How hard can it be to grow grass? It grows everywhere! By itself! But when you try to convince it to take residence in accommodating greenness in front of your house, it rebels. Instead of a beautiful, smooth meadowlike lawn, you get brown spots, dead spots, strange stripes, mushrooms ... all sorts of evil things that mar your lawn and make you hang your head in shame. Fight back by figuring out exactly what problems plague you, then apply the cure. Green is in your future.
If you have any type of bent grass or fescue, you might notice patches of brown appearing in your lawn. They'll be in a roughly circular shape and can become several feet in diameter--unsightly, to say the least. These patches, a symptom of the lawn disease named brown patch, are often a problem in areas with high heat and humidity. Over-watering and over-fertilizing can be the cause, so cut back on both and see if the patches clear up. Brown patch is a fungal disease, so applying a fungicide can help eradicate it.
You wouldn't think that lawn problems can start in winter, before your grass is even growing, but they can. That's the bad news. The good news is that prevention is the best cure here. Snow mold is a fungus that grows underneath the snow. Once the snow melts away and the grass starts growing, you get a spring surprise of dead patches all over affected areas. To prevent snow mold, remove all leaves from your yard in the fall, do your fall fertilizing early rather than late in autumn and do a last mowing to cut the grass down short just before winter sets in. Snow mold likes to grow in tall grass and wet leaves so reducing these often takes care of the problem.
Got Bermuda? You might have dollar spot, which looks like whitish spots about the size of a silver dollar on the grass. Leprosy of the lawn is not going to make your neighbors happy, so deal with the problem immediately. Regular watering and application of rich, organic, well-rotted compost should take care of it.
If you have Kentucky bluegrass or another type of creeping, bent grass, you might get struck with stripe smut. Your grass will look thin and patchy, and if you actually get down there and eyeball the single blades, you'll see a stripe. The stripe first appears as yellowish, then darkens to gray and finally to an unpleasant sooty black color. The cause is often too much high-nitrogen fertilizer, which feeds the spores that cause this striping, so back off on the fertilizing and see if things improve.
This lawn problem sounds appealing, and if you've only got a little ring or two it may not be worth bothering with. When your whole yard is covered, however, the fairies may need to go. Here's what happens: the fairies, also known as fungi, grow up from some sort of woody matter that is buried in the soil. An old tree stump, perhaps. What you see is a large, dark green ring on your lawn with little growths that look like mushrooms. If you don't like hosting the fungi-fairies, come back with a three-pronged defense: lots of water, lots of aeration and some good, organic, well-rotted compost.