Lawn Problems: Think before you act
My immediate inclination when there's a problem of one kind or another is to take care of it quickly, sometimes without fully understanding the situation. Case in point from last summer: I had about 5 yards of compost left over from a 12 yard delivery. Instead of carefully prepping the new garden bed I decided to create, I just started shoveling soil and making a new garden space.
I should have first at least gone to the trouble to kill the big lawn weeds lurking there. Dandelions and dollar weed immediately thrived in the rich, new soil I put down. Undaunted, they pushed their leaves up through six inches of the stuff and continued terrorizing my garden.
How Does this lesson Apply to Lawn Care?
If you see weeds in your lawn, or a dying patch of grass, the first instinct can be: FIX! NOW! Pour on some weed killer, spread grass seed, turn on the hose. But, before you can fix a problem, you have to know what the problem is. The first step in any lawn care problem resolution should always be: first correctly identify the problem.
What Looks Like the Lawn Problem might not actually Be the Lawn Problem
For instance, in my lawn I have a big mossy area. I thought that there was moss in the spot primarily because it was so shady. However, other shady areas were doing just fine in terms of grass growth. So, I did something I hadn't been regularly doing, but am always telling people to do: I checked the pH. Wow! That was eye-opening. The pH of the soil in that area of the yard was 4.5. That is an extremely low pH. Basically nothing but moss and maybe blueberries would grow in soil with that pH. So, what I thought was a shade issue was really a pH issue.
pH and Lawn Problems
If there's a problem in your lawn, start by testing the pH. It can't hurt, and you might find that the lawn soil is just too acidic for the grass to take up the fertilizer you put down (so the grass stays yellow) or the grass starts dying back, or you start getting a whole bunch of the same types of weeds. Once you've established or ruled out pH as the problem, you can go from there.