Winter Lawn Problem

I live in Philadelphia PA. Is it normal to have straw-colored lawn patches on the lawn in the winter? These straw patches dont exist in the grass Ive sown in the past 3 or 4 years. My lawn needs renewal but I cannot dig the entire thing up. There are mossy patches around the edges. Also low patches. I am wondering when to apply pre-emergent weed killer and fertilizer and new seed and which new seed to use and if I can erradicate the winter straw colored patches.
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Yes its normal straw colored lawn. Moss is a sign of low soil pH or a drainage issue.

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I live in Philadelphia PA. Is it normal to have straw-colored lawn patches on the lawn in the winter? These straw patches dont exist in the grass Ive sown in the past 3 or 4 years.
That depends on your definition of normal. My tall fescue/blue grass lawn here in NJ is still all nice and green. If most of your lawn is green and it has been reasonably maintained, adequate fertilizer etc, then the staw colored patches are likely some undesirable grass. Hopefully it's not Zoysia that someone planted, as that is the classic straw color grass. It's not suited to this environment and will go straw color from Oct thru May. If the areas aren't too big or numerous, your best bet may be to mark them and then kill them when the grass is active in spring.
My lawn needs renewal but I cannot dig the entire thing up. There are mossy patches around the edges. Also low patches.
You usually don;t need to dig the entire thing up, unless the topsoil is non-existent. If most of what;s there is good and the bad can be eliminated, you can get topsoil for the low spots and overseed the whole thing using a slice seeder. Best time by far is early Sept, next best is early Spring. If you have a lot of problem weeds/grasses, you can kill it off with Roundup and reseed a week later. Many times this can be the easiest solution, especially if you have grasses/weeds that are difficult or impossible to eradicate, grass that is disease prone, etc. I'd also get the soil tested now and adjust the PH if needed.
I am wondering when to apply pre-emergent weed killer and fertilizer and new seed and which new seed to use and if I can erradicate the winter straw colored patches.
For an existing lawn, apply pre-emergent when forsythias bloom, typically later april in your area. If you seed, then you can't use a conventional pre-emergent, you need to use Tupersan, or similar which is safe for new lawns. These cost a lot more and are another reason why fall is best time for seeding. If you fertilize twice in fall, then in spring I would apply fertilizer once, same time as pre-emergent. Then don't fertilize again till Fall.
For new seed, in your area, unless you want a showcase lawn with higher maintenance, I'd probably go with a dwarf tall fescue/blue grass mix. Seedland.com has seed and some good info.
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Crabgrass, wiregrasses and moss all love compacted soil (Sir toppam hats point) A good thorough plug aeration in the fall will help a great deal. Pelletized lime at about 1000 sq ft per 40 lb bag twice a year and pelletized gypsum (when aerating) will loosen the root bed. In PA, do you use any sort of ice melt, because that in itself will compact the soil. It doesn't kill the grass itself, it just compacts and of course, that does the killing. Crabgrass germinates 3 times a year. February, around Mothers Day, and about Aug. 10th. (in zone 7 -- check your ext agency web site for your zone) The Feb. crop is the hardiest of all because it has wintered over and needs to be dealt with more carefully. Usually, when Forsythia is budding you want to get the Pre-em down then or you will miss it.Usually when the weed or moss is around the edges, then the aeration or Pre-em is not being done to the edge. Most peoples lawns will show this after the next crop has died. I moved to a house where the previous owners LIKED the vile weed. I waited for it to go brown, lit it with a match, and burned it along with the seed and started over.. Very nice fescue now and I'm still cutting it here in Richmond Va. in January. Getting to the other side, do you see mole hills in your lawn? If so then you may have grub activity and that is what is making the brown patches. Dig a spot about the depth of a spade at the edge of the spot and see if there are grubs in there.(you may need to do a couple of spots to find the buggers) If so then treat accordingly with a grub killer.

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"4. KCnRichmond Jan 13, 7:06 pm Crabgrass, wiregrasses and moss all love compacted soil (Sir toppam hats point) A good thorough plug aeration in the fall will help a great deal. Pelletized lime at about 1000 sq ft per 40 lb bag twice a year and pelletized gypsum (when aerating) will loosen the root bed. "
And putting down all that lime without regard to the soil PH will likely raise the PH above the desirable range. Test the soil and put down the correct amount, only if it needs it.
"In PA, do you use any sort of ice melt, because that in itself will compact the soil. It doesn't kill the grass itself, it just compacts and of course, that does the killing. Crabgrass germinates 3 times a year. February, around Mothers Day, and about Aug. 10th. (in zone 7 -- check your ext agency web site for your zone) "
Crabgrass most certainly does not germinate in Feb in PA. If that were true, you'd have to be putting down pre-emergent in Jan and I've never seen a lawn service or homeowner doing that. Crabgrass germinates when the soil temp is about 60, which doesn't occur until May in PA, which means mid to late April is the correct time to apply pre-emergent.
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