My Lawn Care Isn't Working: 8 Things That Sabotage Results at Your Northern VA Home

If you’re investing in professional lawn care, you might expect that your lawn is always going to look fantastic. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. 

There are often other factors that drastically impact results. Although some believe that a lawn care service for your home in Ashburn, Aldie, or Leesburg, VA is a fix-all solution, the fact is, it’s not.

There are some mistakes and improper practices that could be sabotaging your dreams of a beautiful lawn. Here they are.

1. Your Lawn is Not Receiving Enough Water

In order for your grass to grow thick and healthy, it needs water. But if you’re suddenly experiencing grass problems, there’s a chance your lawn might not be receiving enough water. 

Lawns in the Ashburn, Aldie, and Leesburg, VA area need around one to two inches of consistent water each week. While oftentimes Mother Nature supplies that, there are other times when you may need to supplement by using an irrigation system. 

irrigation-spray

Periods of drought can really impact your lawn’s overall appearance. Even though an established lawn will likely rebound from a brief period of drought, there are still long-term consequences. 

Your grass may not be in a weakened state and could have thinned out or even died in certain spots. If you suddenly feel as though you have a lawn full of weeds, it could be that opportunistic weeds took advantage of your lawn’s weakened state, quickly creeping in to fill those bare spots or thin areas.

If you notice that your grass is turning yellow or that your grass is dying, and that weeds are creeping in, your first inclination might be to assume “my lawn care isn’t working.” But even the best lawn care program cannot make up for a lack of water, which is a vital element that all grass needs to survive. This would be a great time to assess your lawn’s watering needs and whether they are truly being met.

2. Your Lawn Received Too Much Water

While lack of water is obviously a problem, too much water can also be problematic. This can occur when there is above average rainfall, which can prematurely deplete your lawn of nutrients and ultimately cause your lawn care program to be less effective. 

puddle

Sometimes homeowners see that their lawn is yellowing and assume it’s due to drought (when in reality, it was something else). This can lead them to water more than their lawn actually needs. This can also be problematic as watering a diseased lawn (which we’ll cover later on our list) will actually contribute to spreading the disease.

3. Your Lawn is Not Mowed Properly

A lot of homeowners are genuinely surprised by how much impact their mowing habits have on their lawn care results. But, the truth is, if you’re not mowing properly, you might actually be sabotaging your lawn care program.

First and foremost, it is important to think about your mowing height. When you mow your grass too short, or you scalp the edges along your walkways and driveways, you are creating conditions that are favorable for weed infiltration. 

That’s because weeds love thinned out areas in your lawn where it is easy for them to get access to a lot of sunlight and they don’t have to compete with thick healthy turfgrass to grow. To prevent these problems, in our region, we aim to keep the cut height around 3 ½ to 4 inches.

lawn care technician mowing lawn

The mowing equipment utilized to cut the grass can also have an impact. When a lawn is mowed with outdated equipment with an unleveled mowing deck or dull blades, it can lead to poor results. Grass that is cut with a dull blade is essentially “torn” rather than neatly “cut,” and it puts a tremendous amount of stress on the plant. This can cause it to yellow and look sickly. While you might assume something must be wrong with your lawn care program, in reality, it could just be that improper mowing practices are the cause. 

If you have outdated equipment or are worried about mowing improperly, you might consider working with a lawn care company that also offers mowing services. Just don’t assume that all professional companies will always mow properly. There are certainly lawn care services in Ashburn, Aldie, and Leesburg, Va that are making mistakes regularly. 

There can be disconnects when you work with a different company for mowing and for lawn care treatments and it can be helpful to find a company that offers all services under one roof.

4. Your Lawn has a Soil Problem

While it’s the grass that is visible, it’s actually your lawn’s soil that has the biggest impact on its overall performance. Poor soil health will inevitably lead to grass problems. 

Although most people don’t spend much time thinking about what’s below the surface, there could be any number of issues causing you trouble. It could be a soil pH problem, a soil composition issue, or even just the fact that it lacks essential microbiology to be thriving as it should. 

lawn soil

Naturally healthy soil is full of beneficial microorganisms (such as fungi and bacteria), which help the grass to take advantage of the nutrients found in the soil as well as those provided in the form of fertilizers. However, when these microorganisms are lacking, your lawn may not be digesting all the nutrients it needs to perform its best. This could make it appear as though your lawn care isn’t working.

In terms of soil make-up, compaction is also a common problem in our region. When our clay-like soil becomes hard and compacted, it can be difficult for the lawn care products added to it to even penetrate beyond the surface (down to the root zone, where they’re needed). Instead, they’ll just sit there, atop of your soil. That’s why a good lawn care program should also include lawn aeration, which will break-up soil compaction and help your lawn breathe easier.

aeration-plugs-in-grass

This can also be followed by topdressing the lawn. After aeration and overseeding, a topdressing of compost will mix with the clay soil and create a better layer of topsoil by improving the microbial life that we talked about as well as improving the soil structure. A program like this, which focuses on soil health, will ultimately lead to better lawn care results.

Unfortunately, many people skip vital services or just choose the bare minimum. This is why their results may be falling short of what they could be

The best solution is to work with a company that offers soil testing as part of its lawn care program. Soil tests look at the lawn’s pH as well as its nutrient balance to see what may be lacking and what can be done to fix any problems. 

Of course, you also want to choose a company that can offer all of the different services that will amend the problems your soil may be experiencing (including fertilization, aeration, and topdressing).

5. It’s just a Matter of Grass Type

Sometimes, questions that we get about grass problems, such as a yellowing lawn, aren’t actually a problem but a natural result of the grass type that our customers have. 

