So you’ve got horrible looking Yellow grass and looking to get it as Green as fast as humanly possible.
Ok, so you might be reading this hoping for something you can do fast, or buy and apply fast and fix it. While there ARE things like this that can make quick wins, it should be noted that the reason for Yellow grass isn’t always the same in every situation.
For instance, your lawn:
- Could have drought stress
- Might have a number of Dog wee burns
- May be suffering from Grub problems
- May be suffering from disease infestation
- May be severely compacted
- May have shallow soil underneath it
- May have severe thatch problems
So I’m going to list a few quick wins, but you really should try and figure out the cause of the Yellow coloured grass.
There’s no denying it, a Yellow almost Grey coloured lawn is not a pretty sight. If a lawn receives no water, then at around the 2 to 3 week mark the lawn starts to show signs of stress by changing colour. It will then deteriorate from there.
If you start watering at this point you need to be aware that the damage is already done. You will need to water consistently daily for 2 weeks to start seeing signs of improvement.
If you choose to not water at all, there is every chance the drought stress will go beyond the point of being simply “dormant”. It actually dies off and you end up with large patches of dead grass.
During 2018 we had an incredibly hot Summer and around 10% of my customers’ lawns had dead patches through not watering at all.
- Those who watered once a week still had Yellow lawns that looked like straw, but importantly their lawns recovered once the rains came back.
- Those who watered regularly right through Summer had no major issues whatsoever.
- Those who let me apply a wetting agent continued to enjoy lush Green lawns with less watering needed, thanks to the wetting agent.
How to fix a drought-stressed lawn
Well if the lawn hasn’t gone too far (i.e has been like this for no more than around 4 weeks) then do the following things:
- Begin watering daily for 2 to 3 weeks. Each area with a sprinkler needs a good 10 minutes.
- Let the grass grow longer. It won’t do much for these 2 weeks but you must persist. Once the lawn becomes hydrated enough again, the grass will come out of dormancy and begin growing. Aim to get anywhere from 1.5 to 3 inches in grass height. It provides shade and allows good photosynthesis to happen.
- Fork any Brown coloured areas. This is easier said than done if your whole lawn is Brown. Ideally, you do this right after a good watering as the ground will be softer. Aim to push the fork in, to around 1 to 3 inches depth. Alternatively, you can use a hollow tine aerator, or spike sandals/shoes or even a rolling aerator. Personally I don’t think the spikes or roller is anywhere near as effective as an aerator, but they are better than nothing and easier than using a fork.
- Apply a wetting agent. This helps undo the damage from drought stress and enables the ground to begin accepting water again. This issue is called “hydrophobic soil” where you pour water on, and instead of sinking in, it actually stays on the surface. This one on Amazon does just this.
If you have too much lawn to carry this out you can either do it in stages. Work on a section for half an hour one day and half an hour the next day, or you can wait till the grass begins growing well again and you may have smaller areas to “fix” this way.
Dog wee burns
Ok, so there is no perfect fix for this, unfortunately. However, there are things to try and things you can do. When we say dog wee burns, note that it is not always dogs.
Typically it is a female dog which burns the lawn the most. Not because it is a female dog but more because of how they wee. Female dogs tend to crouch and wee in a tight concentrated place. Similarly, you may notice dog wee burns from male dogs or smaller dogs who tend to wee in a similar way. Interestingly I have also noticed over the years burns from the likes of cats and foxes.
How to fix dog wee burns
Once you notice the burn, it will already have been too late to “bring back to life”. The lawn has been burnt. It burns because of the composition of the urine which has mainly types of Nitrogen in them (Nitrogen is the number one thing to make plant life grow).
So what you tend to see is a burn mark surrounded by a ring of lush dark Green grass where the urine is less concentrated and has seeped away from the main wee spot.. ultimately making for a great fertilizer!
Now, remember there is no easy “fix” but there are things that “may” help. I’ve recommended the following 2 things countless times.
- Tomato ketchup. For some dogs, it can work, for others not at all. For the sake of trying it for a few months during Spring and Summer you have nothing to lose. Simply pop a few squirts in with your dog’s dinner each day.
- Dog rocks. These rocks can be purchased online from places like Amazon (here), eBay etc. and you put them into the dog’s water bowl. The idea is they are supposed to help neutralize things to a degree.
There are 3 main real “fixes” you can take to sort out a dog wee burn.
- Rake out and reseed. I have rarely seen grass recover from a dog wee burn. Use a springbok rake (this Bulldog rake is the one I personally use – and it gets a LOT of heavy use. I personally would not use the adjustable rakes as they are too flimsy) and heavily rake out all the dead stuff leaving the soil exposed and roughed up (preparation is critical to success)
- Section off the lawn. It may sound Draconian but if you are desperate you could fence off the main lawn and leave a designated area for your dog to enjoy
- Water heavily each time you see them do a wee. This is my least favourite option as it is nigh on impossible to stick to. How can you watch your dog every second they are out. often their wee can be completed in under 5 seconds! However, the idea is that the water dilutes the Nitrogen compounds in their urine.
