University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Lawns Look Ragged

February 19, 1998

Whether it is El Niño or whatever, the fact is a mild winter has left us with no snowcover and it is only mid-February. As a result, you may have noticed many lawns currently look a bit ragged. While they may look bad, remember it is still winter and there is little reason for concern.

Patches of various types are the most common unsightly symptom currently visible in lawns. These patches may be due to different species or cultivars of grass, weed grasses, disease, piles of snow on the area, and debris on the turf. Most of these situations will take care of themselves as conditions warm in spring and grasses resume growing. How the lawn was cared for last season may also have an influence on its current appearance.

Little can be done at the current time, as it is too early for lawn care work and it is best to stay off lawns. Patches due to weed grasses may be managed later into the season. Common problems include perennial grasses such as tall fescue, nimblewill, quackgrass, and zoysiagrass becoming problems in lawns consisting primarily of Kentucky bluegrass. Late summer is a good time to kill these patches by either digging them out or using glyphosate (Roundup, Kleeraway) and then reseeding.

Snowmold is favored by lawns going into winter at excessive heights, so be sure to keep mowing in fall until the grass has completely stopped growing. Cleaning up fallen leaves and other debris before winter is also important. This past season, many lawns had significant leaves on them when the first significant snow fell. Also avoid excessive applications of nitrogen fertilizer in mid-fall. Areas with thatch or poor surface drainage would benefit from core aeration this season.

Finally, learn more about lawn care by taking the Lawn Challenge, a home lawn self-study program available here on the Urban Programs Resource Network. The series of eight lessons covers everything from selecting and planting lawns, maintenance, and managing moss, thatch, weeds, insects, and disease. Each lesson includes a quiz to help review the information.


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