JoAnne Skelly: Some care is required to avoid lawn problems

Lawns affect people differently. Some love their lawns, and others are more casual about lawn care.

I’m the more casual type, perhaps downright lazy. Our lawn is an assortment of different grasses and is in no way perfect, more like a mown meadow than a golf course. I forgot to fertilize before the weather turned hot, so now I have lots of clover — an indicator there’s not enough nitrogen in the soil. The lawn has brown patches, because I didn’t get around to fixing the sprinkler heads soon enough. Fortunately, the brown spots eventually will go away as the weather cools and I have improved the coverage of the heads. I noticed a few weeks ago that our mower blades needed sharpening, as the cut grass has light-brown, ragged edges, a telltale sign of dull blades.

The point is that you can be a fanatic about your lawn or approach lawn care in a more laid-back way. However, to avoid lawn problems, some minimal care is required. Lawns have to be watered evenly and with the right amount of water each season to stay green. They should be fertilized once per year at a minimum, in the fall, but two or possibly three times during the cool part of the year will be better. I have never applied an herbicide to kill weeds in my lawn, but I do apply a non-selective weed killer such as RoundUp around the edges and under trees (with caution) once per year just as an edging tool. A healthy lawn grows vigorously keeping weeds out.

My husband mows high, 3 to 3½ inches. This allows the grass blades to shade the crown of the grass plant, which reduces drought and heat stress. It also encourages deep roots and shades out weeds. We try not to go too long between mowing; cutting off only one-third of the grass length to get it back to 3½ inches long. If we cut it shorter, the grass is stressed with over-exposure — similar to a man with a full beard shaving it off and then burning his newly bare chin and cheeks in the hot sun.

If you would like more information on lawn care, contact the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension for a copy of “Keep Your Lawn Green,” Fact Sheet — 12-27. You can find it on our website,, under “publications.” It is one in a series of publications on integrated pest management.

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at


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