5 Grass Growing Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

All grasses belong to the Poaceae family which contains over 12,000 different species.

With a number that large, it’s helpful to break them into groups where the majority will be forages. But some will be edible – like wheat, barley, and rice, and some will be shrubs – like ornamental and fountain grasses, and even some take the form of trees – like bamboo!

Grass is so prevalent everywhere that most of the time we forget to stop and examine how awesome it is and the benefits it brings to humanity.

John James Ingalls talked about the miraculousness of grass when he said,

“Grass is the forgiveness of nature; her constant benediction…Forests decay, harvests perish, flowers vanish, but grass is immortal. It yields no fruit in earth or air, and yet should its harvest fail for a single year, famine would depopulate the earth. Grass softens the rude outline of the world. Its tenacious fibers hold the earth in its place. It invades the solitude of deserts, climbs the inaccessible slopes and forbidding pinnacles of mountains, modifies climates, and determines the history, character, and destiny of nations.”

The Unique Benefits of Grass

As a lawn care contractor, we specialize in turfgrass and growing lush, green lawns in Pittsburgh. It’s a beneficial role when you consider that “The front lawns of eight average houses have the cooling effect of about 70 tons of air conditioning, while the average home-size central air has only a 3.5 ton capacity.”

Grass cools us down, cleans the air, reduces noise pollution, and improves wellness on top of a host of other benefits – like giving us a place to play soccer with our friends.

Who doesn’t want to come home to a flawless and welcoming lawn? It will impress your family and friends alike—making your yard the coveted place for a barbecue or an afternoon in the sunshine.

Since grass does so much for us, we thought we’d do grass a favor and help prevent a few of the most common mistakes people make when trying to grow grass in their lawns.

 

Mistake #1: Inadequate Soil Preparation

 

In order to grow, seed needs to make direct contact with soil. By just throwing grass seed outside, it won’t germinate.

There are a few ways you can ensure seed to soil contact including raking and aerating. If you have a small trouble spot, like an area where a dog urinated, you can use a potato fork or a rake to dig up that area. Be sure to remove all the dead grass in that spot and get down to the soil level.

For larger areas, we recommend core aeration.

Core aeration is the process of taking small plugs out of densely compacted soil—i.e. your lawn after a long summer of enjoyment. The plugs are then deposited on the surface. After the plugs are pulled, grass seed can nestle in and find areas to sit back and start their growth process!

[Read More: Types of Summer Lawn Stress]

The benefits of aeration don’t stop there however.

Aeration also helps break down thatch – a layer of dead grass. A thick layer of thatch prevents the sunlight and water from reaching the roots of your grass. Allowing the thatch to break down into a thin cover, releases nutrients back to your soil, and is ideal for the growth of your grass.

The amount of moisture in your soil is important, because as you can imagine, pulling plugs of soil in dry conditions becomes difficult. We recommend watering your lawn thoroughly 3-5 days prior to aerating to ensure the tines on the machine can reach a depth of 2-3”.

Mistake #2: Seeding Improperly

Overseeding is the process of laying grass seeds on your lawn. Most lawn experts recommend seeding immediately after core aeration. Introducing grass seed to your lawn will make it fuller, greener, and more competitive against weeds in the coming growing season. You can enjoy watching your grass green up in the spring without having to worry about treating your lawn for weeds nearly as much as last year.

Though it sounds simple enough – lay down some seed – there are a few errors that people commonly make.

Applying seed at an incorrect rate

When you check a bag of seed, it will tell you the recommended rate to apply. This rate is calculated as “pounds of seed per thousand square feet of area”. Established lawns typically require 3-5 pounds whereas bare dirt may need 7 pounds. So, if your lawn is 10,000 square feet and the label recommends 5 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet, you’d need to spread 50 pounds of seed. Most seed bags come in this size, but always account for trouble spots.

Not considering trouble spots

Trouble spots are areas that grass can’t consistently grow in. It may be best to try a different grass blend in that spot – such as a shade blend in the backyard under large, mature trees. You also may want to come back periodically and add more seed to those spots if they dry out easily.

Neglecting After Care

After the seed is spread, you don’t want to rake until the lawn is established. You could damage the root zone and pull up the baby seedlings. On the flip side, not removing the leaves could be just as hazardous as they can suffocate the seedlings. And considering that up to 90% of the weight of a grass plant is in its roots – we want to make sure that the foundation is strong.

Mistake #3: Over or Under Watering

There’s only three ways you can water – over, under, or just right. Here’s a couple tricks when it comes to watering grass.

