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3 Tips to Protect Your Plants from Pests and Disease in Northern Virginia

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If something is wrong with your lawn and you’re trying to get to the bottom of it, you may be feeling frustrated. After all, a simple online search of lawn problems can unveil a host of different culprits making you feel even more confused than when you started out. You may be frustrated with how your lawn looks and just want answers but it’s much harder than you realized to figure out what’s wrong.

You’re likely feeling that it shouldn’t be this hard to fix your yard. The truth is, you’re not alone in this struggle.

Lawns are more complex than most people realize and if you’re experiencing lawn problems, it could be due to any number of different causes. We understand that you want answers and while we can’t diagnose some problems without looking at your lawn, we can share with you some of the worst lawn problems that we see in Alexandria and Arlington, VA.

Quite often, lawns are struggling with not one, but several of these problems—any of which can have a negative impact on the lawn’s overall performance and appearance. Here are 10 of the worst lawn problems in Northern Virginia.

1. Lawn Problems Caused by Water

Water can be a common cause behind your lawn trouble. Most people think of water problems in terms of too little water (drought), but the truth is, too much water can negatively impact your lawn as well.

sprinkler overwatering lawn

Overwatering your lawn can actually drown the plant’s roots and deprive them of oxygen, potentially causing your grass to die. It can be confusing as lawns may turn brown due to both underwatering and overwatering but a difference is that the lawn will feel “squishy” from excess water.

2. Excessive Shade in Lawn

A lawn that doesn’t receive enough sunlight can also have problems. All grass plants need around 4 to 6 hours of direct sun to survive. Even shade-tolerant grass varieties need at least some sun, though it can be filtered light instead of direct.

trees causing shade in lawn

If your lawn isn’t receiving enough sunlight, then it can lead to bare or thin patches. One way to allow more sunlight to reach your grass is by keeping up with tree pruning. When your trees’ canopies are trimmed, this can allow more light to filter through. On top of that, you’ll want to keep up with regular seeding (performed along with a service like aeration or power seeding) in order to help continue to fill in those bare spots caused by lack of light.

Of course, if you have a heavily shaded lawn, even these two steps are likely not enough to get much grass growing. If this is the case, you may need to consider grass alternatives such as extending your mulch rings around your trees or adding planting beds. A landscape designer can help you to determine alternatives that would work best for your property.

3. Lawn problems due to Poor Soil

The overall health of your soil will also impact your lawn’s success (or failure). For one, your lawn’s soil pH can impact the availability of nutrients received by the grass. That’s because your grass will leach nutrients from the soil much more efficiently when the soil pH is in the optimum range.

poo lawn soil

An additional, more in-depth soil test can also help to determine whether your soil is where it ought to be. This type of soil test can also help determine whether or not your lawn has an advanced soil fertility problem by indicating the level of micro and macronutrients found in it. If your soil has been struggling with fertility on a long-term basis, you may need extra treatments of either phosphorus or potassium to get the levels right.

Of course, compacted soil is another concern that could be causing your lawn problems. When soil becomes compacted, your grass will struggle to receive the nutrients, water, and oxygen that it requires to perform its best. The best solution for compacted soil is a lawn aeration service each year.

4. Thin Grass Areas

Thin areas or bare spots in the lawn are a major source of frustration. Unfortunately, it’s relatively common to have thin areas in most lawns from one year to the next.

Everything may have seemed fine the previous year but you may be suddenly noticing thin patches where the grass isn’t growing as well. These thin areas often tend to be an uphill battle and it may never feel like you’re making progress.lawn aeration and cores of soil

The best solution for thin spots is a professional service such as aeration and overseeding or power seeding (also known as slice seeding), depending upon what your lawn requires. It’s important that you do more than just seed alone as growing new grass successfully requires good seed-to-soil contact.

Aeration works by pulling cores of soil from your lawn and creating small holes where the seeds will fall into. This loosened soil helps give your grass a better start than just tossing seed atop the earth as would happen with seeding alone. When aeration and overseeding are not enough, power seeding is a more intensive process that uses a piece of machinery to cut rows into the soil and plant seed, like rows of crops. Power seeding is highly effective at filling in bare spots and is the method used by golf courses.

5. Broadleaf Weeds

Lawn weeds can also be an incredibly frustrating lawn problem. They’re not only ugly but they can be destructive in nature when it comes to your lawn’s health. When allowed to grow and spread, weeds can begin to choke out healthy turf and take over.

