Lawn Problems - Please help!

I am writing this letter in full despair and hope for some professional help from you.
As a new home owner (3 years), I spent a lot of time and resources on my lawn but despite all my efforts it doesn't seems to get any better. Instead of improvement the grass gets slowly but surely overtaken by several types of weeds.
As I am relatively new to the field of gardening and my knowledge in this area is very limited, I tried to rely on fertilize/weed control packages from Scott's. For the last 3 years, I used their 4 steps program and apply each of their steps according to the instructions on the label. I also spent a lot of time manually removing some of the weeds, but that doesn't seems to help as the very next day my lawn is yellow again from dandelions I have missed.
In order to give you an idea of the condition of the lawn, I took several images of the weeds and the troublesome areas in my yard and published them on a small web page. The images could be found here:
http://mitko.gotdns.com/Lawn/Index.aspx
Could you please take a look and let me know what needs to be done, in order to save my lawn. Thank you very much! Dimitare
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There is more to lawn care than chemical treatments. You have to have the right grass for your area. It needs to be cut and watered appropriately. I think there are two approaches you can take. he first would be to overseed the lawn and try to get something growing in the dead areas. The second approach would be to kill or remove the lawn and start over.
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I would start watering properly and tehn mowing it

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Thank you so much for your reply. I try to do my best and water and mow on a regular bases - mow (1 per week) and watering (1 per 2 weeks if there is no rain).
The problem is with the weeds and specifically the blue ones. They seem to be taking over the grass slowly but surely. I would prefer not to replace the grass because it will be quite costly. This is why I was looking for chemical solutions to fight the weeds. Still the ones I've used so far are not help at all.
Regars, Dimitare
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Truly- the best way to combat weeds is to have healthy turfgrass choke them out. I would seriously concentrate more on getting the turf healthy than I would on nuking the weeds. You've gotten some excellent advice on how to get the grass in shape- step away from the chemicals!
--
Toni
South Florida USA
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Most northern lawns, which is what I guess I'm seeing with your photos, require an inch of rainfall a week (or supplemental water to that) to keep growing. Established lawns can be allowed to go dormant for several weeks in the summer with no harm, but I suspect you may be seriously underwatering right now. Water needs to soak in to the depth of the root zone. Generally, 1" all at once is better than 1/8" or so every day, but that's partially dependent on soil texture.
Mowing frequency should be matched to lawn growth. For a bluegrass lawn, I like to mow about 3" in the spring and fall, 4" in the summer. Don't remove more than 1/3 the blade length at any one mowing. Don't scalp the lawn (mow too short in hopes of mowing less frequently.)

