How’s your lawn looking? Do you walk through it and wish you knew how to make your grass thicker and fuller? Do you look at it and dream of staring at something that resembles lush, green grass versus the spotty, less-than-ideal expanse of lawn you have now?
We don’t blame you. Everyone covets a more luxurious lawn – one that begs to be strolled through while you’re sipping an iced cold drink and enjoying the sunshine.
Your lawn should be a part of your refuge, your outdoor escape. A place where you can unwind and leave the stress of the day behind. It should not be a place that makes you more concerned because just looking at it forces you to add more to your must-do list.
Never fear, help is here. This guide on how to grow the perfect lawn is meant to help you get that lush, green lawn you’re after with some proven tips that work.
Table of Contents
- Identify Possible Lawn Problems
- Get Your Lawn Soil Tested
- Proper Lawn Fertilization for a Healthy Lawn
- Identifying and Controlling Lawn Weeds
- How to Get Rid of and Prevent Lawn Disease
- Protect Your Lawn From Insects
Identify Possible Lawn Problems
First, you want to identify lawn problems to eliminate them so your lawn can focus on thick, green growth instead of stressing out as it fights issues.
Some lawn problems are easy to spot, like weeds since they stand out and look different than your usual grass.
But other lawn problems are harder to spot. If your lawn is browning in spots, for instance, there could be more than a few reasons – everything from drought to lack of fertilization to lawn disease.
We can help make this process easier for you. There are some common lawn problems in Northern Virginia that you need to watch for.
- Grass Pulls Up. When your grass easily lifts up, the culprit in this common lawn problem is usually grubs. Grubs are white, C-shaped pests, and they like to dine on grass roots. To clear up this problem, a lawn care professional can apply a preventive grub control product to your Northern Virginia lawn to catch these hungry pests when they’re small, helping to avoid serious lawn damage.
- Thinning Grass. Skimpy grass can not only look unattractive, but it also leaves room open to weed or disease infestation in your lawn. Usually the reason lawns are thin in Northern Virginia is due to the soil being too acidic, which limits nutrient absorption. Conducting a soil test will tell you what your soil is missing to identify lawn problems. Acidic lawns typically need lime treatments to get them back to an optimal pH range, which is between 6 and 7 in our region.
- Grassy Weeds. Weeds that look like grass are even worse than the others. In Northern Virginia, nutsedge and crabgrass top the list of grassy weeds. Thicken grass to keep these weeds out.
- Lack of Color. A yellow or off-green lawn is not what you’re after. This common lawn problem is one that almost immediately brings down your curb appeal. Lawns suffering from this malady are usually either lacking water or are overwatered. Beyond water issues, a poor soil pH could also cause fading color. Since there are so many potential issues here, your lawn care service provider can look at your problem and identify the cause, suggesting treatment methods.
Get Your Lawn Soil Tested
The soil is the base of all the good growth your lawn will experience.
This means the dirt beneath your grass literally holds the secret to a lush green lawn.
Why? Because poor soil can limit your lawn’s ability to take in water, oxygen, and nutrients – not to mention grow strong roots. And a stronger lawn can withstand a lot of problems – everything from weeds to disease to insects.
You likely have a soil problem if your lawn isn’t responding to lawn care treatments.
This is why healthy soil is important. You can never improve your lawn if you don’t improve your soil.
Here are some steps you can take to improve your lawn.
Soil Testing 101
Since you can’t see what’s going on beneath your lawn, a lawn soil test is a great way to find out your soil composition.
A soil test is super helpful in that it tells you your soil pH and its nutrient makeup.
Your soil pH can range from 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral, less than 7 being acidic, and over 7 being alkaline. You want balanced soil. In Northern Virginia, our soils tend to lean toward acidic. Acidic soils have a hard time taking in nutrients. Corrective lime applications can help raise your soil pH to a better level.
Soil testing also reveals your soil’s nutrient composition – the amount of phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients that are in your soil. If these nutrients aren’t in an optimal range, that could be causing problems for your grass, too.
Core Aeration & Overseeding
In the process of getting a soil test sample, you might notice it’s a struggle to get a soil probe in. This is a sign your lawn soil is compacted.
