Weeds and bare spots?


Old 09-06-17, 10:24 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: USA
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Weeds and bare spots?

Hi All,

My lawn has developed a lot of weeds that look like this:
Name:  Weed.jpg
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Anyone know what they are? They spring up all over the place, grow much faster than grass, and are very easy to pull out by hand. However, they just keep growing.

Relatedly (maybe), I also have a lot of bare spots. I'm attaching two pictures, one is a bit distant, one is more close-up (the two following pictures are rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise; I can't figure out how to rotate them correctly, so I apologize):
Name:  Bare Spot - distant.jpg
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Name:  Bare Spot - close.jpg
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The "distant" picture also provides a view of the weeds. First question is: how do I get rid of these weeds?

Also, I have been core-aerating and slit seeding by a professional company for the past few years, once a year in the fall (they also do 4x fertilizing, pre-emergent, etc. - the standard stuff, I guess). I also asked them about dethatching (which I had thought was the same as power raking), and they said that their slit seeder does a light dethatching. I guess second question is, does this make sense that a slit seeder does light dethatching? Should I have power raking done? (The ground does feel very hard to me, and there looks to be a build-up of brown stuff, almost like dead-grass - you can see it in the second and third pictures, above.) If so, when?

Any ideas how to make the bare spots look better for next season? Do I need to top-dress (if that's the right term) to add more good soil to the ground? 1/2"? More, less, etc.? Do lawn companies do this?

Any ideas would be great. Geography-wise, I'm in northern NJ.

Thanks for any help!
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Old 09-06-17, 11:17 AM
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Cool season grasses generally do not need to be de-thatched. Would they anyway, a good core aeration usually does the trick.

I am concerned that you're getting a core aeration every year and still think the ground is very hard.

Have you had a soil test done?
Old 09-06-17, 11:27 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: USA
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Thanks for the quick response.

My definition of hard may not be correct, but I'm not sure how to tell.

The professional lawn company does do a soil test every 2 years, via Rutgers University Lab (which I'm assuming is trustworthy/competent). Last test was done in July 2016, and results were (score, followed by Lab's comment):

pH - 6.16, slightly acidic, optimum pH of many plants except acid-loving species; optimum range for grown of most Turfgrass, cool season; do not apply any limestone;

Lime Requirement Index: 7.73

Phosphorous: 189 lbs/acre (above optimum)

Potassium: 186 lbs/acre (optimum)

Magnesium: 291 lbs/acre (optimum)

Calcium: 4,738 lbs/acre (above optimum)

Zinc: 17.56 ppm (adequate)

Copper: 4.34 ppm (adequate)

Manganese: 32.14 ppm (high)

Boron: 0.85 ppm (adequate)

Iron: 194.10 ppm (high)

Hopefully that helps; I don't see any other test data on the lawn report.

Thanks again!
Old 09-06-17, 12:47 PM
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There are hundreds of varieties of grass. There's a staggering number of different tall Fescues. So, if it looks like grass and doesn't have any characteristics you can identify to another plant or weed then it just may be a different kind of grass. I bought sod 5 years ago and it had sprigs of similar looking grass evenly throughout. The seed blend used by the sod farm contained three different varieties of grass and depending on conditions in your yard one variety may die out and be overtaken by the others.

I am surprised you have bare patches like that with a professional lawn care service. What do they say about the spots?

Is there anything special about the trouble areas? Does water collect or puddle there when it rains? Is it next to a driveway where in years past someone may have used it as a parking space?
Old 09-06-17, 02:08 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: USA
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Thanks for the quick response.

I know a "weed" is really just any plant we don't want. I guess a rose would be a weed if it were in the middle of my vegetable garden. So, I guess the weeds I have could be grass, but they are growing almost as tiny tufts, each having only 3 or 4 blades in each tuft, and they are VERY easy to pull out. It almost looks like the top part of the root is sticking out of the ground; I can pull them up using very gentle force with only my thumb and pointer finger.

The bare patches are throughout my lawn, though worse in some areas. So I don't think its a parking issue because some of it is in the middle of my front lawn and not near the driveway. No drainage issues in most of my lawn (there is a small part that does have drainage issues, and I know that's the reason why nothing will grow there).

I'm on the outs with the lawn company, and I'm not going to use them next year. It was just a few dollars more to use them, but I figure I'll fertilize on my own schedule when I know the kids won't be there. In the past, they had said the lawn looked ok for that time of season and that I probably wasn't watering enough (this was last year, before I had sprinklers installed before the current season).

Is it possible that I just need new soil, or power raking or something? Did those brown patches look like too much thatch to you? Or is that not thatch even?

Thanks again!
Old 09-06-17, 02:37 PM
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You're in NJ, I can say without being there that you almost can't have a thatch problem and if you did it would be because way too much quick release nitrogen fertilizer was applied. Even if you had a thatch problem, core aeration is treatment for it. Hence, I don't think thatch has anything to do with this.

Did any of the soil which was sampled come from the bare spots? Do you have excess water in those areas - like coming off a roof (I've seen many spots not grow grass until a gutter was installed)?

How about a pic of the lawn from far enough away we can see what's bare and what's good?
Old 09-06-17, 02:40 PM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: North East Kingdom of Vermont
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While I'm no expert, I would be very disappointed if I were throwing as much money at a lawn as you must have been doing, and then having this to show for it.

While I think your pH is on the low side, I think your problem looks like you might have an infestation of Chinch Bugs, which eat the roots of your grass plants . . . . or some similar critter.

I would spend some personal time and consider what other pests might produce the spotty results your lawn presents to the eye at this time of the year; but for starters, here are some images of Chinch Bug Damage:

Old 09-06-17, 03:11 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: USA
Posts: 113
Thanks again to all for the quick replies.

Stickshift - no idea where the soil was sampled; the company usually comes during business hours when I'm not at home. I'll try to get a picture tomorrow so you can see what it looks like. Also, we really only have a water issue in one low-lying area, and I can't imagine that the company would test soil from there (or only from there), for several reasons. The vast majority of my lawn does not have drainage issues.

Vermont - thanks for the idea. I had thought about grubs, and I've checked in a few places - no grubs. But the images of chinch bug damage looks pretty similar to what I have; I'll see if I can find an old coffee can or similar and do the float test.

Thanks again, all!
Old 09-18-17, 08:40 PM
Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: United States
Posts: 2

The light green weed is called "yellow nutsedge." Go to Missouri Botanical Garden's website and search the name. There you'll find lots of information on this weed. I'm in central Virginia and see it come up every year.

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