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Indicators of Good/Bad Grass Health

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What are the indicators of good/bad grass health for your lawn? Well, a lot of it is identified by observing the surrounding environment, maintenance habits, as well as soil quality. All these factors contribute to the overall health and vigor of our Ontario lawns. Keep reading to learn about things you can watch for to help your lawn be the best on the block!

Overall Look

By standing back and surveying the lawn, you’ll be able to identify a few contributing factors to your lawn’s health.

  1. Colour
    • A healthy lawn should be green, obviously. However, the type of green matters! See below for what to look for.
      • Deep, rich green = healthy and well-fed lawn.
      • A lighter, or lime green = a lawn that needs fertilizer.
      • A brown or yellow = a lawn that needs water
  2. Thatch
    • If your lawn feels like you’re walking on a soft mattress, you likely have too much thatch. Thatch is a layer of dead grass, mostly caused by mulching your grass blades instead of bagging them when you mow. This creates a barrier between water, sun, fertilizer, and the soil. The best way to combat thatch is to give your lawn a stiff raking in the spring and the fall to remove this layer to allow for all the benefits of nature and your lawn care plan to get down where they should be!
  3. Thin Grass Blades or thin/bare Spots
    • If the grass blades on your lawn are thin and wispy this can be an indicator of old or aging grass. With our harsh, long winters, Ontario lawns lose approximately 5-10% of their lawn each year. So, it is important to replenish this loss with new grass seeds each spring or fall depending on your needs. Getting into an annual routine of overseeding your lawn will grow stronger and heartier with each passing year.

Soil Quality/Surrounding Environment

A lot of people tend to look at the surface of the lawn when trying to identify what is going on. While this is important, it is also key to look at what the grass is trying to grow in. If the soil is light in colour and appears dusty, it is likely not the best soil for grass as the organic nutrients in the soil have already been absorbed. Therefore, it will not be able to provide a good environment for lawns or seed germination. If your soil is not looking healthy (i.e. dark brown and moist) then the best course of action is to top-dress your lawn with new soil to help the ecosystem grow. Just like your vegetable gardens and flowerpots require changing with each cycle, it is important to remember that your grass needs good soil to grow in too!

Moss and drainage are also key indicators of underlying issues that will cause your lawn to look lackluster and struggle to grow. If you identify moss, the best course of action is to rake it out and remove it from the area, apply new topsoil and overseed. Also, look at the area to see if there is any sunshine that reaches these areas throughout the day. If not, consider thinning out the canopy to allow for more sun to evaporate any excess water. In terms of drainage, if you’re noticing areas on your property that collect water more than other areas, consider installing weeping tile to help redirect the water away from your house and yard.


Weeds are not an indicator of bad health because all lawns have weeds. The reason for this is most weed seeds are transported through the air and wherever they land, they root. Weeds are important to stay on top of by manually pulling them (and applying soil and seed to the hole left behind) or by applying a regular iron-based weed control to suppress them as you see them. If you have many weeds on your property it will take time to get them under control. With regular lawn maintenance by cutting and watering and applying fertilizer, your lawn will build the foundation to be more resistant to weeds, disease, and drought stress.


You hear me say this a lot, lawn care is a partnership. But even the worst lawns can be revived with the right knowledge, skills, and expectations. Always remember that your lawn took time to develop the way it has and it will take a similar amount of time to recover. Knowing the indicators of good/bad grass health will always help speed the process along. Hopefully, this article will help arm you with the knowledge and skills to repair your lawn so you and your family can enjoy your lawn again!

Copyright 2019