Broadleaf plantain weed in lawn

In Northern Virginia, clover, dandelion, plantain, and spurge are some of the most prevalent weeds that we see. Your best bet for battling them is a lawn care program that includes broadleaf weed control with spot treatments that are customized to your property. Keep in mind that some of the more stubborn weed types, like ground ivy, may require repeated treatments to knock back.

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6. Grassy Weeds

Different from broadleaf weeds, crabgrass and nutsedge are grassy weeds that require selective treatments. Both are aggressive, unsightly, and often difficult to control. Crabgrass tends to pop up in thinned out areas of the lawn and is often found in spots where the lawn has been scalped by a trimmer. Nutsedge, also known as “nutgrass,” is also an aggressive grower and tends to prefer the moist areas of your lawn. It can grow quickly in warm weather.

lawn filled with crabgrass

Unfortunately, there are also some grassy weeds that are not treatable. If you have quite a few untreatable grassy weeds in your lawn, the best solution may be lawn renovation services to try and get your lawn back into optimal shape.

When you’re able to get healthy turf thriving your thick lawn will help choke out some of those undesirable weeds. Focusing on thickening up your healthy turf is generally the better approach as opposed to killing off everything in your lawn and starting from scratch. In most cases, we can make a thinned out lawn with lots of weeds look much better by focusing on improving the overall health of the lawn.

7. Lawn Insects

Lawn insects are another common culprit behind lawn problems. One type of insect is those that feed at the surface, munching on grass blades until they’ve caused serious damage. In Alexandria and Arlington, VA, two common surface-feeding insects include chinch bugs and sod webworms.chinch bug

Unfortunately, damage from these insects often goes unnoticed until it's severe. At this point, the lawn may begin to wilt, turn brown, and ultimately die. That’s why it’s important to find these pests as early as possible. When you’re regularly receiving professional lawn care, you can rest assured that these pests will be spotted early on and lawn insect control measures will be taken to prevent them from wreaking havoc.

8. Lawn Grubs

Of the destructive lawn insects that could be causing your lawn problems, grubs are another one to be aware of. Grubs, which is the collective name for several species of beetles in the larval stage, are white, c-shaped creatures that have the power to do serious damage to your lawn. That’s because they feed on its roots.

lawn grub in soil

Since grubs are so incredibly destructive, annual preventative grub control is the most effective way to ensure your lawn stays healthy. A grub control treatment will stop these lawn insects before they can do damage.

9. Lawn Diseases

Lawn diseases are another possible cause of lawn problems. In our region, lawn diseases like brown patch, leaf spot, and red thread are common concerns. On top of that, our rainy climate also lends itself to the production of lawn fungus.

Lawn with brown patches from turf disease

Since different diseases have different symptoms (and different treatment options), it’s important to have your lawn evaluated by a professional to determine which disease (if any) your lawn may be suffering from.

10. Poor Mowing and Maintenance Practices

You may be surprised to learn that your mowing and lawn maintenance habits can also lead to lawn problems if performed improperly. Mowing your lawn too short, for instance, can vastly impact its health and performance. Even a dull mower blade can tear instead of cutting, giving an overall browning effect to your lawn’s appearance.

lawn with example of poor maintenance and proper maintenance

We’ve also seen lawn problems that have been a result of improper application of fertilizer or weed control products (either through a DIY approach or even an unskilled professional). There is a bit more to the proper upkeep of a lawn than most people realize.

Lawn Care Companies to the Rescue

If you think you’re experiencing one or more of these lawn problems, then a professional lawn care company may have the solutions that you need to get your lawn back on track.


Of course, it’s important to choose a lawn care company in Alexandria or Arlington, VA that will go out of its way to properly diagnose your problem. You need a customized solution to address your specific problem in order for it to be successful.

It’s important to know that not all lawn care companies are created equal and some will not put in the time or effort to create customized solutions but will instead treat every lawn the same. This simply won’t work as different problems require different approaches.

By choosing wisely, you can feel confident that you’re taking the right steps to get your lawn problems under control and your lawn underway to optimum health.

If you’d like to stop worrying about lawn problems and are ready to hand your services over to a company you can count on, request your quote, choose from 3 lawn care program options, and relax as you get the royal treatment.

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Image sources: sprinkler, treesoilchinch bug, lawn grub

Krisjan Berzins - Owner, CEO

Since 1997, Krisjan has led the Kingstowne team with one simple philosophy, treat every customer like the “only” customer. His passionate pursuit of impeccable customer service has resulted in 24 successful years and a thriving company with over 85 employees, helping thousands of homeowners in the Alexandria, Arlington, and Springfield, VA area get what they want -- a worry-free property they can be proud of.