methionine. Methionine is an amino acid that is essential to a dog’s health. GrassSaver supplies an additional 133mg of methionine in a chewable tablet and works by making urine more acidic. Methionine is already added to many pet foods to adjust the product’s pH or is simply added for safe measure. Increasing urine acidity is not without some controversy, however. One concern that is sometimes cited, is by significantly increasing urine acidity may lead to bladder stones over time. It is always a good idea to check with your vet to be certain your pet has no kidney problems before starting them on pH altering products. Our friends at Countryside Pet Supply have GrassSaver and can help you with other dog related health issues.
For an all natural solution for increasing urine pH you can mix blueberries and cranberries into your pet’s food. The cost will generally be significantly higher.
Choosing the Right Pet Food: Foods For Active Dogs Understand that an “active dog” refers to dogs that receive exercise each day. Police dogs, actively working cattle and other herding dogs, dogs that accompany owners on long walks or jogs, etc. are considered active dogs. The canine equivalent of a couch potato is not considered an active dog. Non-active dogs that eat high protein foods designed for active dogs are likely to gain weight.
Choose a quality food with a balanced pH. Choosing high quality, highly digestible foods mean more nutrients are absorbed into the body and less material is filtered out in feces and urine. In other words, it means smaller feces piles and less damaging urine. Dime store brands often have a large amount of non-digestible material. In comparison, more of the cheaper food must be eaten to equal the same level of nutrients consumed in smaller quantities of higher quality, more digestible brands. Less expensive foods will not usually give the product’s pH and you often will not even get it by calling the manufacturer.
An example of quality foods include: Eagle Pack Natural Pet Food, Science Diet, Purina Pro Plan, Iams, etc. This is not intended to be an endorsement and there are many other quality pet food manufacturers as well.
Tips for Choosing the Right Pet Food Formulation: For Less Active or Non-Active Dogs: Pet owners have been taught that high protein foods are always best, so manufacturers simply deliver what owners expect. However, inactive pets usually do not need high protein foods. High protein leads to weight gain in inactive pets. Choosing a quality food with less protein means less weight gain for your inactive pet and less filtered nutrients in urine.
Increasing Daily Water Intake: A simple method of increasing daily water intake is to add water to dry food. Some dry foods are developed specifically for adding water before serving. Gravy Train is a brand that markets how water creates a gravy that many dogs like. Many canned pet foods contain more water than anything else and will help with additional water intake. Make sure fresh water is always available as well.
Repairing the Damaged Areas
No one likes looking at dead spots in the lawn. Fixing the damaged area by reseeding is not hard. Remember, however, you will first need to train or restrict your pet to a different part of the lawn. Some people have successfully trained their pets to use only a small area of the yard. Sacrificing a small portion of your lawn is not a bad idea for most people.
Below are a few tips on repairing pet damage in your lawn.
- For instant grass, laying sod over the damaged area is the best choice. It is important that you plant the same type of grass you have in the rest of the lawn. Some mixing is okay in cool season grasses, for example, if you have turf-type tall fescue, it is generally acceptable to plant a Kentucky bluegrass/turf-type tall fescue blend or a Kentucky bluegrass/turf-type tall fescue/perennial ryegrass. . It is not generally acceptable to mix different warm season grasses, however. Especially in full sun locations, do not plant bermudagrass sod into an established St. Augustinegrass lawn. The same rule applies for St. Augustine with Zoysiagrass or buffalograss. I think you get the picture. The exception is with bermudagrass. Bermudagrass only grows in full sun and will only tolerate very light shade. It will not grow in moderate to heavy shade. Planting a shade-tolerant grass in shady areas is acceptable in lawns where bermudagrass is the principle grass. Turf-type tall fescue works well in shade areas. The primary reason for not blending warm season grasses is because most warm season grass varieties have different textures. Different varieties also have extremely wide color variations from pale yellow green to very dark green and possess different spreading and growth habits. Some grasses can spread very aggressively and will take over a lawn. Instead, plant the same species of grass you already have. It may save you headaches down the road.
