UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS EXTENSION

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Common Lawn Care Mistakes

Misapplication

Misapplication of fertilizer is one example of an avoidable lawn mistake.

Many home lawn problems are correctable. Here are some of the more common lawn care problems that influence turf quality.

Overfertilizing
Fertilizer application errors may directly injure the grass or contribute to disease and other lawn problems. Errors may include fertilizing too much, too often, at the wrong time, or excessively in the shade. Using organic or traditional fertilizers will lessen the damage by fertilizer.

Organic products effectively work on building the soil structure and the level of naturally occurring soil organisms that then share the soil with the grass plant, working together, each benefiting from each other. The feast or famine cycle of available plant food to the lawn does not occur. Refer to Choosing Fertilizers for Home Lawns and Fertilizing Schedule for Home Lawns along with the Lawn Care Calendar for Northern Illinois.

Overwatering
Applying too much water, especially to sodded lawns on clay and/or compacted soils, contributes to poor rooting and thatch accumulation. This in turn leads to other problems. Refer to Watering Guidelines for Home Lawns.

Wrong Grass for the Site
Grass selection needs to match criteria of the site, including environmental factors and site use. Examples of problems include Kentucky bluegrass sod (intended for full sun) planted in shade or fine fescues (poor wear tolerance) planted on a heavily used site. Refer to Lawn Grasses for Northern Illinois, Suggested Lawn Mixes for Northern Illinois, and Grasses for Special Sites & Uses.

Poorly Prepared Soils
The importance of thoroughly preparing the site prior to seeding or sodding cannot be overemphasized. Amend clay soils (refer to Soil & Site Preparation for Lawns) and core aerate existing lawns with problem soils underneath (refer to Lawn Cultivation Equipment & Methods and Managing Thatch in Home Lawns).

Mowing Too Short
Simply raising the mowing height can improve the quality of many lawns and reduce problems such as crabgrass. Target a 2-1/2 to 3-inch mowing height. Refer to Guidelines for Mowing Lawns Properly.

Too Much Shade for Quality Lawn
Lawn care in shade calls for some modification of practices (refer to Managing Lawns in Shade Areas). Picture-perfect lawns in shade are not realistic, and some sites simply have too much shade for grasses to grow. Consider groundcovers as alternatives (refer to Groundcovers as Lawn Alternatives in Shade).