Lawn Care Management Information

On this page you will find information about how to maintain a healthy lawn in ways that also keep excess nutrients out of Colchester's surface waters.  Below are several tables with lists of normal lawn maintenance activities, common pests, and safe pesticides for you to reference when making smart decisions about your property.  In addition, there are links to documents that can provide even more information about specific treatments and maintenance activities.

Normal Lawn Maintenance

To get the best out of your lawn, you need to know what to look out for.  Not every problem with turf grass is related to pests
or weeds.  Sometimes damage is simply caused by unusual or extreme weather or preexisting soil conditions.  A list of common challenges to maintaining a healthy lawn and their identifiers can be found here.  Many of these issues can be addressed by regularly testing your soil, keeping track of how often it has rained, by evaluating how often you irrigate and add fertilizer, and by preventing contamination from other harmful chemicals.  This table highlights regular lawn care activities and when it may be most appropriate to utilize them.  By doing what you can to keep your lawn healthy, you will not only be saving water, but are helping to control the flow of stormwater runoff and providing a level of natural filtration to clean runoff before it meets with existing surface waters. 

Insects to Watch For

There are many different pests that can negatively impact the health of your lawn.  The table to the right highlights some common insects that are found among residential turfgrasses. Not all pests are present at the same time of year, and not all of them affect the same layers of your lawn.  Some pests, like grubs can damage turf from underneath by harming root systems.  Others breed in the thatch buildup under healthy leaves of existing turf.  

To figure out what kind of pest you need to treat your lawn for, utilize one of the tests described here.  The table to the right lists the best test to use for each suspected kind of pest.  These tests range from driving a cylinder into the soil and filling it with water to flush out the insects to simply turning over a patch of turf and shaking the grubs loose.  It is important to be sure of what pest you are addressing to target your treatment appropriately and avoid using options that will be harmful or ineffective.

List of Common Insects (Click blue text for examples)

Pest Time Frame
Notes
Primary Test
White Grubs
Mar-Jun, Aug-Nov
Turf will appear to be experiencing drought stress.  Skunks, raccoons, and crows will dig for the grubs.  Turf may be able to be rolled back.
Adult: Pheromone traps
Larvae: Soil Sample
Billbugs Jul-Sept Areas wilt and do not recover if watered.  Sawdust-like material in thatch buildup.  Turf may easily be tugged loose.
Adults: Soapy Flush
Larvae: Core Float
Chinch bugs Jul-Aug Wilted or browned areas.  Worse in sandy and sunny areas. About 1/5 of an inch long.
Adults: Can Float
Cutworms
Jun-Aug Burrows surrounded by brown patches.  Green frass possibly present.
Adults: blacklight trap
Larvae: Soapy Flush
Sod Webworm
Apr-Aug Discrete brown areas that become contiguous later.  Common in late spring in sunny areas.
Adults: Visual observation at twilight
Larvae: Soapy flush

Fungi and Infections Common to Turfgrasses

While they are uncommon, there are a number of diseases that affect residential turfgrasses.  In most cases, these infections are temporary and do not require special treatment, but knowing what kind of mold or other infection your lawn has can inform what changes you might need to make to your maintenance routines to help treat it.  There area few things that you can control that will help your lawn resist damage from diseases.  Many of them can be prevented simply by holding back on irrigating your lawn if it has been a wet season.  Heavy shade and over-saturated soil can promote the spread of mycelium (the vegetative part of the fungus).  The over-application of fertilizer can cause succulent growth in turfgrass, which is more susceptible to infection.  Finally, use chemicals to treat infestations sparingly.  Some herbicides, in particular, can make turfgrasses more susceptible to infection by fungi.