- If you plan on reseeding your lawn, the timing of your seeding project is important. Planting grass seed should be timed correctly. Warm season grasses are best seeded in the spring or early summer. Cool season grasses will do best when seeded in late summer to early fall. For most of the U.S. and countries with a similar climate, the times stated will offer the best growth temperature and give the young grass time to develop a complete root system before the summer heat of the following year. For more specific help with reseeding, including detailed descriptions, be sure to visit our page on Overseeding Lawns.
- Before seeding it may be helpful to saturate the lawn with water first or wait for a heavy rain. The downward movement of water in the soil will remove excess salts and certain nutrients. This is especially helpful if you have numerous pets that use the same area.
- When choosing seed, choose a grass seed that matches the grass you already have. “Patch Seed Mixtures” are not always the best choice unless they are labeled specifically for the grass type you have. Bargain seed mixtures often use the cheapest seed varieties in the greatest amounts, especially annual ryegrass. Annual ryegrass is primarily a winter grass and has a one-year life cycle. This means it will die when the weather warms in late spring. It is included because it is inexpensive and has the fastest germination times of any grass seed.
- Follow good cultural practices when planting seed or sod to ensure the best results. This includes irrigation, soil preparation, and proper fertilization. For additional help, be sure to check out our page on Overseeding Lawns.
Detailed Tips and Techniques for Overseeding Lawns
Overseeding Lawns is one of the most overlooked practices by homeowners. However, it is one of the most important steps you can take to maintain a consistently thick and beautiful lawn. Find complete information on why and how to overseed correctly.
Watering a New Lawn
Watering a new lawn is very different from watering a mature lawn. When planting a new lawn, success will be greatly increased by learning proper watering techniques.
Developing a Lawn Fertility Program
Behind every beautiful lawn is a good lawn fertilization program. Whether it’s a championship golf course or your home lawn, certain fundamentals always apply. Click here to begin planning your fertilization program.
Organic Top Dressing
Compost top dressing is a fairly new practice for home lawns. Get helpful advice and step by step directions for the best possible results.
Lawn Winterization Tips and Techniques
Fall winterization is the most important time for fertilizing cool season grasses. Warm season grasses do not receive the same treatment. Find everything you need to know to winterize both cool and warm season grasses.
Lawn Moss and How to Control It
Lawn moss is a common problem in yards. However, its presence represents deeper soil problems that must be fixed or the moss will stick around. Find out what must be done to finally end your moss problems.
Pet Urine – Preventing Lawn Dog Damage to Grass Care Facts
Pet Urine – Preventing Lawn Dog Damage to Lawn Care Academy Home
- Train your dog to urinate in one area to reduce the portion of the lawn that’s affected. If possible, fence in a portion of your yard so your dog only goes in that area. You can camouflage this spot with plants like tall grasses or low bushes so it’s less visible from other parts of the yard.
- Plant a urine-resistant ground cover in your dog’s potty area. One great option for this is clover. Some people have also had luck with seeding rye or fescue grass, both of which are tougher than the average lawn grass.
- Create plant-free, dog-friendly landscaping in the area of the yard where your dog pees. Or, do it in your entire yard so it doesn’t matter where your dog pees. A good solution is bark or stone mulch. Just be sure that the size and texture of any stones you use are something your dog won’t mind walking on. Sharp or rough edges may damage your dog’s paws or be so uncomfortable that it won’t want to go there.
- Increase your dog’s water intake. Feeding wet food rather than dry is a simple way to accomplish this, although it can be somewhat expensive. Dogs should be taking in a lot of water to maintain their health anyway, and the extra water may dilute your dog’s urine enough to reduce the nitrogen below the threshold where grass damage occurs. Of course, this approach likely means that your dog will have to urinate more often, but the benefits may outweigh the inconvenience.
- Use a garden hose to immediately rinse off the area after your dog urinates. Encourage your dog to urinate in a different area each time so the urine and the watering are spread out.