- Water several times through the day. Not the ideal answer as you will at some point miss a wee that the dog has done but it may be of use. I’d suggest using an automatic water timer and sprinkler to come on every hour from 10 am till 5 pm and then no more that evening (as you may get other issues from Chlorosis (washing away of Nutrients and discolouration) through to disease from humid conditions.
Grub problems in the lawn
During certain times of the year, your lawn may encounter a few uninvited guests such as grubs (or ants). The 2 main grub problems that Uk lawns encounter are the Leatherjacket grub, and the Chafer grub.
For most of the year there is the possibility of one of the two types to do some sort of damage to your lawn, so please don’t think it is just a Summer thing.
Chafer grubs are curled White fleshy grubs with an Orange head and 6 legs at the head end.
The chafer beetle (sometimes called the May beetle as it is often seen in May) can be seen anywhere from early April to May. It has Copper coloured back and flies around for about 2 weeks looking for a mate. They typically mate in nearby trees or shrubs (around 1 to 2 metres in height) then the female flies down and enters the soil to lay her eggs.
Many people never see them. Sure enough though, 2 weeks later their eggs hatch and the young start to feed on the roots of your grass. Note that a few in your lawn often won’t cause a problem. The problem happens when you have a lot. They can literally eat your lawn to death, eating all the roots and killing the turf.
On top of this, the birds then come down and start pecking at the lawn to get to the grubs for food. This is where the real damage can be seen, as the turf can be lifted up like a carpet.
So as I mentioned, the grubs begin their activity around May… continual feeding and during June July and August the lawn may look Brown in patches. You might be forgiven for thinking the lawn is simply dry, but it could be a case of Chafer grub activity.
Leatherjacket grubs or straight in shape and usually a dark grey or black colour.
Leatherjacket grubs are the larvae of the daddy long legs, aka the Crane fly. Typically you see the daddy long legs flying in Autumn, although more and more I am seeing evidence in Spring as well.
The typical pattern involves Autumn flying, then egg-laying. The grubs then feed right over Autumn, Winter and into Spring.
So you can see that grub issues can be a year-round issue.
To check for grubs, simply insert a spade or trowel into healthy turf RIGHT NEXT TO / ADJACENT TO poor turf. Grubs eat roots, then move to the next healthy piece of root to eat. So you will find them in the healthy turf.
Dig a clean square and carefully crumble the soil in and among the roots to see if you can find any.
How to kill Chafer grubs or leatherjacket grubs
So if you have grubs you need to put measures in to control the issue. Unfortunately, professional pesticides are getting rarer as the government bans more and more year after year.
So what are we left with?
Well if you own a racecourse or golf course that is FINANCIALLY IMPACTED BY GRUBS you can still get hold of specialist products, but nobody else can.
So you are left with natural methods.
There are 5 options I will suggest :
Nematodes – these can be bought online for around £15 to £20. They are a living organism and need to be brewed once purchased by the company then sent to you. You then have to use them up within a week or two. They can be effective at reducing numbers but if you have a lot of thatch it’s harder for them to reach the grubs – so its best to aerate or scarify then apply. Then they need to be watered in and watered well for 2 weeks to allow the nematodes to move in the water and reach the target where they release a poison inside the grubs which stops them eating and they die.
Alcohol & garlic – largely unproven as grub activity has been lower the last few years where I live. Others use this and say it really works. get garlic powder in the herb and spices section, and a cheap can of alcohol lager or cider. Add these to a watering can and fill with water then water the area. The idea is they can not digest the sugars and it kills them.
Neem oil – I own this but again haven’t yet used this. It’s from the Neem tree in India and is seen as a natural pesticide. Just be wary with your application timings as it may also do unintended harm to other wildlife like Bees. the best time to apply would be early morning or late evening when the bees are less active.
Grub traps – you can buy chafer beetle lures, along with a chafer pheromone. This needs to be hung in a nearby tree or on a tripod nearby.
Iron sulphate – raising the PH levels a degree creates an environment that the grubs don’t like to tolerate too much. The outcome would be that the grubs choose to go to another lawn. Your lawn should end up with less grub activity as a result.
Disease infestations in your lawn
There are numerous different lawn diseases (including mushrooms) which can alter its appearance. Diseases like Red Thread can often be due to high humidity or low fertility (during the Summer) and so you simply apply more fertilizer or apply a fungicide.
When a lawn becomes infested with Disease or even at the first sign of disease it can look a real eyesore and be quite alarming.
Usually, the right fungicide can clear the fungus within a 2-week period. Make sure a fungicide is applied on a dry day though.
