Glossary of Common Lawn Care Terms

Ron Lawn Hero

Lawn scalping… winterization… mulching? Many lawn care terms can be hard to wrap your head around. But luckily, we’ve got you covered with a comprehensive lawn care glossary.

From core aeration to zoysia grass, we've compiled a complete list of essential lawn care terms and definitions to help you achieve a healthy, beautiful lawn. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or just starting out, our lawn care glossary is the perfect resource for learning everything you need to know about maintaining your grass in top condition.

Check out our yearly lawn care schedule for a step-by-step guide on annual lawn maintenance.







Acidic — Soil with a low pH can impede the proper growth of turfgrass, and it is commonly referred to as “acidic” soil. A simple soil test can help determine the pH level of your lawn, with the neutral range of 6 -7 being the preferred pH level for grass to thrive. 

Aeration — Aeration is a process that involves creating air pockets within the soil to enhance the movement of nutrients, oxygen, and water. This technique can be particularly beneficial for compacted or dense clay soils.

Alkaline — Soil with a high pH level is commonly referred to as alkaline soil and can affect nutrient availability. This can negatively impact the proper growth of turfgrass.

Annual — This refers to any plant which lives for only one growing season.



Broadcast Application — This method refers to applying lawn care treatments across large sections of your property rather than in specific, targeted locations.

Broadleaf Weeds — Broadleaf weeds are characterized by their broad leaves. Common examples include clover, bindweed, and dandelions.



Compaction — Used to describe dense soil that lacks sufficient space for air, water or the movement of nutrients.

Core Aeration — Core aeration is a technique that involves extracting small plugs of soil and grass from your lawn. This process promotes improved movement of oxygen, water, and nutrients in the soil, facilitating better root development and deeper root growth.

Crabgrass — Crabgrass is a fast-growing and invasive weed that thrives in areas of your lawn with poor-quality soil and weak, thin grass. Establishing a healthy and robust lawn and utilizing pre-emergent crabgrass treatments are the most effective strategies for preventing this weed. 



Dandelion — Dandelions are a type of perennial broadleaf weed easily recognizable for their yellow flowers and unique blowball of seeds. It is critical to eliminate this weed at its root to prevent it from resurfacing each year.

Dethatching — Dethatching is a technique used to remove an excessive layer of organic matter from a lawn that has built up over time. Reducing thatch can enhance the overall health of turfgrass and prevent lawn diseases.

Dormant — The dormant period is a state (often in winter) where plants and grass are not actively growing. During this period, turfgrasses typically turn brown and enter a state of rest to withstand extreme cold, heat, or drought conditions.

Drought — A prolonged period of limited to no rainfall. Turfgrass can go dormant during these times, preserving its resources to ensure its survival.

Drought Tolerance — This refers to a plant's ability to adapt and withstand periods of limited water availability.



Ecosystem — An ecosystem refers to a group of living organisms that share resources and inhabit a common environment.

Erosion — Soil erosion is the process of soil removal by wind and/or water.



Fertilizer — Fertilization is a soil treatment to enhance plant growth and health by providing essential nutrients. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the primary components of fertilizers

Fertilizer Burn — This can happen when incorrect fertilizers are used, excessive fertilizers are applied, or when fertilizers are applied at inappropriate times.

Fungicide — Fungicides are a type of pesticide used to prevent or control diseases in plants and lawns.

Fungus — Fungi are diverse organisms, ranging from mushrooms to molds, that can infect turfgrass and shrubs.



Germination — Germination is the process through which a plant begins to develop from seed.

Granular — Granular lawn care treatments (like fertilizers) consist of dry, small particles applied to grass to enhance its health and appearance.

Grub — Grubs are the larval stage of various beetles and are often responsible for damaging turf by feeding on its roots, resulting in the formation of unsightly brown spots and dead areas in the lawn.



Herbicide — Herbicides are used to target and eliminate unwanted plants (e.g. weeds).


Indigenous Plant — Indigenous plants, also known as native plants, are either naturally developed or are found growing in a specific location. These plants are ideally suited to the climate and environmental conditions of the local ecosystem.

Insecticide — Insecticides are natural or synthetic chemical applications that kill pests in your lawn.

Invasive Plant — A non-native plant that can overtake an ecosystem. These plants often spread rapidly, out-compete native species, and deplete essential resources that native plants require.



Japanese Beetles — An invasive species whose larvae destroy turf while adults eat tree and shrub leaves. 



