Lawn Problems That Aren’t Really Problems

A lawn mower mows a strip in a grass lawn
(Image credit: OlenaMykhaylova)

When is a lawn problem not really a problem? When it’s a problem of gardener preference or habit, not garden health. If you take a closer look at many of the type of lawn problems you worry about in springtime, you may be able to erase a few from the list.

Many gardeners opt to cut down on their workload while benefiting wildlife by eliminating chores like weeding the turf, raking up leaves, and killing grubs with pesticides. Ready to start getting grass problems off your list? Read on.

Weeds: In the Eye of the Beholder

Weeds are simply plants a gardener didn’t plant and doesn’t want. Think about it. Many gardeners spend hours digging out dandelions because they classify them as weeds, but many others cultivate these edible flowering plants. (Almost the entire plant is delicious cooked.) It’s all a matter of preference.

Dandelion and other so-called weeds like clover and yarrow can be left to mingle with your turf, or even to replace it, to good effect. No herbicides spread on the lawn; food for beneficial insects and wildlife, and less work for the gardener. Native grasses, sometimes classified as weeds, look great as an alternative lawn and are wonderful, low-maintenance lawn ideas.

Raking May Not Be Necessary

Anyone raking the lawn in the heat of a mid-summer day dreams of easy lawn care solution to grass problems. If you have a traditional lawn, regular mowing is necessary. But planting native grasses can make mowing moot.

When it comes to raking, just say no. Many gardeners have learned that as long as you cut the grass regularly, taking off no more than the top third, it’s fine to leave the cut grass right where it falls. You may have heard that clippings promote thatch build up, but that’s just an old spouse’s tale.

Clippings break down quickly, often in a matter of a few weeks. A mulching mower will chop up the grass blades even more. And either way, grass clippings act like fertilizer on the lawn, containing the equivalent per weight of 4 percent nitrogen, .5 percent phosphorus and 3.5 percent potassium.

Forget Spring Herbicides for the Lawn

Not every garden contains glistening white grubs, but if yours does, you are likely to see them in the newly turned soil in spring. These grubs - the immature life stage of the June beetle and its relatives – can be damaging to turf in late summer.

But they are relatively harmless in winter and spring. The ones we see in spring are in hibernation, during which the grubs don’t eat, and they remain in this non-feeding state until May. Summer is the time to use herbicide.

Why not get rid of them sooner rather than later? Because pesticides that take out grubs also take out other grubs, some benign, some the larval stage of beneficial insects. If you wait until summer, many of these grubs will have matured and flown away. At the same time, you are reducing your spring to-to-in-the-garden list and shortened your list of spring lawn problems.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.