5 Things That Are Killing Your Lawn!

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What does lawn disease look like

We all know what kills grass; weeds, bugs, drought, and many other factors are infamous for being lawn killers. Unfortunately, the simplest mistake in a lawn care routine can make your grass extremely vulnerable. Heartland Turf & Landscape wants to make sure everyone knows exactly what their lawn does and does not need for healthy growth.

1) Improper Mowing

The most common mistake people make when mowing the lawn is cutting the grass too short. It is very tempting to set that mower blade down low to the ground in order to achieve the perfect golf course appearance, but the truth is that mowing too low actually harms the health of your turf. Grass that is allowed to grow to a healthy height will develop deeper roots and be able to absorb nutrients and water more easily. If you cut your grass too short, your lawn will start to lack nutrition and eventually develop bare and thinning patches. The chart below shows a healthy height range for some of the more popular grass types in the Kansas City area.

Grass Type

Optimal Height (inches)

When To Mow (inches)

Perennial Ryegrass

1.5 - 2.5

2 - 3.75

Kentucky Bluegrass

2 - 2.5

3 - 3.75

Fine Fescue

2 - 2.5

3 - 3.75

Tall Fescue

2 - 3

3 - 4.75


1 - 1.5

1.5 - 2


1 - 1.5

1.5 - 2

St. Augustine

2.5 - 3

3.75 - 4.5


In addition to maintaining and mowing your grass at the proper height, the condition of the mower blades play a major role in keeping your turf healthy. Dull mower blades will mangle and damage grass, and mowing with unclean blades is a surefire way to spread a fungal lawn disease. Keeping blades cleaned and sharpened are two very simple ways you can improve the health of your lawn. Below are a few more helpful tips to keep in mind if you want a healthy and vibrant lawn!

  • Mow in alternating patterns.
  • Avoid mowing wet grass.
  • Stick to a weekly schedule.
  • Remove only the top ⅓ of grass length.
  • Leave some grass clippings behind as a natural fertilizer.

2) Poor Irrigation & Sunlight

Large Puddle Formed On A Lawn

Regular watering is one of the most important things you can do for your lawn. Unfortunately, overwatering and/or underwatering can happen in the blink of an eye, and the negative effects of improper watering can lead to many other harmful issues. Watering a little bit every day may seem like the best way to keep your lawn hydrated, but this method actually promotes shallow root growth, which allows weeds the chance to crowd out healthy turf. However, watering too much can lead to puddles and overly saturated soil, which can drown your grass.

For the best results, watering should generally be performed twice per week, with each zone getting at least 30 minutes of attention. Make sure to keep track of heavy rainfall and stretches of extreme heat, as a watering session would need to be subtracted or added, respectively, to maintain a healthy lawn.

Remember that your lawn will never thrive the way you expect it to without adequate sunlight. While certain grass types can perform better than others in shaded conditions, all lawns need some sun coverage in order to absorb nutrition and grow. Sunlight is also crucial to the watering process because your lawn needs to be able to dry, or it may attract fungal infections or pests. Make sure to water your lawn early in the day so your grass has enough time to dry itself, and optimize sunlight exposure by trimming trees/shrubs and removing other large obstructions.

3) Misuse Of Fertilizers

Lawn Care Kansas

It is no secret that fertilizing your lawn is the key to greener grass, but many issues can arise if fertilizers are used incorrectly. The labels of store-bought fertilizers contain both instructions and an NPK ratio, which indicates the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that are present in the product. Using the wrong type of fertilizer at the wrong time of year could result in your grass becoming overly stressed and damaged, and applying the wrong amount will always result in undesirable growth.

Cool-season grass types benefit from a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer in spring and fall, while warm-season grasses need fertilizer mostly in summer. At Heartland, we consider the most important fertilizer application to be our winterizing fertilizer in late fall. Kansas City lawns often feature cool-season grass types, and applying winterizing fertilizer right before winter sets in is a great way to prepare lawns for healthy growth in spring.

Applying too much nitrogen fertilizer outside of your lawn’s natural growing season will likely cause your grass to burn out, but some fertilizers are designed to release slowly and sustain your lawn throughout the summer. To ensure that you are fertilizing your lawn correctly, make sure you know your lawn’s grass type and that you are reading labels thoroughly. Of course, for the best fertilization results, it is always best to call in a professional lawn care company like Heartland Turf & Landscape!

4) Weeds, Pests, & Diseases

Flea and Tick Pest Control Service

When you start to notice unsightly weeds and bugs spreading across your lawn, you will know exactly what is damaging your grass. Weeds, pests, and fungal infections are the most obvious lawn killers you will encounter, but the presence of each often persists due to improper control methods. Applying too much of any chemical to your lawn will eventually kill your grass. As always, make sure you real labels thoroughly, and apply control methods promptly to mitigate further damage.

  • Weeds - Like all lawn care issues, preventing weeds is always easier than treating them after they emerge. Pre-emergent is a type of weed control mixture that must be applied before weeds emerge. Many people make the mistake of applying pre-emergent after seedlings pop through the soil, but the mixture will be useless at that point. Make sure the right weed killers are applied at the proper time, and watch out for factors like improper mowing or shallow watering that can lead to weed growth.
  • Pests - Your lawn should never be home to large concentrations of pests. Unfortunately, many issues can lead to a pest invasion before you even realize it. Pests are attracted to puddles, weeds, and damaged grass, and they will attract other critters into your yard that will damage your turf. Insecticides are useful once a pest invasion is noticed, but the best control is always prevention! Keep your lawn puddle free and weed free, and make sure you are fertilizing properly in order to avoid lawn pests.
  • Diseases - Unlike pests, most lawn diseases can not be treated after they have infected your grass. Some of the most common lawn diseases are foliar, meaning they will quickly infect and spread across grass blades and leaves. Fungicides can be used to mitigate the spread of infection, but proper lawn care is the only way to prevent disease; mainly, make sure mower blades are always cleaned, and try to water your lawn at sunrise. Dirty mower blades are the top transmitter of fungi in your lawn, and watering later in the day creates a damp environment where fungi will thrive.

5) Foot Traffic

Lawn Aeration

Lawns are made for being walked on, but too much traffic will leave your grass stressed and looking bare. If children, pets, or large groups of people are frequently spending time on your lawn, you will likely start to notice patches of dying turf. It is very common for “paths” of stressed grass to appear across the most used areas of your lawn, and large objects being left on your grass for extended periods will also result in thinning or dying turf. Pools, swing sets, trampolines, tables, and other objects can all contribute to a stressed lawn.

Compacted soil is the issue caused by excessive foot traffic, and it can lead to puddles, thatch buildup, pests, weeds, and many other issues if it goes untreated. Thankfully, there is a solution! While remaining mindful of heavy-use areas of your lawn is always a good idea, aeration and overseeding can repair lawns damaged by soil compaction. Aeration loosens the compacted soil and enables it to breathe and absorb nutrients, and overseeding introduces new grass into your lawn to keep it looking full and healthy. Call Heartland Turf & Landscape today for more information on how aeration and our other services help keep your lawn alive!