Lawn Disease Tips

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Why has my well manicured lawn has been invaded by disease?

Irrigate Properly

When you water your lawn, water it only in the morning. The best time to water is between 6:00 and 9:00 am. Winds are usually low, temperatures are usually cool and the sun has not risen high enough to speed evaporation. Thus, the water percolates into the soil rather than evaporating (afternoon watering) or lying on the grass' surface (evening watering). Evening watering on a regular basis is asking for trouble. Fungi thrive on cool temps and moisture.

   
What is the best way to mow the lawn?

Mowing Correctly

When you mow your lawn, mow frequently enough to remove only 1/3rd of the leaf each mowing. If you remove too much and leave the clippings, you could invite a fungal pathogen by leaving too many clippings at once. Mow at the right height, mow frequently, and leave the clippings on the lawn. Leaving properly mowed clippings is highly recommended--it encourages the propagation of beneficial soil microbes.

   
Why has my well manicured lawn has been invaded by disease?

Good Drainage ...

Turf diseases can usually be traced to one of four causes--improper watering, poor drainage, improper mowing and over-fertilization. Poorly drained soils allow water to stand. Standing water then invites algal and some fungal pathogens to attack the lawn. Encouraging good drainage means building up the organic material in the soil and aerating regularly.

   
Why has my well manicured lawn has been invaded by disease?

Lawn Fungi

Most lawn diseases are caused by fungi, a non-flowering plant that cannot produce its own food through photosynthesis. Thus, you will never see a green fungus. Green, slimy material is most likely an algal agent caused by overly moist, nutrient rich soils.

   
How do I treat a lawn disease?

Treating Turf Diseases

Treating turf diseases calls for identification of the disease pathogen and selecting the proper treatment. Often, diseases are temporary in nature and the problem will correct itself. Other times, diseases are not treatable by any known means, and the grass must be left to either die or survive on its own. Most fungal diseases can be treated with off-the-shelf fungicides. Broad spectrum fungicides are labeled for the control of the most prevalent fungi. Carefully read and follow label directions. The most effective treatment usually consists of correcting the problem that caused the disease.

   
How do I get rid of mushrooms?

Fungi Facts

Often, usually after a heavy rainfall, you'll observe an unusual growth in the lawn. The growth is probably a fungus, but that doesn't necessarily mean disease. Some questions to answer during your inspection are: Are leaves yellowing and/or decaying? Is the growth covering the plant and shutting out light? Did the growth appear suddenly, or has it been building over time?

Unless the grass is clearly suffering, the fungus is probably harmless and you can leave it alone. Fungi often appear quite suddenly, only to disappear just as suddenly when conditions change. Fungicides are expensive treatments that can cause some environmental damage. Don't use them unless you legitimately believe your lawn is at risk.

   
Why has my well manicured lawn has been invaded by disease?

Turf Disease

Turf diseases can display symptoms that might be mistaken for other problems. Some diseases, such as take all patch, display the same symptoms as grub damage. If the grass does not have any roots and you do not see grubs in the soil, chances are good that take all patch is the cause. Certain diseases of St. Augustine and Fescue also resemble insect damage. Careful inspection of the soil, the roots, the stems and the leaves at the margin--the area bordering healthy grass--is the key to diagnosing the disease. Telltale signs of disease include yellowing leaves that detach easily from the sheath, blotchy or spotty leaves, greasy, slimy or moldy appearance, white or grey substance covering the stems or leaves, unusual rubbery or fleshy substance growing across the soil surface and a bad smell.

   
Why has my well manicured lawn has been invaded by disease?

Incurable Problems

We've stressed good management, and you've followed that advice. You've properly followed a regimen of good mowing, watering and fertilization practice and the turf is performing. Then disaster strikes and a disease devastates the turf.

By definition, a high maintenance, high performance turf is a high cost and high risk turf. The more time and money you spend on the lawn, the more likely you are to face lawn disease. Lawns are monospecific cultures. A single variety or a single species of organism is living in a large area exposed to natural forces. Nature detests monospecificity as much as she detests a vacuum. While nature can be delayed and sometimes even thwarted with vigilance and good decision-making, sooner or later nature will have her way. Be prepared--if you spend a lot of time and money on the lawn, you'll have to spend a lot of effort repairing the damage.

   
Why has my well manicured lawn has been invaded by disease?

Healthy Root Growth

Fertilizers that are high in nitrogen promote shoot growth. A lush, green canopy then invites disease. To promote healthy turf, promote root growth. Use complete fertilizers in recommended amounts. Promote soil tilth by amending the soil with organic matter, and water the lawn so that soil is moistened to the desired root depth.

   
Why has my well manicured lawn has been invaded by disease?

Mushrooms

Science has since shown that the mushrooms are the manifestation of a massive fungus development, located near the soil surface. The fungus feeds on buried and decaying organic material. The fungus forms a hydrophobic (water proof) layer that prevents water and nutrients from reaching grass roots. The grass wilts and dies in an outwardly expanding circle, but often returns in the center. The center of the circle is usually greener than the rest of the grass, because the fungus completely breaks down that organic material, dies itself and makes all of the nutrients available for the grass. Some limited success has been gotten by performing a deep core aeration, followed by a drench of fungicide containing flutolanil or quartenary ammonium compounds. The deep plugging punches holes in the waterproof layer and this allows the fungicide to come into contact with enough of the fungus to control it. This doesn't always work, and it can be expensive and time consuming. Eventually, the fungus will break down all of the material in the soil and go away by itself. This can take anywhere from 1 to 8 years, depending on the amount of material it has to work with. The only other alternative is a massive excavation to remove all of the woody material in the soil.

   
How do I fertilize my lawn?

Lawn Feeding

If you overstimulate the grass with too much nitrogen, you will eventually cause thatch problems, and thatch is a prime habitat for the fungi that feed on decaying organic material. Thatch also forms a hydrophobic layer that interferes with the transfer of moisture and nutrients. Fertilize at the right time of the year for your grass, using complete fertilizers that satisfy the nutrient needs of the grass.

   
How do I treat a lawn disease?

Lawn Disease Prevention

Preventing disease means making sure that the watering, mowing, fertilization and drainage requirements of the grass are met. Most grasses prefer well drained soils, and most develop a healthy root-to-shoot ratio when organic content is high. Thus, you should develop a cultural and maintenance program that meets the needs of the grass, and do not exceed the recommended amounts of water or fertilizer. By definition, a high maintenance lawn is a high cost lawn, and it is also a high risk lawn. The more you water and fertilize your turfgrass, the more vigilant you must become over disease. Preventative applications of fungicides at the first sign of outbreak are always better than treating a massive outbreak. Mow it right, water it right and fertilize it right, then keep an eye on it.

   
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Tammi Reynolds