Larva — An intermediate stage in the life cycle of an insect that occurs between the egg and pupa stages. 

Leaf Spot — A kind of fungal infection that causes dark spots and lesions on plant foliage.

Lime — A soil amendment that lowers the pH level of the soil.



Micronutrients — Nutrients required by your grass in very small amounts. Examples include iron, manganese, zinc, and molybdenum. 

Macronutrients — The primary nutrients required by your grass: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They’re abbreviated to “NPK” on most bags of fertilizer. 

Mosquito — A small flying insect that bites people and animals. They can compromise one’s ability to enjoy time in the lawn.

Mulch — Any material made from organic matter like bark or compost which can be spread across beds and under trees to retain moisture, prevent weeds, and maintain consistent soil temperature. Often used for decorative purposes.



Nitrogen — A macronutrient required for good health and growth, giving the grass its vibrant green color. 

Nutsedge — A rapidly growing weed that resembles grass but is actually a sedge, requiring specialized herbicide treatment for control.



Organic — Anything derived from living or once-living organisms, including plants, animals, and humans.

Overseeding — Overseeding is a technique for spreading seeds uniformly over an established lawn (to address bare patches, for example).



Perennials — A perennial is a plant that grows for multiple seasons, regenerating every spring.

Pesticide — Pesticides are any substance designed to prevent, control, repel, or alleviate pests. These substances can be organic or synthetic.

pH —  Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil, which can significantly impact the growth of your lawn. A soil test can accurately determine the pH level of the soil.

Phosphorous — Phosphorus is an essential macronutrient that grass needs for optimal root and stem health. 

Post-Emergent — A term used to describe a treatment applied after weeds, insects, or diseases appear. It’s known as a curative treatment.

Potassium — Potassium is a primary macronutrient needed by turf to promote resistance to environmental stresses.

Pre-Emergent — A treatment applied as a preventive measure before weeds, insects, or diseases emerge. 



Red Thread — a type of turf disease that causes small brown patches in lawns. Upon closer inspection of grass blades, you’ll notice tiny red threads sticking out of the tips of the blades. To manage red thread, try Pillar SC fungicide, which will also work on dollar spot (another prolific lawn disease).

Root — The part of a plant beneath the earth which anchors it in the soil and absorbs water and nutrients. This is called the root system. It provides stability and support to the plant's structure and is crucial for its growth and development.



Scalping — Scalping is the term used to describe removing old grass and debris from the previous season using a lawn mower. This practice promotes healthier growth and better seed-to-soil contact for new seeds. 

Sod — Grass that is grown on a farm and harvested in large rolls or squares for use in landscaping. It is used to create an instant lawn or repair damaged areas of an existing lawn.

Soil Test — A soil test is the process of evaluating the chemical composition of the soil. It provides important data on the pH level and nutrient levels and can save you money on lawn-care products. 

Synthetic — Any products which are created through a chemical, manmade process.



Thatch — Thatch refers to the accumulation of dead and living organic matter that gathers on the soil surface beneath the grass. It can cause issues for lawns since it provides a breeding ground for pests and diseases, trapping moisture and nutrients at the soil surface. 

Topdressing — A lawn care treatment that involves adding a layer of sand, soil, or organic materials directly on top of the existing lawn is known as topdressing. This method helps improve the soil’s overall health, creates a better foundation for new seed growth, and can also level out uneven areas on your lawn. 

Topdressing Mix — The mixture (usually sand and soil) used to topdress your lawn.  

Topsoil —  The uppermost layer of soil, commonly dark in color due to its high concentration of organic matter and microorganisms, is known as topsoil.



Verticutting — Verticutting uses a special machine called a verticutter to make vertical cuts in the turf and remove excessive thatch buildup. This helps to promote better air and water circulation, encourage new growth, and allowing roots to access more nutrients and moisture.



Weeds — These are any unwanted plants growing on your lawn, like dandelions, bindweed, or clover. The presence of weeds can indicate underlying soil problems, so it’s best to identify the weeds first before moving on to treatment.



Zones — This refers to the plant hardiness zone system developed by the USDA to help homeowners select the most suitable plants for their specific climate and temperature conditions.


 Lawn Care Terms

Understanding these terms in our lawn care glossary can help you make informed decisions about the best practices, tools, and products to use for your lawn care needs. From soil health to pest control and from mowing to fertilizing, each of these terms plays a crucial role in achieving a golf course lawn. With this knowledge, you can confidently maintain a healthy lawn and enjoy a vibrant outdoor space for years to come.

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