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Common Lawn Problems

Your lawn is struggling, but you aren’t sure what the problem is. What was once green, healthy grass is now dull, patchy, and lifeless. Here are the causes of some common lawn problems and how to fix – and prevent – them:


Crabgrass is an annual grassy weed that can survive pretty much anywhere, pushing out the grass you actually want to grow.

To prevent or treat crabgrass, aerate your lawn to decrease the concentration of nitrogen in your soil, which encourages crabgrass growth. Avoid fertilizers that offer a “quick green-up,” as they can contain too much quick-release nitrogen and make your crabgrass problem worse.

You also can treat your lawn in the spring to inhibit crabgrass growth over the summer.


Bees love dandelions, a perennial flowering weed. However, they can choke out healthy grass growth.

If you are really committed to keeping some dandelions around for the pollinators, limit them to a separate patch that isn’t in your lawn, and treat the rest of the ones that spring up in your yard.

For small amounts of dandelions, you can dig them up by the roots with a trowel or weeding fork. This requires removing the whole plant, roots and all, so is best suited for lawns with only a scattering of dandelions.

A post-emergent herbicide that’s made to control broadleaf grasses and is applied in the fall can help control next year’s dandelion crop.

Compacted Soil & Improper Aeration

Weeds thrive in compacted soil and in soil that contains a lot of clay. 

To prevent this, you need to properly aerate your lawn, at least every other year. This process gives the roots of the grass the air and water they need and releases small columns of soil to help reduce compaction.

Aerate only when the grass is growing, from spring through fall.

Thatch & Brown Patches

Thatching happens when dead and decaying vegetation becomes tightly intermingled and covers the grass. You can tell if your lawn is experiencing thatching by noticing the spongy feeling when you walk across it.

This condition is more common in lawns that have received a lot of care, especially those where chemical treatments have destroyed the grass’s natural ability to decay.

To combat this, you’ll need to increase the pH level of your soil. This can be done by dethatching your lawn with a power rake in the late spring and when your lawn is dry. Once the lawn is dethatched, you can mix molasses diluted with hot water and spray the mixture on the lawn to stimulate natural organisms that will eat the thatch layer.

For especially thick thatch layers (more than ¾”), you will need to aerate the lawn and reduce your rates of water and fertilization.

White Grubs & Insects

Insect infestations can occur on any lawn, and can cause a great deal of problems for trying to keep things healthy.

White grubs, the immature stage of Japanese beetles and chafer beetles, cause your lawn to turn brown in the early fall. If you see raccoons and skunks digging up your lawn, it’s a pretty sure sign you’re dealing with this infestation.

To see if you have grubs, pull up a patch of dead grass. If you see white, C-shaped bugs that are very easy to see against dark soil, you’ve got grubs. 

If you pull up a section of your lawn measuring 1 square foot and there are fewer than 15 grubs, you don’t need to take any action. If there are more than 15 grubs in that space, you’ll need to treat your lawn with a quick-acting insecticide.


Have you noticed ridges popping up in your lawn? You may have moles burrowing underground.

The only humane and effective way to address a mole problem is to utilize traps. However, just because you remove one mole doesn’t mean more won’t move in.

You also can use ultrasonic devices or noisemakers such as spinning daisies near existing mole runs to deter their presence.

Diseases & Mold

There are a variety of diseases that can infect lawns.

One common disease is rust, which presents as orange or rust-colored patches of grass. You may even notice a rust-colored powder rubbing off on your shoes in late summer and early fall.

For rust and most diseases, you simply need to adjust how you care for your lawn. Make sure you’re mowing it at the correct height, fertilizing appropriately, aerating compacted soil, and irrigating properly. Seeding your lawn with disease-resistant grass seeds is also helpful.

Slimy, colorful patches in your lawn indicate slime mold. This commonly happens after periods of wet weather. Wait for the lawn to dry up and the mold will dry up as well, allowing you to mow the mold off.

If you encounter slime mold in your lawn, don’t add water or chemicals.

Pet Urine Spots

Dog and cat urine contains damaging amounts of nitrogen, causing your lawn to turn brown.

If at all possible, keep pets off any parts of your lawn that have turned brown to minimize further damage. 

You can help to reduce the damage by watering the lawn shortly after the pet urinates in a brown patch. Or, you can dig up the patch and several inches around it, lightly till the soil, layer in loose topsoil, reseed, and irrigate.

Bare Spots & Thin Lawn

If your lawn seems thin or has suffered from drought, it may need some extra TLC to rejuvenate it.

For thin lawns, overseeding can help to establish a thicker cover of grass. Bald spots require reseeding, just in the spots that are bald. When overseeding or reseeding, be sure to keep the lawn moist until the seedlings are established.

Expert Lawn Treatment in MD & VA

If you’ve got lawn issues you need to be diagnosed and treated, trust the skilled professionals at East Coast Lawn. We offer a variety of services to combat common lawn problems. Keep your lawn in peak condition, with aeration, grub proofing, and fertilizing. Call today for a quote!

The service I have received is great and the people are very professional. I highly recommend them if you need work done and great prices call East Coast Lawn.
Daryl C.Silver Spring, MD