Good weed control starts with identifying the species involved. You had two blue flowered weeds I noticed in your photos when I glanced at them. One was a violet, and the other creeping charlie, Glechoma hederacea (google for an image of it). Control of that species gets a little tricky, and timing is everything.
And it's not especially expensive to replace a lawn from seed. If you don't want to put much work into your lawn, and you're in the upper midwest or the great plains states, you might consider replacing your present lawn with something much more drought tolerant, like Buchloe dactyloides, buffalo grass. Be sure to read up on the pros and cons before doing it, however, and talk to your local extension service about how this does in your area.
Kay
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Dandelions must be removed by the entire root, since they will sprout from roots remaining in the ground. Use a good tool like the Ergonica Weed Twister to make sure the entire root is removed.
Frankly, from looking at your photos, you should probably start with some major changes as suggested above, in order to get to the point where individual weeds can be attacked with the proper tools.
Ray _____________________________________________________ Talk about weeds: World of Weeds www.ergonica.com
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Replacing the lawn will be a lot of work, but not costly. In fact, I would guess that you will spend more money on weed killers than on lawn renovation. You can kill the lawn with some Round-up, or better, rent a sod cutter and physically remove it. I would then rototill the area, rake out any debris, level, seed, spread some starter fertilizer, and cover with straw or a thin layer of compost. You will need to keep it moist for a couple of weeks. If you don't do this right away, you should wait until fall to do it. You should contact your state's cooperative extension agency. Every county has an office. They can give you some specific recommendations for grass and other help on lawn care.
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I don't see many dandelions in your pictures, but you've got a fine stand of lily of the valley, some thistles, ground ivy, some violets, and some exceedingly dry grass that's been chopped by a dull blade on the mower. Of those, I'd transplant the lily of the valley to an area where it can be contained, keep the violets and go after the rest of it.
What's the soil pH, what was your last soil analysis and when, and when and how are you mowing? Have you ever lifted some sod to check on root structure? If you water, how deeply and how often? Where are you?
Plants require not just fertilizer, but also water, oxygen to the roots, and care to look really good. You're substituting sacks of magic potions for basic understanding of plant biology, and it's not working so well.
In the meantime, lift some sod in the thick areas and in the thinner ones and really look at the structure of the roots and of the soil in those areas. Submit a sample for soil analysis. Get the lawnmower to the shop and have the blade sharpened (those ragged browning edges are a good clue that the blade is dull.) Learn the correct mowing height and procedure for the species in your lawn. Consider overseeding in areas where the soil is bare, but be sure to scratch the seed in well and tamp it down and keep moist until it's well established.
An excellent beginner's book, imo: Rodale's Chemical-Free Yard and Garden -- you should be able to pick up a used copy on the net for <$5. Pay special attention to the chapters on soil and water, as well as those on lawns.
See also: http://abe.www.ecn.purdue.edu/~epados/lawn/src/homeowners.htm http://www.ncagr.com/agronomi/samhome.htm http://www.ncagr.com/agronomi/ustr.htm http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/compost/452-129/takingsample.html http://muextension.missouri.edu/explore/agguides/hort/g06720.htm http://clean-water.uwex.edu/pubs/yardcare/lawnwat.pdf http://www.extension.umn.edu/info-u/plants/BG529.html http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/turf/430-002/430-002.html http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/lawntalk/lawntalk09.html http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/lawn/lawncare/mowing.html http://abe.www.ecn.purdue.edu/~epados/lawn/src/equip/cutting4.htm
Kay
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Hi Kay,
You gave me some great starting points. From your links I can see that there is a lot to be learned, but know I know when to start.
I am located in Glenview Illinois and since I bough my house 3 years ago, there hasn't been any soil pH analysis or root structure check. This is now on my check list - at least I know when to start now.
Thanks everyone for taking your time to reply.
Regards, Dimitare
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While you've got the sods up, take a look at the structure of the soil in several spots (do at least a shake test), and get some samples submitted to Extension for standard soil analysis. (And if Illinois extension won't do home soil testing any more, try the lab at Iowa State University). Shake test: Lift some sods and get about a cup of soil from 6" down. Place the soil in a straight sided quart jar and add water till the jar is about 2/3 full. Shake well, then let the soil fall out of suspension. First layer will be sand -- it'll settle within a minute. Mark it on the jar. Next layer to settle will be silt, and mark that at two hours. Most of the clay will come out overnight, and the organic matter will float. "Ideal" soil texture is equal parts of sand, clay and loam... but you can work with any soil texture and a lawn... it's just much harder with some textures than another. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07723.html
I suspect your lawn is compacted, and lacking in organic matter, just from the little I know about the lawns around Glenview. I suspect you'll be told to add gypsum or lime as well as NPK. And at the moment, it's definitely underwatered. I'd probably also start topdressing with compost if there is an easy and cheap source around. It's pretty hard to overdo compost when you apply it 1/4" at a time. Gets boring really quickly. <g>
I suspect your biggest challenges will be Convallaria majalis, lily of the valley, and Glechoma hederacea, ground ivy/creeping charlie. Lily of the valley is a pretty good shade groundcover, especially for moderately dry shade, which is tough conditions for grass. Glechoma is generally best tackled in the early fall or late spring (but from the looks of your photos it's too dry to try this spring); it prefers shady, moist soil. If you're using chemical treatments of one sort or another, they need to be used when the plant is actively growing. Otherwise you're just wasting money and polluting groundwater. See: web.extension.uiuc.edu/Fulton/groundivy.pdf+glechoma+control+illinois&hl=en
When you water, put out some cans or jars on the lawn to catch the water, so you can measure how much is actually hitting the soil. My guess is that even when you watered, you weren't watering enough.
Anyhow, if you get some basic testing done, and some reading on lawn biology, I think you'll be able to have a nice (not perfect, but very nice) lawn without driving yourself bananas or bankrupting yourself with brand name "solutions" that may not be appropriate for you.
And if you start thinking your lawn is too crummy after you've fixed the basic cultural problems, book a ticket to England and look at the lawns of the various botanical gardens, stately homes, famous golf courses... all those lovely green lawns are made of multiple species, including a heck of a lot of dandelion. <g>
Kay
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