New Seedlings
  • You don’t need to water immediately, but once you start watering, you must keep the soil moist at all times until the seedlings establish.
  • The ground should be damp, but not soaking wet.
  • There should not be so much water that there is runoff.
Established Lawns
  • Water until the top 6-8 inches of soil is wet.
  • Most lawns need 1 inch of water per week.
  • Water in the morning, before 10:00AM.
  • Check your watering schedule seasonally by using the screwdriver test or a soil probe.
[Read More: Watering Tips For Healthy Plants Year-Round]

 

Mistake #4: Improper Fertilization

 

Applying products to your lawn can be a scary undertaking if you’re not sure what you’re doing or haven’t had much experience with it. After all, over fertilizing can cause browned out burnt spots in your lawn and may be harmful to the environment. The number one rule is to always read the label. Here are few other rules of thumb to help guide you.

If you recently planted new grass seed, you should apply a seed starter fertilizer that will boost the new seedlings germinate faster and achieve maturity sooner. Then, late fall fertilization is beneficial for root development and will give your lawn an early spring green-up next season. We always recommend a slow-release fertilizer as they don’t need to be applied as often and tend to provide a more even-color green instead of striping.

Stay away from weed control after planting seedlings. Refer to the label, but we recommend not applying any more weed control for the rest of the season to allow the seedlings to do their thing.

 

[Read More: FAQ About Pittsburgh Lawns]

 

Mistake #5: Not Doing Your Homework

 

Any time you take on a project in your lawn or in your landscaping, it’s important to get accurate measurements and dimensions. This will allow you to get your seeding rate right, the fertilizer rate correct and save you from wasted time, wasted money, and poor results. Make sure you get proper measurements from the start, deducting your home, patios, walks and driveways.

Even though you may do everything right – according to these guidelines, you may find that some areas simply won’t grow seed. The reasons could be poor soil or drainage, too much sun, too much shade, too much pet traffic, etc. Before you begin seeding, take these areas into account and check with an expert.

They may recommend starting with a pH test in these areas. Also consider the obvious fixes such as limbing up trees to allow more sunlight in, filling in a low spot with soil, or getting rid of your dog. (Just kidding! We love dogs!)

Overall, make the best use of your time when it comes to your lawn. If you choose the DIY aeration path – talk to your neighbors about renting an aerator on the same Saturday and splitting the cost. If not, reach out to a few pro’s and get their recommendations on your lawn.

Let us help!

 

Dream Greener offers a free lawn analysis where you can learn more about the type of lawn you have and the recommendations our experts suggest to have a lush carpet to walk on in with bare feet.

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Our company continues to flourish because we satisfy and delight our customers with levels of service and communication far exceeding the rest of the industry.