- Because your dog is adding nitrogen to your lawn, consider switching to a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Be sure that your fertilizer and any other chemicals you use on your lawn and garden are pet-safe.
- Supplements and products like Dog Rocks are advertised to help with grass burns. However, be aware that some products can be dangerous if they significantly alter the pH of a dog’s urine or have other negative health effects. Talk to your veterinarian before you add anything to your dog’s diet.
Colorado State University
CSU Extension has several publications for the Colorado gardener. Topics in this section include:
- Gardening Basics
- Fruits & Vegetables
- GardenNotes (Master Gardener Publications)
- Native Plants
- PlantTalk ColoradoTM
- Trees and Shrubs
- Choosing a Soil Amendment (2/13)
- Colorado Mountain Gardening Basics (12/14)
- Container Gardens (9/14)
- Drip Irrigation for Home Gardens (7/14)
- Gardening for Newcomers (3/13)
- Growing Plants From Seed (11/18)
- Spanish Version
- Hidden Value of Landscapes: Implications for Drought Planning
- Homeowner’s Guide to Alternative Pesticide Management for the Lawn & Garden (7/18)
- Homeowner’s Guide to Fertilizing Your Lawn and Garden (7/18)
- Homeowner’s Guide to Pesticide Use Around the Home & Garden (7/18)
- Home Sprinkler Systems: Operating and Maintaining (7/14)
- How to be Successful at a Farmers’ Market (6/19)
- How to Submit Samples to a CSU Extension Plant Diagnostic Clinic (4/11)
- House Plant Tips $$
- Landscaping for Energy Conservation (11/18)
- Spanish Version
- Mulches for Home Grounds (2/14)
- Watering a Home Landscape During Drought (4/13)
- Watering in Fall and Winter (3/13)
- Aquatic and Riparian Weeds of the West $$
- Xeriscaping: Creative Landscaping (3/19)
- Xeriscaping: Retrofit Your Yard (8/11)
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Fruits and vegetables
- Apples and Pears in the Backyard (11/14)
- Cucumbers, Pumpkins, Squash and Melons (9/14)
- Currants, Gooseberries and Jostaberries (1/17)
- Fertilizing Fruit Trees (12/14)
- Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden (5/14)
- Grape Varieties for Cold Areas of Colorado
- Growing Peaches $$
- Peppers and Eggplant (8/14)
- Spanish Version
- Pollination of Tree Fruits (10/09)
- Potatoes in the Home Garden (10/18)
- Preparation of Small Spray Quantities of Pesticides (4/14)
- Raspberries for the Home Garden (8/11)
- Spanish Version
- Saving Seed (9/13)
- Stone Fruits in the Backyard (5/16)
- Spanish Version
- Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds (9/13)
- Strawberries for the Home Garden (12/14)
- Training and Pruning Fruit Trees (9/09)
- Vegetable Gardening in the Mountains (3/14)
- Vegetable Gardening – Nitrogen Recommendations (12/14)
- Spanish Version
- Vegetables – Storing Home-grown (7/15)
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Trees & Shrubs
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Gardening Health and Safety Tips
Gardening can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors, get physical activity, beautify the community, and grow nutritious fruits and vegetables. If you are a beginner or expert gardener, health and safety should always be a priority.
Below are some tips to help keep you safe and healthy so that you can enjoy the beauty and bounty gardening can bring.
Dress to protect.
Gear up to protect yourself from lawn and garden pests, harmful chemicals, sharp or motorized equipment, insects, and harmful rays of too much sun.
- Wear safety goggles, sturdy shoes, and long pants to prevent injury when using power tools and equipment.
- Protect your hearing when using machinery. If you have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is an arm’s length away, the noise can be potentially harmful to your hearing.
- Wear gloves to lower the risk for skin irritations, cuts, and certain contaminants.
- Use insect repellent containing DEET. Protect yourself from diseases caused by mosquitoes and ticks. Wear long-sleeved shirts, and pants tucked in your socks. You may also want to wear high rubber boots since ticks are usually located close to the ground.
