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How to Combat Common Lawn Problems

When it comes to your lawn, the biggest problem you should have to face this summer is getting your kids to actually mow it once in a while.

Just like a car, regular maintenance is the first step in avoiding serious lawn problems. This involves fertilizing, generally four or five times per year with annual programs from your local Ace Hardware. Frequent mowings to maintain grass height between 2"and 3"will also keep your lawn healthy.

If blights do strike your lawn, however, here is the battle plan that will return it to glory:

Weeds

You must first get to know these unsightly lawn and garden invaders, which fall into three categories: annuals (one-year life cycle, spreads lots of seeds), biennials (two-year life cycle, spreads seeds in second year) and perennials (more than a two-year life cycle, seeds spread in second year and beyond).

The best time to destroy weeds is when they are young and before they begin to flower. Herbicides can be effective, but take care when using them to avoid damaging plants you want to keep.

When starting an annual lawn care program, begin with a turf builder that includes a crabgrass preventer. Apply it in the early spring, before consistent 80-degree temperatures. While you may have missed a step this year, don't worry, because the second step is also directed at weed control in late spring.

Bugs

Grass is a tasty treat to many a life-form, but it's the smaller ones that can cause the most damage to your lawn. Such pests either chew down the grass blades or feed on the roots, which causes thinning or brown sections of turf that sometimes can't be revived.

The third step in an annual program helps eliminate these pests during the hot summer months with a blend of fertilizer and insect control.

Shade

Some grass varieties enjoy the darkness shade provides, but no grass can survive in complete shade. To combat this, prune and trim tree branches to allow more sunlight through.

Shady areas need more water and fertilizer because the grasses compete with tree roots for nutrients. The best time to feed is late fall and early spring when the leaves are off the trees.

Raising the mower height by 1/2" to 3/4" in shady areas can also help since taller grass grabs more sunlight. Never cut grass in shady areas lower than 2".

Bare Spots

A balding lawn needs to be raked before it can be cured. Remove all thatch to discover the bare spots, then loosen the soil about 1" deep. If the soil is in a heavy-traffic area, loosen to 6" and add a small amount of peat moss or gypsum to keep it loose. Sprinkle fertilizer in the area and make it level, then use a top-quality grass seed and moisten the area. Water the area twice every day until the grass reaches 1" high.

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