Do you have a lush, green lawn that you take pride in? If so, it’s important to do everything you can to protect it from diseases. Fungal diseases can cause your lawn to turn brown and die, and they are difficult to treat once they take hold. In this blog post, we will provide some important tips for keeping your lawn healthy and free of disease!
Lawns Can Get Sick?
The grass in your lawn can, and absolutely will, get sick if you are not paying attention to lawn care needs. The type of disease we are referring to when we talk about lawn care is an invasion of harmful fungi destroying your turf!
Now, to be clear, the presence of fungi in your lawn does not necessarily mean that your lawn is “sick.” Fungal spores are present in every lawn and often pose no problem at all throughout the growing season. In fact, a certain level of fungal activity in your lawn can be a sign of healthy turf. Lawn fungi decompose organic matter, such as grass clippings, leaf litter, and roots of dead trees, which can then be reabsorbed for a healthier soil. Fungi can even protect the roots of your lawn and plant roots in gardens by producing an antibiotic in the soil.
However, having said all that, once you start to notice the signs and symptoms of fungi overtaking your lawn, you will need to act fast before the problem spreads out of control.
What Causes A Fungal Lawn Disease?
Having some healthy fungal spores in your lawn is much different from your lawn falling victim to a disease. Under certain conditions, the fungal spores in lawns will rapidly multiply and destroy everything green in their path. Wind, rain, excess debris, and generally unhealthy turf can all spread lawn disease. This damage is characterized by dead, thinning, and/or discolored patches of grass, and the following situations could lead to such problems in your yard:
- Temperatures of 75 to 90 ℉
- Hot days leading into cool nights
- High humidity
- Poor drainage in your yard
- Watering your lawn at dusk
- Diseased leaves in your yard
- Drought stress
- Compacted soil
- Improper mowing practices
- Susceptible grass species
Signs Of Common Lawn Diseases
Many different conditions and situations could lead to your lawn exhibiting signs of damage. If you don’t know what to look for, it can be quite difficult to distinguish between a lawn disease and turf damage caused by other factors. To help you have a better understanding of what signs to look for, the section below provides details and images of the most common lawn diseases homeowners encounter.
This is the most common and well known of all lawn diseases. Brown Patch is caused by a specific fungus that can ravage both warm and cool grass types. It is characterized by circular patches of grass that appear to be dead or dying, and the patches will have somewhat irregular edges. Humid weather can promote the growth of this disease, with warmer temperatures inviting Brown Patch to invade cool-season grasses.
While Brown Patch affects cool-season grasses, Large Patch is a similar disease that affects warm-season turf. The effects of Large Patch on lawns are very similar to the effects of Brown Patch, as these two lawn diseases stem from the same fungus and were once considered the same disease. The damaged patches of grass caused by Large Patch have a wider diameter than the damaged areas caused of Brown Patch. Damage from Large Patch is also frequently characterized by the affected areas appearing slightly sunken compared to the surrounding healthy turf.
Another very common lawn disease is Dollar Spot is most active in hot and humid weather. Individual grass blades will begin to turn tan or yellow in color, and the discoloration will often spread to spots of affected grass that are roughly the size of a silver dollar (hence the name). These spots are much smaller than those caused by Brown Patch, and they will often appear to be slightly sunken into the lawn.
The fungus that causes this unique-looking disease targets cool-season grasses, such as fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. It is most commonly observed in spring and is characterized by light red “threads” taking over grass blades and causing them to mat together. This disease will primarily affect struggling lawns that are already stressed from other environmental factors.
Flakes of yellow or orange, which resemble rust, will devour grass blades if your lawn is infested with this fungus. It can be seen between summer and early fall, and it develops mainly during drought conditions or times of fluctuating weather. All grass types can be affected by Rust, and this disease will quickly take over your lawn and spread spores if it is left untreated.
If you examine individual blades of grass on your lawn and notice that some of them have tiny brown or black circles, those grass blades may be infected by Leaf Spot. This disease can quickly spread to any plant, and it frequently spreads to lawns by infected leaves falling onto turfgrass. The small circles of Leaf Spot have a lighter color in the center and a dark outline. Though Leaf Spot is not known to cause permanent damage, its unsightly effects spread very rapidly and can make your lawn weak and susceptible to many other health issues.
Preventing Fungal Lawn Disease
There are a number of methods that can be used to prevent harmful fungi from destroying your lawn, and prevention is always going to be easier than curative treatments when it comes to fungal diseases. Unfortunately, once a fungal disease has appeared, it will not go away on its own without curative treatment. To prevent lawn disease, simply maintain a healthy lawn. Just sticking to basic lawn care routines can make a world of difference in the fight against harmful and invasive fungi.
Practice Proper Mowing Habits
One of the main ways lawn fungi spread is transference via lawn mower. Especially in the summertime, mower blades should be wiped clean after every use. Blades should be kept sharp because a dull mower blade can mangle the grass blades and impair the turf’s ability to repair itself. It is also important to mow at a proper height, as scalped lawns are more vulnerable to disease.
The spread of lawn diseases can be worsened by utilizing both too much and not enough fertilizer. Your lawn will become weaker if it is over pumped with chemicals or even just nutrients, but it will also struggle if it is not receiving enough nutrition. Check out our fertilization and weed control service page to find out more about proper fertilization.
Water In The Morning
If your lawn is watered in the late afternoon or at dusk, harmful fungi can form overnight if the turf has not had time to dry. The cooler temperatures at night create the perfect environment for fungi to spread across damp turf. Watering your lawn in the morning gives your turf ample time to absorb the moisture in the sunshine of the day.
Many fungal diseases thrive in damp soil and hot temperatures. Lawns often remain wet for long periods of time due to improper drainage and compacted soil. Core aeration helps alleviate drainage and compaction issues by poking small holes into your lawn that will improve airflow and waterflow. Ask us to find out more about how our core aeration service can help your lawn.
Use Appropriate Seed
Grass types struggle if they are not seeded in a suitable climate. If the grass type used in your lawn is not appropriate for its surrounding environment, it will have trouble growing and become susceptible to disease. Seed cool-season lawns with a climate-appropriate fescue blend or use zoysia seed for a warm-season lawn. These are both tolerant grass types for each climate zone.
Diseased leaves falling into your yard and garden beds can quickly spread their disease to your lawn and plants, which can eventually lead to Leaf Spot or other diseases that causes large, unruly patches of dead grass to form. It is important to remove leaves, especially large quantities in fall, as quickly as possible to avoid a fungal lawn disease.
If All Else Fails, Call The Pros!
As previously stated, lawn diseases must be immediately treated because they will always spread if left unchecked. If any symptoms of lawn disease begin to develop, professional lawn care providers like Lush Green can apply a curative fungicide that is designed to treat aggressive fungi. While these types of treatments can help restore the health of your yard, it is much more difficult to treat a lawn disease than it is to prevent it.
So, follow the lawn care tips laid out in this post, and you will be well on your way to protecting your lawn from disease. But, if needed, you can always call Lush Green Services or your local lawn care provider for professional fungicide treatments.