- Lower your risk for sunburn and skin cancer. Wear long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, sun shades, and sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher.
Spring and Summer Outdoor Safety
Put safety first.
Powered and unpowered tools and equipment can cause serious injury. Limit distractions, use chemicals and equipment properly, and be aware of hazards to lower your risk for injury.
- Follow instructions and warning labels on chemicals and lawn and garden equipment.
- Make sure equipment is working properly.
- Sharpen tools carefully.
- Keep harmful chemicals, tools, and equipment out of children’s reach.
Injury Prevention and Control
Know your limits in the heat.
Even being out for short periods of time in high temperatures can cause serious health problems. Monitor your activities and time in the sun to lower your risk for heat-related illness.
- If you’re outside in hot weather for most of the day you’ll need to make an effort to drink more fluids.
- Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, especially in the heat.
- Take breaks often. Try to rest in shaded areas so that your body’s thermostat will have a chance to recover. Stop working if you experience breathlessness or muscle soreness.
- Pay attention to signs of heat-related illness, including extremely high body temperature, headache, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, confusion, or unconsciousness.
- Watch people who are at higher risk for heat-related illness, including infants and children up to four years of age; people 65 years of age or older; people who are overweight; people who push themselves too hard during work or exercise; and people who are physically ill or who take certain medications (i.e. for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation).
- Eat healthy foods to help keep you energized.
Keep Your Cool in Hot Weather
Tips for persons with disabilities and physical activity.
Talk to your health care provider if you have physical, mental, or environmental concerns that may impair your ability to work in the garden safely.
- If you have arthritis, use tools that are easy to grasp and that fit your ability. Research shows that 2½ hours per week of moderate physical activity can give you more energy and can help relieve arthritis pain and stiffness.
- If you are taking medications that may make you drowsy or impair your judgment or reaction time, don’t operate machinery, climb ladders, or do activities that may increase your risk for injury.
- Listen to your body. Monitor your heart rate, level of fatigue, and physical discomfort.
- Call 911 if you get injured, experience chest and arm pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, or heat-related illness.
Arthritis: Frequently Asked Questions – General Public
Gardening Tips for EveryoneExternal (Arthritis Foundation)
Enjoy the benefits of physical activity.
Gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity. Active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.
- Be active for at least 2½ hours a week. Include activities that raise your breathing and heart rates and that strengthen your muscles. Help kids and teens be active for at least 1 hour a day.
- If you have been inactive, start out with just a few minutes of physical activity each day. Gradually build up time and intensity.
- Vary your gardening activities to keep your interest and to broaden the range of benefits.
Physical Activity and Health
Vaccinations can prevent many diseases and save lives. All adults should get a tetanus vaccination every 10 years. Tetanus lives in the soil and enters the body through breaks in the skin. Because gardeners use sharp tools, dig in the dirt, and handle plants with sharp points, they are particularly prone to tetanus infections.
- Before you start gardening this season, make sure your tetanus/diphtheria (Td) vaccination is up to date.
- Ask your health care provider if you need any other vaccinations.
Adult Immunization Schedule
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- Gardening Feature
- Healthy LawnCdc-pdfExternal (EPA)
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What to do about brown grass after Winter, how to prevent brown grass after Winter
Brown Grass After Winter
It is common for sodded lawns to be brown the first Spring after sodding. This is a natural occurrence and does not indicate any problems with your lawn. You will probably remember that your lawn was a beautiful dark green going into Winter. If there is plenty of snow during the Winter and it melts in late February, the lawn will still be quite green in the Spring. If there is little snow cover and temperatures Fall below 20 degrees for several nights, the lawn will turn brown. The colder the temperatures, and the more cold nights, we have will produce browner turf. Parts of the lawn that are protected, or had snow on it for longer, will often remain green.