In Northern Virginia, turf-type tall fescue is undoubtedly the best-adapted turfgrass for the area. That’s because it tends to have the deepest root system of all of the different types of cool-season grasses that are out there. It can use water from deep within the soil and therefore resist drought longer than other cool-season grasses.

Cool-season grass in lawn in Virginia

But the important thing to recognize is: it’s still a cool-season grass.

That means during those scorching hot summer days, there are areas that are going to get hot and dry, and it may struggle. It’s going to need a lot of water but even if you are watering frequently, you might find that it’s yellowing. 

This is just a natural response for this type of grass and you should not get terribly alarmed or assume that your lawn care isn’t working. During very hot summers, there may be some struggles with color that are unavoidable. 

Rest assured that even though your lawn will go dormant during periods of heat, it will green right back up as soon as the weather cools down. This is one of the great features of this grass type. It is ultimately quite resilient. 

6. Your Lawn Might Have a Disease

Sometimes, if grass is dying or experiencing other issues, it could actually be struggling with turf disease. In our region, some of the most common diseases include Red Thread, Pythium Blight, and Dollar Spot are three of the ones that we often see. These are all forms of fungal diseases and they can spread rapidly on a lawn. One minute your lawn seemed fine and the next it was turning colors and dying off in brown patches.

lawn with disease

While some fungal diseases are due to temporary environmental conditions and will resolve themselves then the weather changes, a bad case of turf disease may require professional treatments of fungicides. A lawn care professional can determine whether your lawn is struggling from a disease and whether it warrants treatment (dependent upon the severity). 

7. Your Lawn Needs More Fertilizer

Fertilization is an important lawn care service that provides your lawn with essential nutrients. It’s important to maintain an ideal nutrient ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in your lawn.

lawn care technician fertilizing lawn

Failing to fertilize your lawn often enough will cause thinning as it suffers from nutrient deficiencies. Whether you’re taking a DIY approach your working with a professional lawn care company, you want to make sure that your lawn is getting what it needs. Unfortunately, even some “pros” don’t always put down the proper amount of product, and this can negatively impact your lawn.

It’s important to work with a lawn care company in the Ashburn, Aldie, or Leesburg, VA area that utilizes soil testing and a customized approach to lawn care that is scientifically based upon your lawn’s specific needs. Every lawn is different and using the same approach across the board could mean that your lawn isn’t getting everything it needs.

8. Your Lawn is Plagued with Invasive Weed Varieties

All weeds are not created equal and therefore require different approaches to treatment. Of course, some weeds are harder to get rid of than others. Tough-to-control weeds may require specialized weed controls or a specific plan of action to address. 

Nutsedge lawn weed

In Northern Virginia, some of the most difficult weeds include Wild Violets, Ground Ivy, and Nutsedge. These three weeds are particularly aggressive and tough to get under control. If you’re using a lawn care professional that is not varying their weed control treatments and taking a targeted approach, you might be left with a lawn full of weeds. 

The solution is to ensure you’re working with a pro that knows how to target even the toughest weeds.

9. Your Lawn has a Pest Problem

Insects, such as grubs, are also a common reason for grass problems. Grubs damage your lawn by feeding on its roots (and leaving nothing to hold the grass down). If it gets severe enough, your lawn could actually start to roll up like a carpet. 

Grub in lawn

To address a grub problem, you’ll first need to get the grubs under control with the application of a professional product. Once you have dealt with the grub infestation, you’ll need to reseed or sod your lawn to replace the damaged areas.

While they can generally be treated curatively, the best defense is proactive care. Using a preventative grub control treatment on your lawn will prevent grubs in the first place.

Of course, grubs are not the only potential lawn insect that could be causing your grass problems. Surface-feeding insects, such as chinch bugs, feed on the grass itself and can also wreak havoc. Even though your inclination may be to assume you have a problem with lawn care, it could actually be that you have a pest issue that needs to be addressed.

Making a Proper Diagnosis of Your Lawn Problems

The key to getting your lawn back on track, no matter what the problem, is a proper diagnosis. Because different problems require different solutions, the correct diagnosis will be important. 

This is one of the biggest benefits of working with a professional. They’re going to know what’s actually wrong with your lawn. Rather than guessing, and possibly addressing the issue improperly, they’ll get started with the correct solution right away.

Rock Water Farm truck and technician caring for nice lawn

Although it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that your lawn care isn’t working, the fact is, there could be one of many other issues actually occurring. 

You could actually be sabotaging your own results or working with a company that is negatively impacting them for you. Or, you might have an outside problem at hand that could not have been avoided. No matter what it is, the root cause of these issues needs to come to light and be addressed and that will only be accomplished with the help of a well-trained professional.

In the end, the choice is yours. You could go on experiencing subpar results and being left in the dark about what’s going on. Or, you could work with a lawn care company that has your best interest at heart and will take the time to educate you about what’s really going on.

If you’re ready to start getting the lawn care results you desire at your Ashburn, Aldie, or Leesburg, VA home, talk to an expert, choose a solution that rocks, and get ready to reap the rewards.

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Image sources: nutsedge, grub    

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Todd Thomasson

Written by Todd Thomasson

Todd Thomasson, founded Rock Water Farm Landscapes & Hardscapes in 2005. Having grown up with hard working parent role models and a strong work ethic, Todd put his Landscape & Turf Management degree from Virginia Tech into action as the lead stone mason and landscape designer for the new company. Over the years, the responsibility and opportunity of running this company has been shared with other members of the Rock Water Farm team, launching one of the leading property maintenance companies in Loudoun County. Todd is still rooted in his passion for design/build projects and continues to run the company, working with clients to design, build and maintain perfect outdoor spaces with his team.