My yard looks good—I’m not going to lie. But that’s why I’m writing the lawn blog, and you’re reading it. My neighbors, on the other hand, well, let’s just say they don’t put as much effort into their exterior living spaces. Part of the reason, I think, is they don’t know how to fix up the lawns they inherited when they bought their 1960s-era homes in my neighborhood, which has slowly changed from elderly inhabitants to young families over the past decade.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s a guide to what might be ailing your lawn:

Diagnose your lawn

1. Too much shade: A little bit of shade is great for grass, especially in sunny states, such as Colorado, where I live. But too much can cause grass to be thin. In very shady spots, consider replacing grass with other landscaping, such as stepping stones, shrubbery or a decorative koi pond.

Add stepping stones to compensate for too much shade

Add stepping stones to compensate for too much shade

2. Not enough water: Once a week watering is a minimum for most grasses and trees in warm weather. More often is preferred for most grasses. In warm weather, I water twice a day, early in the morning and after the sun as set, for 10 minutes. You can reduce watering by cutting grass high.

3. Faulty or inefficient sprinkler system: Old sprinkler systems often need replacement parts. Watch to see what’s happening when your sprinkler goes off. Is it reaching your entire lawn? Is it watering unevenly?

4. Compacted soil: Water doesn’t absorb well in heavy clay and/or compacted soils. So what do you do? You aerate! This simple and inexpensive process requires poking holes and making room in your lawn for air and water. You may have seen people stomping around their lawns wearing funky aeration shoes, or you may have wondered why your neighbor’s lawn looks like it’s covered in goose poop.

Lawn aeration shoes -- the easy way to aerate

Lawn aeration shoes -- the easy way to aerate