Turfgrass researchers do not know exactly why grass turns brown in the Winter. Because it is not a serious or fatal problem, money for research has not been allocated. One researcher has theorized it is because the root system is not completely developed. Roots are where the plant stores carbohydrates that are necessary for early green growth. That would explain why lawns that were sodded in Summer and not fertilized in the Fall are browner than lawns that received Fall fertilizations. Fall fertilizations promote root growth and more carbohydrate storage.
Homeowners have two things they can do to minimize brown grass. First, select and begin a good fertilization program. An early fertilization will speed the process of greening up. Secondly, mow the lawn low enough to trim the brown tips off in late March or early April when the threat of cold nights below 20 degrees has passed. The brown tips will Fall into the grass and even a small amount of new leaf growth when it occurs will be visible and make the lawn look better.
Your lawn will probably be the most brown during the first Winter after installation. In succeeding years, your lawn will be a bit greener, but then again, weather will always be the deciding factor.
How to Fix the Most Common Lawn Problems
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 blend, 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:
- Dig out the affected areas, layer in top soil, reseed, and then treat with a high-quality fertilizer, such as Pennington UltraGreen Starter Fertilizer 22-23-4.
- Create a designated play and relief area for your pet on the perimeter the lawn.
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:
- Fertilize regularly with Pennington Ultragreen Weed and Feed 30-0-4.
- Aerate annually.
- Don’t overwater or underwater.
- Mow regularly.
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.
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.
These drought-loving bugs drain plant juices like tiny vampires. First your lawn will look wilted, then yellow, and eventually brown. Pull back a wilted patch and look for small red, orange, brown, or black bugs (1/32 to 1/5 inch depending on life stage) with white markings.
Thatch removal and consistent moisture are good preventative measures; insecticides are a last-ditch effort because many contain harsh chemicals that run off into the watershed and can harm beneficial insects.
These beetle larvae feast on turf roots and mimic drought damage. Use a shovel to undercut a 1-by-1-foot square of turf, then peel back the patch and look for more than 10 grubs/square foot, which indicates a problem.
To control grubs, let your lawn dry out thoroughly before watering again. Or, plant low-maintenance turf grasses that are more grub-tolerant than Kentucky bluegrasses or perennial ryes. Also, you can try spreading milky spore powder (40 oz., $76, treats 10,000 sq. ft.), a natural organism that controls grubs.
Round patches of dead grass indicate animals are peeing (urine contains acid) on your lawn. If you know a pet has a favorite spot, flush the area with water to dilute the acid.
Related: Landscaping Do’s and Don’ts When You Have a Dog
If Necessary, Call in the Experts
Diagnosing the problem can be tricky, and your local extension agent or a lawn care company can help you determine exactly what ails your lawn.
Ounce of Prevention
Here are some prevention tips that will help your grass stay green, courtesy of Kevin Doerfler of Grass Seed USA.
- Aerate and inter-seed (add seed to existing grass) in fall when weather has cooled and rain is likely.
- Fertilize in spring and fall. Don’t fertilize when your grass already is stressed or during drought.
- Water in the early morning to combat fungal diseases. Water deeply to nourish roots.
- In summer, raise mowing height to 3 inches or above. The taller grass will shade roots and reduce water loss from evaporation.
- Perform a soil test to determine what amendments your lawn might need.
- Why Fake Grass Is Gaining Popularity
- Early Spring Lawn Care Tips to Revive Your Frozen Turf
What is causing these brown patches in my yard?
All lawns are not perfect. Some homeowners are fanatical about how their lawns look and will go above and beyond to make sure that the fertilization treatments are done on a perfect quarterly basis, are watered on a daily basis, and mowed every 5-7 days. On the other hand, there are plenty of homeowners that simply cut the grass because they don’t want a fine from the city. Either way, both homeowners are not immune to brown spots in their lawn. One can do everything right and then suddenly there’s a patch of grass that is dead or is dying. There are a number of causes of brown causes and we will examine those shortly.
According to Miracle-Grow, Brown Patches are most common to Bermuda, Kentucky, Bluegrass, Centipede Grass, Bent Grass, St. Augustine, and ryegrass. They normally start as a small spot and can quickly spread outwards in a circular or horseshoe pattern up to a few feet wide.