List of Common Fungi That Affect Turfgrass (Click blue text for examples)

Disease Time Frame
Description Cause
Gray or Pink Snow Mold
Jan-Apr/ Jan-May
Matted grass covered with white-grey or pinkish white mycelium.  Reddish, brown, or yellow sclerotia may also be present
Grows on cold, wet turf incubated by snow cover.  The Pink variety is heartier and can also damage root systems.
Rusts Jul-Oct Irregular pattern of orange, yellow, or rust-colored pustules on the grass blades.  Produces powdery orange spores. Can be a sign of low nitrogen content in soils.  Most common when nights are cool with heavy dew and light, frequent rainfall.
Pink Patch
May-Oct Pink or red gelatinous mycelium on leaves.  Small pink cotton candy-like puffs of spores present Grows in areas with poor nutrition, and more common in cool, wet conditions.  Can survive for long periods.
Dollar Spot
Jun-Sept Straw colored silver dollar-sized spots.  White mycelium can be observed when wet.  Leaf has bands of brown or reddish-brown Spreads mechanically through mycelium.  Common in warm, humid areas.  Targets leaf tissue, but usually does not harm roots.
Brown Patch
May-Sept 1-3 inch patches of light brown turf.  Light grey mycelium around the edge of the patch can be observed when wet. Thrives on succulent turfgrasses with high nitrogen levels in humid conditions.

Common Residential Weeds (Click blue text for examples)

Kinds of Weeds
Time Frame
Notes
Crabgrass
Apr-Jul Period of peak germination.
Annual Bluegrass
Aug-Nov May develop seed heads earlier in the year if the weather is fair
Yellow Nutsedge
May-Jul Sedges can be identified by their triangular, solid stems.  Grasses normally have round, hollow stems.
Winter Annual Broadleaves (Dead Nettle Depicted)
Aug-Nov Period of peak germination.
Summer Annual Broadleaves (Carpetweed Depicted)
Apr-Jun, Aug-Oct
Period of peak germination.
May-Jun, Aug-Sept
Period of peak germination.

Weed Management

The final group of common pests in residential lawns is weeds.  While what people consider a weed may change from household to household, the general definition of a "weed" remains the same; a plant that is growing where you do not want it to be growing.  The table to the left identifies a few common groups of weeds and their normal germination times.    The best way to prevent weeds from taking over is simply to maintain healthy turfgrass.  Be sure to water infrequently and deeply, do not "scalp" your lawn by cutting it too short (less than 2 inches), and test your soil every few years to check if it is still sufficient for the kind of turfgrass in your yard.

Be mindful about how much vegetation you are seeking to remove from your yard.  While crabgrass, nutsedge, and dandelions may not look as clean and uniform as a yard made of only turfgrass, they can be extremely valuable for preventing soil erosion, absorbing stormwater runoff, and keeping even less favorable plants from taking root.
The usage of pesticides in lawn maintenance is often not necessary, but persistent infestations may be cause for intervention.  Figuring out what pesticide to use can be difficult.  Not every pesticide will work against every kind of pest.  Herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, largely only work on their respective kinds of pests.  There are multi-use pesticides, but they can often be more hazardous than individual treatments.  Below, you will find a list of pesticides that can be used with relative safety.  The safety rating is based on how hazardous the active ingredient is to humans (from short-term and chronic exposure), animals, and aquatic environments, how easily it can be washed out of the soil, and how long it takes for the compound to breakdown in nature.  It is not a comprehensive list of products, but it is a useful place to start.

List of "Safer" Pesticides

Safer Pesticides

External Resources

To figure out exactly what you need to use, it might take referencing several different sources.  The information above is primarily from the Texas Cooperative Extension.  Another useful reference is the World Health Organization, who has published a document that ranks all registered active ingredients based on their effect on human health.  If you are looking for a pesticide to target a particular insect, animal, weed, or fungus, take a look at the California-based nonprofit, Our Water Our World, for an extensive list of safer, effective treatments.  These documents, and more, can be found to the right.


What to Keep in Mind

Though it may seem like there are too many factors for the average homeowner to keep track of in order to maintain a healthy lawn, most people already have the intuition to make the right choices.  Pest infestations are not an everyday problem, and even if you have weeds like dandelions or nutsedge in your lawn, it is not an emergency to remove them.  From week to week, the only habits that are really necessary for keeping turfgrass healthy is to water infrequently and deeply (until the soil is soaked to the bottom of the root system) and that you should avoid mowing grass to shorter than 2 inches.  These two steps will go a long way to making your yard more resilient and able to recover from pests.