There are roughly over 400 species of fungi that can inhabit lawns. While the majority of them are harmless, approximately 100 of them can be damaging. Sadly, even the best-kept lawns are vulnerable to disease, which makes it even more perplexing and frustrating when we see one taking over. This is why understanding how to identify, prevent, and treat lawn diseases is valuable to homeowners.
It’s important to remember that not all unhealthy patches of grass mean that disease is present. Other culprits like injuries, stresses and deficiencies to the lawn, could be at work, so try your best not to immediately think the worst.
Injury, Stress, Deficient or Diseased: Which is It?
Lawn injury includes things such as foot traffic, compacted soil, scalped grass, dog urine, as well as pesticide, fertilizer and gasoline spills. Solutions like aerating, reseeding, adjusting mower decks and flushing with water can often remedy the problem.
Stresses might occur under circumstances such as excessive pesticide use, temperature extremes, and inaccurate fertilizer or water. Following directions on packages, watering only when needed and reexamining the lawn problem after the next weather change, are often successful solutions.
Deficiencies arise when lawns are low on nutrients or water. Signs like slow growth and grass leaf color changes are often signs that the lawn is low on nitrogen or iron. Grasses that look more like straw and have minimal “bounce back” from foot traffic tend to just need more water.
Dormancy and insects can also contribute to the problem, but if none of the above descriptions seem to fit your situation, then you may have a lawn disease.
Common Lawn Diseases
There are numerous types of lawn diseases but some are definitely more common than others. In Texas, there are two that stand out as being the most problematic for the state: take-all patch and brown patch.
The fist signs of take-all patch are yellowing grass blades and darkening of the grass root, followed by a thinning of the turf in irregular shapes. The darkened roots are an indication of rotting. Severe cases can make the grass extremely easy to pull up.
Brown patch begins in circular patterns of dead grass blades, with new leaves emerging in the center of the patch anywhere from two to three weeks later. Affected grass blades turn brown, rot and break off from the runners.
In many cases, prevention can avert the problems associated with lawn disease. Some tips and techniques that can aid in your lawn disease prevention include:
- Conduct a soil test to determine nutrient deficiencies
- Mow lawn with sharp blades and avoid cutting it shorter than 2 ½ to 3 inches high
- Water your lawn between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.
- Check for adequate drainage; aerate and dethatch when necessary
- Grow the proper turfgrass for your region
- Change mowing pattern
- Clean up leaves and other debris that can smolder your lawn
- Troubleshoot for other problems before treating disease
- Avoid synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides, which can kill organisms that help defend against disease
- Use fungicides as your last defense
While many of the above things can be self-done, there are times when it may be necessary to involve a lawn care company. Be sure to find a reputable one that can thoroughly treat the problem for you.