The Q&A Archives: Lawn dried-out (dead)

Question: We have a lawn that was just beautiful last year; lush, thick and green. This year it seems that it is dying-out in some spots and spreading. It starts as yellow patches which eventually dry-out completely and turn-in to dirt pot holes. We have two big dogs that are using the lawn more now for their

Answer: Turfgrasses really need to be on a regular maintenance schedule in order to grow and thrive. Dog spots can really take a toll on lawns because dog urine contains concentrated salts and these salts can kill the grass, roots and all, and render the soil almost sterile. The only way to stop this process is to flood the area that your dog urinates on, as soon as possible after the fact. For the dead spots you already have, rake out the dead grass and roots, mix some compost into the soil to help balance the soil's pH and the overseed the area. As for the rest of your lawn, good lawn care can be summarized in three cultural practices: mowing, watering and fertilizing. If you will do these three properly, your lawn will be the best on the block! Frequent mowing is better than infrequent mowing. Mow on a 5-7 day schedule, removing no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade with each mowing. While many homeowners like to water 15 minutes a day, your turf will benefit from a good soaking applied less often. Apply 1/2 to 1 inch of water once or twice a week. A coffee can makes a good rain gauge to test out how long it will need to be run to apply an inch. Frequent wetting promotes disease problems and a shallow rooted turf. Let the soil dry out a bit between waterings and the grass will develop a deep root system and do much better. Fertilize with no more than 1/2 to 1 pound of nitrogen in spring after you have mowed the grass twice, again in June, another feeding in September and again in late November. Apply a product with a 3-1-2 ratio of nutrients as this is roughly the ratio of nutrients grass takes in. So, for example, if you purchased a 15-5-10 fertilizer (15% nitrogen), you would apply about 7 pounds per 1000 square feet (1 pound / .15 = about 7). If you purchased a 21-7-14 fertilizer (21 % nitrogen), you would apply about 5 pounds per 1000 square feet (1 pound / .21 = about 5). Healthy turf will choke out most of its weed problems. When the turf is thin and soil is exposed to the sunlight, weeds will sprout and you have a battle on your hands. So first concentrate on the above 3 cultural practices and you will be amazed at the results.

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