Proper Lawn Fertilization for a Healthy Lawn in Northern Virginia
After obtaining a lawn soil test, you have the information needed to determine the best lawn fertilization plan for your lawn.
And fertilization is done throughout the growing season for numerous reasons.
In early spring, fertilization begins and is usually combined with a pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide to prevent those seeds from creating an onslaught of hard-to-control weeds.
In spring, your lawn is growing very quickly, using up tons of nutrients. This second round of fertilization helps replenish those nutrients and keep your lawn growing, reducing potential for disease. A second pre-emergent crabgrass treatment then helps catch any weed seeds that weren’t stopped in early spring.
Early summer and mid-summer are important times for lawn fertilization because they give it the strength to prepare for summer stress. We also spot treat any broadleaf weeds, as well as apply preventive grub control.
In late summer, a micronutrient application is important to strengthen your lawn. By early fall, additional nutrients help your lawn recover from summer stress. This is also a great time to get a handle on harder-to-control weeds and perform aeration services.
We conclude fertilization in late fall with a limestone application to balance soil acidity and help the lawn get through the colder winter months. This last fertilization may seem like the least important, but it is actually a key piece to the overall lawn fertilization plan. It helps your lawn develop a deeper root system and stores nutrients for your lawn to use as it comes out of dormancy.
While lawn fertilization can be done by using DIY products, commercial-grade products used by professionals are much better. A lawn care technician is also ready and able to perform the work at optimal times of the growing season to ensure proper nutrition is delivered and certain weeds and pests are controlled. Mistakes and missed timing can certainly be made when homeowners are trying to juggle their jobs and family responsibilities, as well as deliver excellent lawn care.
Identifying and Controlling Lawn Weeds
Weeds are the bane of your lawn’s existence. They mess up a nice lawn with leggy, scraggly, ugly eyesores.
So, naturally, you want them gone. Like now.
When it comes to lawn weed control, the first step is proper lawn weed identification. Knowing which weed you’re fighting will make it easier to get rid of it.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few common weeds that like to sneak their way into Northern Virginia lawns.
Here are some of the worst weeds:
You can’t miss this perennial weed with its bright yellow flowers.
This one erupts in early spring, and can take over thin areas with its thick, matted structure with small white flowers.
A fan of summer’s heat, this weed has reddish-purple dots on small green leaves and is a fast spreader.
This weed has hardy white flowers that draw bees.
This weed grows in thick, ugly clumps and multiplies quickly. It’s one of the worst offenders on your lawn and is tough to control if you don’t catch it before it emerges.
Controlling Lawn Weeds Once and For All
Since all weeds are different, controlling them takes multiple strategies.
Some weeds, like crabgrass, are best controlled before they emerge, while others can be taken down better when they are small with a post-emergent product.
Optimum control takes precise timing, which a lawn care professional can provide because they put your lawn on a schedule and live and breathe lawn weed control.
Another way to keep weeds away is to maintain proper lawn care practices. This gives your lawn a natural defense against weeds.
How to Get Rid of and Prevent Lawn Disease
While weeds might be easy to spot, lawn diseases are another story.
They are sneaky. In fact, every lawn has a disease. We know this sucks. But diseases require just the right blend of conditions to emerge in your lawn. This includes weather like humidity and excessive moisture, as well as stressed-out lawns as a result of things like improper mowing or watering.
Symptoms will resemble things like beige spots, off-color patches, circles, or white or pink patches.
Here are the worst lawn diseases in Northern Virginia.
Red thread lawn disease arrives as unsightly spots that include red, thin, almost needle-like strands. The fungus spreads and grows from these red strands.
Then, the disease grows into visible, pinkish, cotton-like areas that may start out in a yellowish shade.
Cool moist weather encourages red thread – temperatures ranging from 59 degrees to 77 degrees Fahrenheit with a lot of rain.
To get rid of this lawn disease, provide your lawn with a balanced fertilization program. This lawn tends to favor lawns that lack nutrition.
If you see small, tan circles in your tall fescue lawn that resemble silver dollars, you might have dollar spot lawn disease.
With roughly 2- to 6-inch diameter spots, they can be pretty ugly as they grow.
You’ll usually see them in late spring, and they can last all the way until fall. They tend to cause the most disruption to your lawn in June and July.
Dollar spot loves under-fertilized lawns, so prevent this lawn fungus with a proper fertilization program.