How to fix disease on your lawn
So for a quick fix to try, work your way through the following, in order of importance:
- 1: Apply fertilizer. (high humidity or low fertility – often by adding a fertilizer you can improve things
- 2: Fork the affected areas (if it’s too hard, soak the area thoroughly first as this will make a big difference. THEN pour washing up water over the affected areas.
- 3: Scarify the lawn to remove thatch – thatch holds water and in heat this can lead to high humidity.
- 4: Apply a fungicide. Just be sure to follow the instructions thoroughly. This one on Amazon will help with some diseases. You will also need a backpack sprayer or pump hand sprayer. There is even a battery sprayer that makes life easier available online.
When a lawn gets used it gradually becomes compacted over time. The more you walk on it, or play on it the more the air molecules get squeezed out as the soil presses together tighter and tighter.
The more a lawn becomes compacted the less air rain and nutrients can get down to the root zone where it is needed, so you end up with a poorer performing lawn.
Therefore ongoing work should be a priority to keep the lawn in tip top condition.
How to fix a compacted lawn
The simple answer is to aerate your lawn. You need to be able to get some of the air rain and nutrients back down into the root zone. There are many ways to aerate your lawn. The simplest and easiest fix is to use a garden fork.
I recommend you water the lawn deeply, then use the garden fork. The difference is highly worth it. It is far easier to push your fork in when wet. Work on the Brown areas first, and try to space the fork holes every 2 to 3 inches. When the lawn is wet you will soon get this done. If you have a larger lawn, do this over a few days, just working a small section at a time.
If you have a hollow tine aerator the resulting aeration will be more beneficial than using a fork. This is because you are pulling a core of soil out, instead of pushing the soil further down. Ensure that the aeration holes are again spaced every 3 inches.
There are manual aerators that you push in using your feet, or you can go all out and hire a hollow tine aerator machine or even buy one (although new machines are very expensive).
Shallow soil making your lawn Brown?
So most people inherit the garden with the house. You never really know what is underneath when you get your garden. If you have a new house built and can choose your own garden design you have some control over things.
For any lawn to thrive you really need to try and ensure there are at least 3 inches of decent topsoil. Enough for the roots of the grass to push down and ensure a healthy turf plant.
Anything less than 3 inches and you will begin to see Brown areas during drought.
Things like this are very noticeable at times when people have turfed over where an old pathway once stood (and they haven’t removed all the hardcore from underneath).
You also see Brown around drain covers, or where the grass meets a stone edging and there is often a concrete haunch just below the surface.
Some things can’t really be improved, so in this case, continue watering those areas well, forking when Brown and applying a wetting agent.
For areas which you can improve, you have choices. Either rip up the whole lawn and bring in a few tonnes of topsoil, or you can build the levels up gradually over the course of a year.
How to fix shallow soil under your lawn
You need to have patience with this method.
Essentially you want to create a thin layer of soil without smothering the grass. To do this, start out by ensuring your grass isn’t too short. Around 1 to 2 inches is fine.
Bring topsoil in and create small piles across the lawn. Use the back of a rake, or broom and drag it back and forth across the piles, spreading the soil across the lawn. Continue doing this until the soil has worked down in and amongst the blades of grass.
IMPORTANT: You don’t want to be smothering the grass. So if your grass is 1 inch high, create a layer of soil that is no more than half an inch deep. 2 or 3 weeks later the grass will have grown taller. Then at this point, you can repeat with more topsoil. So you are ultimately adding half an inch of soil every few weeks. 6 months later you should have a few extra inches of topsoil and the grass will love you for it.
Thatch problems in your lawn
If your lawn feels soft and spongy underfoot, then you will likely have a thatch and/or moss problem. This layer of dead organic grass matter builds up over months each time the grass is cut.
It acts like a thatched roof on a house. A thatched roof is designed to stop rain getting in the house, and it has the same effect in the ground. Slowing down water air and nutrients from getting to where they need to be.
How to fix thatch problems in your lawn
The remove this layer you can use a rake or a scarifier. A scarifier (sometimes known as a lawn raker or groomer) will remove piles and piles of thatch from the lawn with each pass. Don’t be alarmed by seeing huge piles of thatch being removed. This is all healthy and good and it is helping the lawn to breathe.
With lawns that are heavily infested with thatch or moss, you will find that you are left with bare areas in the lawn, and for this, you will need to overseed those areas. Scatter seeds (not too heavily), sprinkle a thin layer of compost or topsoil over the top (rubbing between your hands). Finally, walk on the mix to press it down. This is important as you need “seed to soil contact” for seeds to germinate. Then water lightly 3 to 5 times a day and you should see new grass shoots forming in around 2 weeks (as long as this is done between April and October).
I hope you have found this guide useful. This is everything I know and practice daily in my offline lawn care business. I promise you this all works if you follow it to the letter.
No matter what condition it is currently in, you can see some improvements by simply:
- Applying a fertilizer
- Watering regular
- Mowing regular
- Cutting the grass higher
- Applying a wetting agent
- Adding some iron Sulphate
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