So how can you prevent these brown spots in your lawn? Let’s first identify what the causes could be. So what GreenPal did was reach out to some local lawn pros to help us answer the question to what causes for this crop-circle type activity.
John Mojica with SAO Group Land Maintenance in Buford, Georgia warns us to check our mower blades first.
“Improper mowing can cause a lot of problems with your lawn. Dull mower blades tend to rip grass blades instead of cutting them, allowing the tips to dry out. Also, cutting it too low, or scalping it, allows the grass to crown and soil below to dry too quickly.”
Will Cagle of Cagles Cuts in Pevely, Missouripoints most of the brown spots to man’s best friend.
“Our 4 legged friends are probably the culprit for some of the brown spots or urine spots that show up in our lawns. Other large birds and certainly other animals can cause those as well but most of the time it’s the family dogs that tend to relieve themselves in the same location.”
Kristen Burnsed with the K Company in Orlando, Florida warns that it could be caused by chemicals.
“Fertilizer, herbicides, gasoline, kerosene, and pesticides can cause brown spots if spilled. If fertilizer is not applied properly or incorrectly, it can burn the grass. I have seen it too many times. Some insect repellents can also burn your lawn so be careful when applying that as well.”
So now that we have identified what could be a cause of brown spot, How can you fix it? GreenPal reached out to more lawn care pros to find out.
Sean Fitzpatrick of Sean’s Lawn Care in Nashville, Tennessee tells his homeowners to aerate the area.
“Dethatch, aerate, and fertilize. If possible, reduce the shade to the affected area and keeping a fertilization schedule will help quickly remove those brown patches. Nothing will be instant but those will quickly reduce the time your lush lawn’s down time.”
Chance Rosenberger of Curb Appeal Landscape in Charlotte, North Carolina says temporarily watering those areas will help.
“All lawns are different and are sensitive when it comes to watering, either because they have too much or too little of it. One inch per week is plenty but if your lawn is starting to dry out in some spots, increase your watering efforts just a little. This will help revitalize your dead grass.”
Whether it’s your 4-legged friend or you mower blades causing these ugly brown spots, following these tips can help get your lawn back into tip top shape.
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What is going on with my lawn?
If you’ve had unusual brown patches or blemishes appearing on your lawn this summer… don’t automatically take it out on the neighbour’s dog. Lawns can catch diseases that cause these unsightly blemishes.
For lawn diseases to occur they require a few conditions to be present all at the same time. When a pathogen (disease spores), comes in contact with a susceptible host (your lawn), and the grass is wet or damp for long periods of time… Ba-da-bing Ba-da-boom… brown patches of grass!
The diseases are identified by the different ways they distort the grass blades, the size and colour of the patches and the time of year.
Although fungus control sprays are available, they are usually quite expensive and work better to prevent the disease, rather than eliminate the fungus once it’s started. In most cases proper mowing and fertilizing keeps a lawn healthy enough to withstand most disease problems. The biggest factor to avoid is watering in the evening. Grass blades that remain damp during warm summer nights provide the moisture for the disease to thrive.
Some of the more common diseases we see are:
These patches are initially pinkish and eventually dry out to a tan colour. Upon closer observation, a distinctive red to coral coloured “thread” is often seen growing from tips of the grass blades.
Early development of Red Thread
Close-up of the red threads
These spots are usually straw-coloured and 6-12 inches round. A whitish hourglass shape on the grass blades distinguishes the leaf blades.
This disease is evident as a whitish film on the grass blades. It’s most common on Kentucky bluegrass grown in shady damp areas, such as between houses.
This fungus affects all types of grass and is normally found to some degree in all home lawns. Symptoms are yellow to brown spots and blotches on the grass blades. In severe cases the disease can advance to a condition known as “melting out” where the fungus becomes very prevalent throughout the lawn. At this stage the lawn has large yellow and brown patches and blades seem to be rotting at the base.