Questionnaire: Are You Clued-up on Common Lawn Problems?

From pest attack to maintenance problems, keeping a lawn looking at its best can sometimes turn into a bit of an uphill struggle. For nine-tenths of the most common lawn problems, timely intervention can make all the difference between dealing with a minor niggle now or a major nuisance a little while later – and that means that being able to recognise the signs of trouble brewing early on is vital.

So, are you clued-up on common lawn problems? Here’s our quick, 20-question quiz to help you find out. The answers are at the bottom – good luck!


Few things spoil the look of an otherwise beautiful lawn quite so obviously as a brown patch – but what caused it, and what’s the cure?

1. Drought is an obvious cause of brown grass, but lawns on which kind of soil are likely to suffer most ?

  • a) Sandy
  • b) Clay
  • c) Loam

2. A ring of luxuriant and deeply green grass surrounds each brown patch – which family pet is likely to be to blame and why?

  • a) Rabbit; rabbit droppings cause this effect.
  • b) Cat; stomach acid from regurgitated fur balls makes this happen.
  • c) Dog; or more accurately, a bitch, and it’s her urine that does the damage.

3. You’ve recently mown your lawn, but now it’s gone all brown at the tips; what’s the most likely explanation?

  • a) Blunt blades.
  • b) Bacterial infection getting into the cut ends.
  • c) The blades are set too high.

4. How can you avoid fertiliser burn?

  • a) Don’t use lawn feed in the summer.
  • b) Water in your fertiliser if it hasn’t rained for a couple of days after application.
  • c) In hot weather, only apply fertiliser at night.


Maintenance and repair is an essential part of good lawn management, but are you clued up on what to do?

1. Bumps in your lawn will get scalped every time you mow, but what’s the best way to deal with them?

  • a) Use a heavy roller.
  • b) Carefully cut the turf and remove the excess soil.
  • c) Re-turf the lawn.

2. What is “spiking” and when is it most useful?

  • a) Forcing a series of spikes into a compacted soil to aerate it.
  • b) Removing the flowering spikes of coarse grasses during lawn renovation.
  • c) Adding a small quantity of fertiliser to every watering to improve growth.

3. The besom is a valuable tool for the lawn, but what is it?

  • a) A type of rotary mower with plastic blades.
  • b) A kind of hollow-spiked aeration device specially designed for heavy soils.
  • c) The kind of broom commonly associated with Halloween and witches.

4. If you’re trying to improve your lawn’s root system, you should use a fertiliser rich in which chemical?

  • a) Nitrogen
  • b) Phosphate
  • c) Potassium


Weeds – the bane of every generation of lawn-keepers; are you prepared and ready to deal with them?

1. Your lawn has been invaded by large numbers of dandelions and plantains; what do you reach for?

  • a) A selective weed-killer.
  • b) A non-selective weed-killer.
  • c) A hand-fork.

2. Which of these weeds is generally considered to be the biggest problem?

  • a) Lesser celandine.
  • b) Autumn hawkbit.
  • c) Woodrush.

3. Which of the following is the most effective way to control the spread of speedwell?

  • a) Weed-killer.
  • b) A grass-box on your mower.
  • c) Hand weeding.

4. When would you use a selective weed-killer on your lawn?

  • a) To deal with mosses.
  • b) To deal with unwanted coarse grasses.
  • c) To deal with broad-leafed weeds.


As if weeds aren’t enough, there’s all the pests and diseases to watch out for too – but can you recognise the warning signs?

1. What is a leatherjacket and why is it a problem?

  • a) It’s the grub of the crane fly and it eats grass roots.
  • b) It’s type of woodlouse which makes extensive underground tunnels.
  • c) It’s a species of slug which is resistant to slug pellets

2. What is dollar spot?

  • a) A patch-forming yellow fungus almost exclusively affecting fine leafed turf.
  • b) A red-spotted greenfly which attacks lawn seed.
  • c) A bacterial disease commonly affecting utility-grade turf.

3. If starlings are busily tearing tufts out of your lawn, what’s likely to be going on?

  • a) They’re looking for nesting material.
  • b) You have a leatherjacket or chafer grub problem.
  • c) It’s just something they do.

4. Which of these is the most common fungal disease to affect lawns in the UK?

  • a) Red thread.
  • b) Fairy rings.
  • c) Fusarium patch.


Finally, once you’ve sorted all the rest of your lawn problems out, you’ve got to mow it – but how well do you know the potential hiccups that await?

1. What’s the rule of thumb when it comes to how much to cut?

  • a) Never cut more than a third of the height in any one mowing.
  • b) Always cut at least a third of the height at each mowing.
  • c) Cut half the height each time you mow.2. What is the most common cause of “ribbing” on a lawn?

2. What is the most common cause of “ribbing” on a lawn?

  • a) Mower blades travelling too quickly.
  • b) Mower blades travelling too slowly.
  • c) An uneven lawn.3. What is the Golden Rule of mowing to get the best results?

3. What is the Golden Rule of mowing to get the best results?

  • a) Mow seldom, but mow close.
  • b) Mow often and mow close.
  • c) Mow often, but not too close.4. It’s been a long hot summer; in prolonged spells of dry weather should you:

4. It’s been a long hot summer; in prolonged spells of dry weather should you:

  • a) Stop mowing your lawn?
  • b) Mow it more closely?
  • c) Set the blades a little higher?


Brown Patches

  • (1) a; sandy soils tend to be worst affected by drought.
  • (2) c; a bitch’s urine can cause this effect.
  • (3) a; it’s probably a case of blunt blades on your mower.
  • (4) b; water it in, if no rain falls for a day or two.

Maintenance and Repair

  • (1) b; carefully cut the turf and remove the excess soil.
  • (2) a; spiking is a method of aerating heavily compacted soils.
  • (3) c; it’s a witch’s broom.
  • (4) b; phosphate-rich fertilisers will improve the root system.


  • (1) a; a selective weed-killer.
  • (2) c; woodrush, largely because it is resistant to weed-killers.
  • (3) b; scattering the cut stems of speedwell helps it spread, so using a grass-box is the most effective way to control it.
  • (4) c; selective weed-killers are only effective against broad-leafed weeds.

Pests and Diseases

  • (1) a; they are the larvae of the crane fly (or daddy-long-legs) and eat grass roots. Badgers can cause even more damage to your lawn digging it up to look for them!
  • (2) a; dollar spot is a fungus which affects fine quality turf.
  • (3) b; if starlings start paying attention to your lawn, it’s probably because there’s a whole load of grubs eating away at its roots!
  • (4) c; also known as snow mould, fusarium patch is the commonest fungal disease of British lawns.

Mowing Problems

  • (1) a; cut no more than a third of the height in any one mowing.
  • (2) b; slow moving blades, particularly on cylinder mowers, often cause the alternate bands of long and short grass typical of ribbing.
  • (3) c; mowing often, but never too closely is the recipe to keep your lawn at its best.
  • (4) c; leaving it a little longer will help the soil to retain more moisture.

So, How Did You Do?

  • 20 – In perfect condition.
  • 15 to 19 – A little moss in places.
  • 10 to 14 – A few brown patches.
  • 5 to 9 – A bit weedy!
  • 0 to 4 – In need of some work.

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