Unless you're a perfect caretaker of your lawn (and, really, who is?), prepare for another round in the turf wars this summer. You'll have to deal with a full frontal assault from the dandelions, of course. And an attack from the crabgrass. But you'll face more stealthy opponents, too: root-chomping grubs and microscopic mildew that turn the grass from green to gray or brown.

"If a lawn is neglected, or cared for in a hit-or-miss way, it gets weak," says This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook. "And that's when weeds, insects, or fungal diseases become a major problem." Little wonder that last year almost 50 million homeowners bought products to fight these invaders.

But as in most battles, the best defense is a strong offense: doing everything right to cultivate healthy turf. That means giving it up to an inch and a half of water per week; aerating and dethatching annually so water and nutrients can get down to the roots; mowing with a sharp blade to the right height (ask your local garden center what's best where you live); and fertilizing in spring and fall.

So promise yourself—and your turf—you'll do that this year. In the meantime, here's how to conquer the most common turf problems you're likely to confront this summer.

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