The list of potential lawn problems can seem very long and scary, however, we are lucky in the UK and Ireland in having a great climate for lawn growth. Most people will never encounter most of these issues, but it’s useful to have a knowledge of all these to be able to help out your customers every time. We won’t go through every one of these here, and have produced a short booklet to help.
Weeds can look lovely in the lawn – and the truth is that many people enjoy them and want to keep them – and there’s nothing wrong with this if they achieve the lawn they like.
However, not many weeds look lovely in the lawn, or at all times of year – they grow erratically and leave the lawn looking scrappy and miserable, they will also spread, which can be a real problem if the weeds are prickly and you want the kids to play on the lawn. Or a poisonous weed if you want the pet rabbit to live on it.
The reasons for weed problems can be varied.
Lawn weedkillers have special characteristics which make them suitable for the job. They are safe to grass species, only targeting broadleaf species. They work by hormonally stimulating excessive growth and are absorbed through the leaves systemically. As they get to work weeds growth is boosted and they eventually die off.
Moss is easy to identify once you have seen it. There are many different species and habits, but in a lawn situation they tend to have the same cause and effects, so it isn’t important to know this detail.
The real problem with having acid soil is that the grass simply doesn’t grow very well, but moss is perfectly able to thrive. The problem here isn’t so much that moss has taken over, but that the grass just can’t get a good chance to grow.
There are a number of different kits and meters available to measure pH. The key is to make sure you take lots of measurements around the lawn in order to get a clear view of the pH over the entire area. Alternatively, you can send off samples to a laboratory for careful analysis. Once you know the pH you can decide what to do next. Using garden lime will help reduce acidity – apply, leave a couple of weeks and then test again – if the pH hasn’t changes, apply some more – probably the underlying soil is acidic and will tend to revert back, so liming may just need to become part of the lawn maintenance routine.
Poor drainage of soils can be due to a number of factors, but the end result is the same – that the grass simply can’t grow properly and moss (and even liverworts) can thrive instead.
What can be done about poor drainage depends upon the cause. If for example, to local water table is high and there’s just nowhere for water to go, then there is no real solution – you can’t get rid of the water. Sometimes, due to local conditions, a particular garden or area of the garden can drain poorly. So long as there is somewhere to take away the excess water, the answer here is a bit of construction – digging drainage channels to take a way the excess. Very commonly, the reason for poor drainage is that the soil immediately under the lawn is compacted, possibly due to having been trampled on for decades, or driven over. What has happened here is that the soil particles have all been pressed very closely together which prevents air getting in but importantly prevents water, such as rainfall, from draining away properly. The answer here is to reinstate the drainage channels.
Grass which doesn’t have enough feed tends to just yellow, lose vigour and competitiveness and then fade away and die out, to be replaced by moss. If you have tackled all the other reasons why moss might be a problem, then definitely look to feeding, probably best starting with a feed and weed product.
Many of the same conditions that allow moss to grow also help in the formation of thatch.
Thatch is the undecomposed remains of the lawn grasses. All lawns will contain some thatch, since it is a normal part of the cycling of nutrients back to the soil from the grass. However, sometimes if the process of breakdown is slowed or stopped for some reason, this dead grass matter will build up and up. It separates the grass plants from the soil, makes the lawn spongy and can be a reservoir for lawn diseases and pests. It will then impact the vigour of the grass growth.
Let’s take a moment to look at lawn diseases. Some of these do cause patches, but some such as red thread often don’t. However, it will reduce plant vigour and thin out grass. Answer = feed
Fusarium / Snow Mould can actually be encouraged by over-feeding of high nitrogen feeds encouraging soft sappy growth, specially if feeding was done just before winter. Good ventilation and strong growth of the lawn is the best way to prevent this so de-thatching and looking to how airflow across the lawn can be encouraged are points to consider.
Rust is more common than you might think, but rarely serious enough to cause problems or require treatment. Good general lawn care to improve grass is the best way to avoid it recurring…..
Patches can be caused by dogs urinating on the lawn. Female dogs generally cause more damage because they urinate over a smaller area which concentrates the salts and ammonia which urine breaks down into a smaller area, to do more damage.
As usual, it took a lot of time and testing to develop just the right mix of ingredients to fix lawn patches
This shows how Aftercut Patch Fix works. The special granules in the mix absorb salt and ammonia so it can’t damage the grass. Eventually these granules will break down and gradually release the nutrients to feed the recovered lawn.
It’s important to fix the patch as soon as possible, so we use fast-establishing varieties
Importantly, we developed a formulation which encourages the new seed to root into the soil, not into a surface layer, which can be mown away later.
Fairy rings are caused by a fungus which over time spreads from a certain point to form a ring. Different species of fungus can do this, some of these you can hardly notice, but others can have serious damaging effects on grass growth and might need tackling.
Moles are lovely things, but if you are a lawn lover they can be a serious menace. The tunnels they dig and molehills they create destroy the evenness of a lawn surface and can damage lawn mowers. Tackle moles by using a mole repellent or hiring a mole catcher. Note, there are no moles in Ireland!
Over-application, whether over the entire lawn or part of it can increase the concentration of salts to such a high level that by osmosis the water in the plant roots gets sucked out and the grass can be damaged or die. The best way to avoid this is to encourage everyone who buys these products to follow the instructions. For example, does the customer know how big their lawn is? We recommend thinking about how many cars could be parked on the lawn since each standard car parking space is 10sq.m Therefore if the customer thinks they could park 3 cars on their lawn then it is approximately 30sq.m and they don’t need a 500sq.m pack!
Ants on lawns can be annoying, especially if you have young children or pets which are annoyed by them. Also, some ants construct mounds which make the lawn surface uneven, can be unsightly and can upset mowing. Many people simply live with ants on their lawn, but where customers wish to control them they need to use a product which is approved for the purpose. Most any killers are not suitable for use on lawns since their registration permission does not cover this use. Termin8 Ant Killer is based on diatomaceous earth so can be safely and effectively used on lawns.
Generally speaking worms are to be encouraged since they perform a vital function in keeping soil healthy. However, sometimes wormcasts on the lawn surface can smear when mowing, spoiling the lawn’s appearance. One way to tackle this is simply to use a stiff broom to brush the casts away before mowing. Waiting until the surface is dry will make this easier and more successful. There are no products available to kill worms, but to reduce their numbers it is worth thinking about the conditions they prefer. Worms like slightly alkaline soils, so avoiding liming the lawn and even acidifying the soil by using ferrous sulphate / sulphate of iron can help. However, this will have to be done carefully to avoid making the soil conditions less suitable for grass, and possibly encouraging moss.
Badgers can cause tremendous damage to lawns. They dig away the surface, either to create a latrine (which is a regular and recurring problem) or to find food in the form of lawn grubs (such as chafergrubs or leatherjackets). Badgers searching for food will only tend to visit in spring when grubs are big and fat, and worth the digging. Once they discover this food source they can keep coming back night after night. Possible remedies are animal repellents, products to control lawn grubs (nematodes) or in extreme situations an electric fence such as might be used to protect chickens will be necessary.
Rough grass patches appearing in the lawn are a common problem, and can spoil the general even appearance of the grass. Often these grasses can be annuals which creates patches in the winter. There are no lawn weedkillers available to gardeners to control these grasses in lawns, so the only solution is to either dig them out and patch or re-seed or to spray the grasses with a total weedkiller such as Resolva 24H. Again, once this is done patching or re-seeding can be done. Caution – Resolva 24H will kill all green plants including lawn grasses. If used in this way it must be done precisely and carefully.
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