Reviews

The Dream Greener crews have cleared the snow and ice off my driveway for three years now. They've always done a great job and are always timely. The emails they send to communicate the plan for snow removal for each storm are always appreciated and if they come in the middle of the night (as they often do) I've always wondered how they get the work done without waking me. Additionally, this company has taken care of my yard maintenance for four years. This includes mowing, edging, maintenance of the planting beds (including mulching) and leaf removal. Always a great job, always show up when they say they are going to and never a problem. I rarely write reviews, but this is a company worth recommending and I so so highly.
Herman Maestas
16:51 01 Feb 18
We recently contacted Dream Greener to do some grading and reseeding work. Additionally, we had drainage installed around our shed. This company was very responsive and pleasant each time I contacted them. Jon came out to take a look at the property and talk with me regarding our needs and then quickly sent us an estimate. The price was very similar to other companies we had give us an estimate. On the day of the work, Jon came out with the crew and walked through the plan. The team worked diligently the entire day and tidied everything up when they left. Jon followed up to make sure that I was satisfied with the work done. A follow up email was sent to provide us with watering instructions for our newly seeded areas. Now I am tending to my "baby grass." We are very happy with the work; the yard already looks so much better. We are already thinking about additional projects to have them help out with!
Jamie Turer
18:58 14 Aug 17
Our landscaping beds were a mess. Dream Greener came out to evaluate the situation, made some suggestions for alternative approaches, and broke down the proposal into sections so that we could do the pieces we could afford. While not the lowest, their prices were very competitive, but, more importantly, both the service and the outcome were superior. People actually stop at our house to tell how terrific our landscaping looks. I've never had THAT happen before.
Rebecca Bowman
16:06 06 Nov 17
I don't leave many reviews for businesses, but this one is worth the exception. Over the past four years I've had some fairly disappointing interactions with a number of landscaping companies. Missed appointments, poor communication, subpar work.. the list goes on.Dream Greener is absolutely amazing. Even compared to other excellent companies, I think they really manage to stand out. They follow up 100% of the time, when they say they will. If you have scheduled services performed (I do- mowing and basic grass upkeep), they show up on time, work quickly and the product is excellent. On at least one occasion, I didn't even realize they were there- Lawn Ninjas!Moreover, when they do additional work (for example, using a weed killer) they leave a note detailing the work performed and any additional care items. If you have scheduled work, they keep you in the loop as to when the work will be performed, and then send you reminders immediately before. The kicker in all of this is: They are priced very competitively. They're also very honest about their pricing- when quoting some work they even suggested that I might be better off working with another business for the work and provided a referral. I highly recommend!
Christian S
18:56 12 Jul 17
We had several companies come out for estimates and design. We decided on Dream Greener because of their professionalism, customer service, great attitude, and pictures/reviews of the work completed.The children and I were out when the work was completed and my little girl was mesmerized. She said it was a princess yard now! My wife drove past the house a few times just to admire the work. In one day I've had 4 neighbors ask about the work, and multiple compliments on the pictures we posted. We are in the process of moving (we had scheduled the landscaping prior to finding a new house) and when we move I will be using them to landscape the new house. We couldn't be more pleased with the work and with the care they gave to our home.
David Bliss
12:33 26 Apr 17
I've used Dream Greener to handle my complex and expansive landscaping for two years running now. They do an amazing job with all the bushes, trees, shrubs and flower beds. They are always professional, cost-effective and I wouldn't go with anyone else!
Verle Haines
18:09 02 Apr 18
We started using the Dream Greener crew not long after we moved into our home. Over the last ten months our lawn has made incredible improvements thanks to the wonderful job the crew does every week. It's absolutely one of the best lawns on the block now. They are extremely clean and efficient and take very good care of our property. Based on the great job they do, we are planning to use them for some other landscape work that we need done. I highly recommend them for any lawn care and maintenance jobs.
Benjamin Lindsey
20:12 09 May 18
We built a home and the lawn they gave us was awful. Jon and I mapped out a plan and knew it would take 12-18 months. We are now 36 months in and out yard is spectacular! Thanks Jon!!
Wade Wilson
19:51 14 May 18
Responsive, on time and great attention to detail. The entire time worked tirelessly until the job was done. Exceeded our expectations and will absolutely use again.
Sarah M. Kreinbihl
19:41 23 May 18
Dream Greener did a fabulous job on spring cleanup in our yard. The beds, edging and hedges look wonderful!! Thanks for your prompt service. #Thistlenomore ??
Patty Conlon
11:34 15 Jun 18
We had an incredible experience with the entire Dream Greener staff on our recent project in June of 2018. With a larger scale job, we relied on their expertise in both the design and creation of our entire front yard landscaping. We were very pleased with the outcome and the efficient work of the team. The Dream Greener staff did more in a morning than I could have possibly done in an entire summer. Thanks again for your top notch service.
Jeff Brancolini
17:37 02 Jul 18
Wow! We just had Dream Greener install a completely new landscape around our entire house last week. It is absolutely gorgeous! Our neighbors even ran over as soon as the job was finished to tell us how beautiful it is. Our job involved a lot of work too, since we had stones instead of mulch. Everything had to be pulled up and taken away. The crew got the entire job done in less than 2 full days, absolutely amazing work. I would highly recommend their services, we couldn't be more pleased and impressed!
michele tommarello
20:35 03 Jul 18
Great company! Very reliable and they always call back quickly if I miss them in the office. Maria does a great job answering my questions and the crew always shows up with a smile when they mow my lawn. I've contracted Dream Greener for a year now and it was one of the best decisions I've made. They mow my lawn, mulch the flower beds, plant new flowers, and trim my shrubs. They always do a great job, I highly recommend them!
Sarah Ferano
17:28 12 Jul 18
I've been a customer for 3 years and each year their team's responsible and efficient work amazes me! Jon always keeps in touch and makes sure that I am happy with the work. I had them install a landscape 2 years ago (and they touch it up) and I still get compliments from people about it! I highly recommend you try them out
Kylie Wilson
17:18 12 Jul 18
Last spring I hired Dream Greener and I was very pleased with their work. They were very professional and did a great job! I now use their snow removal and mowing services as well, they always do amazing work
Emily F
17:36 12 Jul 18
John and his team at dream greener are amazing. I went through no less than 6 landscaping companies before I came Upon dream greener. I do not have an irrigation system but my lawn looks as good as the neighbours that have sprinklers. I would highly recommend dream greener to anyone who wants to have the best looking lawn and landscape in their neighbourhood.
Joe Lamphere
23:13 02 Aug 18
Oh My Goodness!!! What an amazing job done on our property yesterday. I have to keep going outside to marvel at the difference!!! Thank you. Thank you. This company does what it says. I’ve had previous landscaping services and NO ONE did the beautiful job that they company has done—-and the icing on the cake is the fair price that they charge.
Dayl Jewell
00:48 09 Sep 18
I highly recommend Dream Greener ! My yard looks absolutely amazing . I have had so many different landscapers and the job these guys did was unbelievable. They are so dependable and meticulous . I can truly say this was money well spent . In addition , everyone is so nice and professional.
Amy Belmear
05:13 18 Aug 18
Earlier this summer we were searching for help handling our landscaping issues. We hired Jon and his Dream Greener team and are very pleased with their work! They are very professional and did a great job! We will certainly call them again for any future needs.
Keith Yanda
11:46 24 Oct 18