Irregular lawn growth and color

78FoxesApril 10, 2012

I am very frustrated... We are in a new house, last summer was our first. I had the same issue last year and am trying to figure it out this season. First, I have two dogs, so take that into consideration, but as you will see, I do not think they are the main culprit here. My back yard is very irregular in its growth with lush green patches that grown dense with the most perfect looking grass I have ever seen that grows much faster than the rest, and areas that are much less green with some straw colors mixed in that does not seem to grow much if at all to the point I can never really see my mower path in those areas. These areas can start and stop on a dime, not gradually, so they stand out quite dramatically as islands in the lawn and can be 5-10 inches in diameter or several feet around. There are also a few dead patches here and there which I expect are from the dogs, but surrounding those dead patches are some of the most lush areas of green grass; I have read that dog urine if it doesn't kill can actually boost growth with the salts in the urine, is this true? The more heavily traveled areas are some of the slowest and least green, but areas that are not heavily traveled are also much less green than the dense patches and do not seem to grow much if at all. I expected compaction might be an issue and that aeration may be the solution but I also read many posts that it is not necessary in most cases and could be detrimental... So I am confused. My biggest question are why I have these beautiful patches surrounded by grass that is mediocre at best. Thanks for any insight.

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Dog urine contains urea, which is an excellent source of nitrogen and is used as the nitrogen component of many fertilizers. It is very common to get these "islands" of green from your dogs. The ones that are brown surrounded by green have fertilizer burn in the middle, hence the brown. As the amount of urine becomes more diffuse it greens up the area around the burn. Female dogs tend to produce more burn areas as they squat and pee, whereas males kind of move around a bit as they stand and pee, which spreads it out more. Often if you look at the base of road signs and fire hydrants the grass around them is very green and lush.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 9:19PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I have apparently harped enough about core aeration that I overshot my mark. I do not think core aeration is detrimental. If you do it, go ahead and do the heck out of it. Run the aerator in 8 different compass points. Concentrate on high areas and go lightly on low areas. Then sweep the plugs from the high areas into the low areas to build them up. Then water like it will be your last time for a month. Try to fill the holes with water - you can't but the idea is to get some moisture really deep into the soil so it will last a good long time. My issue with core aerating it that it is hard work, takes a long time, and costs too much to rent the equipment. I think you can get the same effect by spraying with soap. But anyway...

Do you know what kind of grasses you have? I am going to guess fescue and Kentucky bluegrass since you have described features of each one.

How often do you water and for how long when you do?

How high/low are you mowing? How often?

How often do you fertilize? Do you know what you used last and when?

I think I know the answer to the key question but I don't want to embarrass myself (again) by jumping the gun launching straight into an answer that doesn't apply.

Can you post pictures of your lawn? Sometimes that makes all the difference.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 9:38PM
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Thanks dchall, I will definitely try the soap thing, it is worth a try. As for your questions:

Do you know what kind of grasses you have? I am going to guess fescue and Kentucky bluegrass since you have described features of each one. Not sure, I think your guess is right on and my overseeing is with typical sun/shade blends.

How often do you fertilize? Do you know what you used last and when? I typically try to not overfertilize in the back due to the dogs and children that play there. Last year I used some Ironite early on and then used a spray weed and feed twice through the season. This year, as I am trying to reestablish a few areas, I did the entire lawn with starter fertilizer.

I think I know the answer to the key question but I don't want to embarrass myself (again) by jumping the gun launching straight into an answer that doesn't apply.

Can you post pictures of your lawn? Sometimes that makes all the difference. I will get some pics this evening and repost tonight.

Thanks for the help.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 8:25AM
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I have some pictures but I can't figure out how to attach/upload them to the message. Can someone give me some pointers?


    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 8:44PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

GardenWeb does not host pictures. If you have pictures hosted somewhere else on the Internet, GW can link to them. An Internet photo hosting site might be tumblr, photobucket, picasa, or some others. Then you need to use the correct HTML code so it shows up here. Here is that code.


You get your photo URL by bringing up the photo (in your browser at the host's site) and right clicking on it. Select Copy Link Location. Then paste that location between the quotes in the code above. The quotes are necessary for this to work. Don't leave them out. The photo URL should look like this

Putting it all together it will look something like this...

