Adams County Master Gardener
Hopefully the drought is over;
the lawn has turned green again. What a relief.
Actually grass is very clever,
if its not getting what it wants it stops growing,
turns an odd shade of a dried dead color and crunches
when you walk over it. Its hard to believe that it
will come back to life when the conditions are
suitable. Then the rains appear, and the lawn is green
So its time to start mowing
again. But as you round the sides and corners of your
property, you may notice some- oh no-, un-alive areas.
Now what happened there? We need to begin with the
source of the problem to apply the best solution.
There are a variety of causes,
insects, lack of nutrition, disease , or animals. If
the grass was in good condition before the drought
then suddenly it is not recovering check for insects
or grubs which eat the root system of the blades. Pull
up some grass with your fingers; if it pulls out
easily without roots, this may be your problem. Grubs
are in the soil, but if there are more than 6 or so in
a square foot of soil , its time to act. Grubs are
active in the late summer so visit your hardware store
for beneficial nematodes; mix this with water and
apply with a watering can. Re-apply in another 6 weeks
if needed. You can also ask for a botanical
insecticide for the grubs.
Small round dead spots
surrounded by real dark green lush grass are called
dollar spots; golf course crews keep a close watch for
this fungal disease which can spread. This is caused
during the hot humid days when there is too much water
to evaporate at night . Stop by the Master Gardener
desk at the Ag Center at 670 Old Harrisburg Road for a
soil test kit to make sure the humid soil is not too
Sometimes areas look like a
maze was designed for an art project; voles (which are
small, dark and very fast animals, that just barely
catch your eye as they run by) eat all the roots thus
cutting the food source to the blades of grass. Moles
seek the grubs underground, causing brown dirt ridges
in your nice green lawn. Skunks also dig everywhere to
hunt for grubs. Voles and moles is another article; I
have tried a variety of tricks without improvement .
Send us your solutions and we'll compile them.
Or there may be a dip in your
lawn to even up; fill the area with top soil, pack it
down, water it well to make sure its level, then
Then there are the ant hills;
just pour hot water into the air tunnels.
Or maybe we have killed the
grass ourselves, by spilling something, Experience is
the best teacher, so of course I am speaking with red
cheeks. Early one fall day a few years ago, I
dutifully washed all my outdoor pots and containers
with the hose and cleanser for winter storage . By the
next spring my view from the kitchen window was not
pretty; there was a large dead patch in our lush
grass; I not only had to admit to my dumb deed but fix
But the most common cause of
dead patches is poor soil conditions, the roots were
too stressed by the lack of water to respond once the
rains came; this is the time to repair.
Visit your hardware store for
grass seed to suit your location, and buy a box of
starter fertilizer. Using a hard garden rake, rough up
the intended area. You may have to use a shovel to
loosen the soil if it is real hard. Then divide the
seed in two parts. Sow (sprinkle) the seed in one
direction over the prepared spot, like north to south.
Then sprinkle the second part in the opposite
direction, east to west. Using the rake make sure the
seeds are as evenly distributed as possible, to a
depth of 1/4 inch. Or sprinkle some topsoil on the
seeds. The apply the starter fertilizer according to
the directions. Then apply a light layer of clean
straw or marsh hay which is low in weeds, the soil
should still show through.
You can also buy green or blue
matting that is already seeded; lay this down on the
prepared area. Or dig the prepared area deeper and fit
a piece of sod from another area in your lawn, like an
extension of your flower bed.
The two secrets are starter
fertilizer applied only once and consistent spaying
with the hose, at least twice a day to keep it moist
or misted until the green haze appears. Then you can
reduce the watering, until the grass looks healthy.
To maintain a healthy lawn, an
inch of water a week is adequate, preferably in the
mornings. Cut the grass high in the summer at 3 inches
to develop deeper roots ; let the clippings fall back
into the grass as a mulch, . Feed your grass with a
slow release nitrogen organic fertilizer on dry grass
at least twice a year, early summer and late fall. If
the soil has become too compact like walkways, you may
need to rent an aerator, which pulls plugs out of the
ground; this allows water , air and fertilizer to
reach to root system. Recently more articles are
suggesting spreading organic compost around the lawn
in the fall; this filters down into the soil providing
nutrition all winter long.
Each of us, together, provide
many positive environmental impacts by maintaining our
lawn. Personally, its just satisfying to be surrounded
by green, its a comfort color in my world.
Read other articles on lawn care & weed control
Read other articles by Carol Sieck