Kind of like its name implies brown patch lawn disease shows up as circular tan or brown rings on your lawn.
This lawn disease thrives in excess heat and humidity – when nighttime temperatures are above 68 degrees Fahrenheit and daytime temperatures reach 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Banish this lawn disease with proper fertilization. Once rainfall resumes after hot, dry summers, brown patch will usually start to fade away. Overseeding to thicken up your lawn can also help prevent lawn fungus.
Prevent Lawn Fungus
You can prevent lawn fungus with proper cultural practices. These include proper mowing and watering; adequate fertilization; and yearly aeration, overseeding, and topdressing.
But if lawn diseases do strike, you might require a fungicide treatment, which is best done by a lawn care professional. These are especially helpful for brown patch and dollar spot. If your yard is prone to diseases, properly timed preventive fungicide applications can keep them away.
Protect Your Lawn From Insects
Lawn insects in Virginia can get hungry, and unfortunately, your lawn is their food source.
Some insects like the grass blades, and others like the roots. Either way, if left to their own devices they will keep on eating and kill your grass in the process.
The challenge is that if your grass is turning brown, it can be for multiple reasons. A lawn care professional can properly identify the problem and treat it to save your lawn.
When it comes to lawn insects in Virginia, there are a few key culprits. Here are some details about them and how to control them.
These white, C-shaped pests are the larvae of beetles. The adult beetles lay their eggs in summer, and when grubs are born they start immediately feeding on your lawn roots. Proper timing of treatment is essential here. Using a properly timed preventive product is the best lawn insect control strategy for tackling grubs.
Chinch Bugs have dark gray bodies and white wings, but they are super tiny (⅛ inch long) so you might not see them. They use their piercing mouthparts to suck moisture out of your grass blades, injecting their toxic saliva in the process. Lawn insect damage usually occurs in mid-summer, but it usually isn't apparent until the trouble has escalated. Removing thatch and aerating your lawn can help eliminate compaction, which chinch bugs prefer, keeping them away. If you already have an infestation, a curative insecticide may be needed.
Sod webworms are sometimes called lawn moths because they look a lot like little moths at ¾ inches. But those are the adults. It’s the larvae that will feed on your lawn in spring with the worst lawn insect damage happening in July and August when the sod webworms are larger. You’ll likely see brown patches the size of baseballs. An insecticide can help control these pests.
Lawn Aeration, Seeding, and Topdressing Water
Northern Virginia soil is made up of heavy clay, which means it can be more compacted by nature. This tightness negatively impacts lawn growth.
Annual lawn aeration, overseeding, and topdressing help break up this compaction. These 3 tasks can hugely help your lawn soil.
Core aeration uses a machine called an aerator to pull small soil plugs that are roughly ½-inch in diameter and 2 to 3 inches long from your lawn. It reduces compaction and allows more water, oxygen, and fertilizer in.
At this time, seeding your lawn is also good to do for optimal seed-to-soil contact to maximize germination. Fall is a great time for overseeding because air temperatures are cool, the ground is moist, and the sun is still warm. This enables your lawn to grow a great root system and establish itself before the heat and stress of summer. Using high-quality grass seed is important at this stage to avoid weeds. Landscape professionals use a premium seed compared to those found in home improvement stores.
Turf’s Up includes topdressing at this time as well. During this service, we spread compost across the lawn to help increase healthy soil microorganisms and improve its structure.
Right after these services, it’s super important for you to do a few things to help things along. Your biggest priority: proper watering. You want to keep the seeds moist, not overly wet. It takes approximately 10 to 21 days after overseeding for seed germination. Keeping that top 1 inch of soil moist helps encourage this growth.
While it may seem easy to rent an aerator, overseed the lawn, and add topdressing yourself, the job requires proper skill and timing, as well as quality equipment and products. Hiring a lawn care professional can make the job easier and provide better long-term results.
Watering Your Lawn Wisely
An obvious and key component of proper lawn care is watering. It’s a basic lawn need.
While you might think lawn watering is something you can’t mess up, watering at the wrong time or watering for the wrong length of time could actually hurt your lawn.
Let’s review some of the basics so you can be confident in your watering skills.