<img src="">;

Then post your message like normal.

Basics of Lawn Care

After reading numerous books and magazines on lawn care, caring for lawns at seven houses in my life, and reading numerous forums where real people write in to discuss their successes and failures, I have decided to side with the real people and dispense with the book and magazine authors. I don't know what star their planet rotates around but it's not mine. With that in mind, here is the collected wisdom of the Internet savvy homeowners and lawn care professionals summarized in a few words. If you follow the advice here you will have conquered at least 50% of all lawn problems. Once you have these three elements mastered, then you can worry about weeds (if you have any), dog spots, and striping your lawn. But if you are not doing these three things, they will be the first three things suggested for you to correct.

Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means at least an hour in every zone, all at once. Infrequently means monthly during the cool months and no more than weekly during the hottest part of summer. Do not spread this out and water for 10 minutes every day. If your grass looks dry before the month/week is up, water longer next time. If that does not work, then you might have to water more than once per week during the summer's hottest period. Deep watering grows deep, drought resistant roots. Infrequent watering allows the top layer of soil to dry completely which kills off many shallow rooted weeds.

You will have to learn to judge when to water your own lawn. If you live in Las Vegas your watering will be different than if you live in Vermont. Adjust your watering to your type of grass, humidity, wind, and soil type. It is worth noting that this technique is used successfully by professionals in Phoenix, so...just sayin.' The other factors make a difference. If you normally water 1 inch per week and you get 1/2 inch of rain, then adjust and water only 1/2 inch that week.

Every week mulch mow at the highest setting on your mower. Most grasses are the most dense when mowed tall. However, bermuda, centipede, and bent grasses will become the most dense when they are mowed at the lowest setting on your mower. In fact there are special mowers that can mow these grasses down to 1/16 inch. Dense grass shades out weeds, keeps the soil cooler, and uses less water than thin grass. Tall grass can feed the deep roots you developed in #1 above. Tall grass does not grow faster than short grass nor does it look shaggy sooner. Once all your grass is at the same height, tall grass just looks plush.

Fertilize regularly. I fertilize 5 times per year using organic fertilizer. Which fertilizer you use is much less important than numbers 1 and 2 above. Follow the directions on the bag and do not overdo it. Too little is better than too much. At this point you do not have to worry about weed and feed products - remember at this point you are just trying to grow grass, not perfect it. Besides once you are doing these three things correctly, your weed problems should go away without herbicide.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 11:02PM
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Here is a collage of my lawn trouble areas. Add to this an explosion of bittercress this year, and life is fun... Thanks for the awesome response and tips above, my only question on watering is for new or overseeded areas, I need to keep them moist, so I am watering 2x per day, 15 minutes each, 10 am and pm, so keep them moist for germination. Once the grass is growing I can move to the deep watering, or should I do that now? I would just expect the see to die if I did this now.
The upload is not working, maybe the system doesn't like Flickr, so here is the URL direct.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 11:13AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Here it is

Keep watering with the new seed schedule until you see about 80% germination. Then start to back off after you are mowing it.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 2:22PM
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Thanks for all the help and any more to come. I will apply the soap and want to move to organic fertilizer. Can anyone recommend any brands for me to look for? I see Scotts has some but not sure if it is worth it or if there are better products out there, or what to look for in an organic fertilizer.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 7:31PM
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If you go organic I recommend reading the organci lawn care FAQ. As to brand, you'll quickly learn it's not worth to pay twice as much for branded organic fertilizer. Rather go to your local feed store and buy alfalfa at $14 for 50lbs. (or soy bean meal, etc.)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 8:35PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

The Organic Lawn Care FAQ is in the FAQ section of the Gardenweb Organic Gardening forum. You can buy the same ingredients as the commercial bagged ferts for about 1/6 the cost when you buy in a plain brown bag. Look for rabbit or chinchilla chow. Even that comes in plain brown bags.

Here is a picture of a mrmumbles' zoysia lawn fertilized with rabbit food in May of last year. The picture was taken in June. Note the improved color, density, and growth.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 10:28PM
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