How To Water Your Lawn
To grow strong lawn roots and thicken grass, you want to water in lengthy periods versus short spurts.
Water with the goal to moisten the soil a few inches deep, which is roughly 45 to 60 minutes per area or zone if you have an irrigation system. Make sure to reach all areas of your lawn.
How Long To Water Your Lawn
Your Northern Virginia lawn typically needs approximately 1 to 2 inches of water weekly.
This amount includes rainfall, which may be plentiful in spring and fall. But during summer’s dry times, you want to supplement rainfall with irrigation or sprinklers.
If you put out tin cans when you water and see how long it takes to reach 1 inch, that will give you a good idea of how long to water your lawn.
How Often To Water Your Lawn
Since your goal is to reach 1 to 2 inches of water each week, how often to water your lawn will vary depending on the week and how much rainfall you get.
Turf’s Up suggests watering your lawn one to two times per week, especially if rain is minimal.
When To Water Your Lawn
When to water your lawn is probably the most important tip on this list.
When you water in the heat of the day, the hot, bright sun will cause the water to evaporate quickly and it won't be able to soak into your soil.
If you water in the evening, that extra water mixed with nighttime humidity will sit on your lawn all night, potentially creating the ideal breeding ground for turf disease.
That leaves the early morning hours, which is when you really want to water your lawn. This gives your lawn time to dry before evening and lets the water soak into the soil before the hot, bright sun has time to evaporate it.
Mowing Your Lawn Properly
Mowing correctly is another key part of achieving a lush, green lawn.
Follow these lawn mowing tips to perfect your technique and keep your lawn healthy.
- Sharpen your mower blades. You don’t want dull blades tearing your grass. Sharp mower blades make cleaner cuts.
- Never mow too short. The ideal height for Northern Virginia lawns is between 3.5 and 4 inches. This enables your lawn to fight off weeds and limits the stress that can discolor it.
- Never remove too much grass at one time. You might be wondering how to mow your lawn. Well, you never want to mow more than one-third of your grass off at any one time to avoid the stress that can result in a brown or yellow appearance.
- Never mow wet grass. Mowing dry grass ensures a cleaner cut and avoids clumping.
- Don’t mow in the hot sun. Mowing when it’s shady or during cooler times of the day helps your lawn retain water during the process.
- Mow slow. Sure, you might be in a rush, but walking at a 3-mile-per-hour pace is ideal for mowing so you’re not tearing grass or missing areas.
- Vary your mowing pattern. Shaking up your mowing pattern means you don’t create ruts with your mower going in the same routes or compacting your lawn in the same areas.
Hire a Northern Virginia Lawn Care Company to Help
Your lawn is a key part of your curb appeal and outdoor enjoyment. So, naturally, you want to take care of it.
While it might seem easy to try and learn all of the key skills yourself, managing the education, buying and maintaining high-quality equipment, correctly identifying lawn problems, and remaining on an optimal application timing schedule can become like a full-time job. It’s admirable to want to DIY all lawn care services, but it’s not the ideal way to obtain that lush, green lawn you crave.
If you’re looking to hire a lawn care company in Northern Virginia, make sure you know what to do to find the company that best suits your needs. Here are a few tips that can help.
- Hire one company to deliver all your needs. You are likely seeking lawn care services, which include fertilization; weed control; insect and disease treatments; and aeration, overseeding, and topdressing. You might even be looking for mosquito control services. There are companies that do it all so you don’t have to deal with multiple companies and contacts.
- Look for a company that offers a soil test as part of its program. Obtaining a soil test is essential in understanding what your soil is missing and what your lawn needs to thrive.
- Compare lawn care companies thoroughly. You want a company that provides education, has professionally dressed and trained employees and has employees who have been with the company for years and stick around.
We want to provide you with the best information to make the decision that suits you best. We hope this guide helps you obtain lush, green grass. As you’re seeking to hire a lawn care company in Northern Virginia, we’d be happy and honored to be one of the companies you’re interviewing. We want to provide a customized plan to help you obtain that perfect lawn you’re envisioning.
Ready to learn why Turf’s Up could be your totally awesome choice for lawn care services in Northern Virginia? We’re stoked to learn more about you and help you have the best lawn on the block. Get started today with a free quote. Together, we can prepare a customized plan that is perfect for you and your yard.