Benefits of Lawn Aeration

 Aeration removes plugs of turf and soil, allowing better penetration of air, water and nutrients into the soil.

Aeration removes plugs of turf and soil, allowing better penetration of air, water and nutrients into the soil.

Lawn advice usually runs toward applying, as in apply x pounds of nitrogen, apply herbicides for weeds or fungicide, or apply water at this rate for success. Well, our advice today is not about applying, it’s about aerating.

By definition, to aerate is “to introduce air into (a material)”. In this case the material is the soil your lawn is growing in. Aeration also permits water and nutrients to better penetrate the soil, but aeroaquanutrification is an awfully long (and silly) word, even if it better describes the full effects.

When air, water and nutrients can more easily reach the root zone, a series of very beneficial events begins that allow all the stuff you’re applying work even better. You may even need to do less applying in the long run if more of what you apply actually gets where it’s supposed to and does what it's meant to. Let’s see how.

First, water, whether from your irrigation system or the next rain, will be able to soak into the soil more quickly. Minor issues of standing water or post-rain puddles might be fixed immediately. Algae growth is reduced or eliminated. Excess runoff is reduced, requiring less water to irrigate to recommended depth.  

 Lawns that are aerated regularly utilize water and fertilizer more efficiently, making them healthy and green.

Lawns that are aerated regularly utilize water and fertilizer more efficiently, making them healthy and green.

On an aerated lawn, water penetrates more deeply into the soil, creating a deeper root system that is much more drought tolerant. If you have an irrigation system, this could reduce your water bill (cha-ching!). If nature waters your lawn, every rainfall will have a greater impact on your lawn. These deeper roots are also in a cooler zone of the soil, increasing heat tolerance.

You’ll also notice that your lawn becomes “springier” and more resilient. Because of the additional oxygen in the soil, the roots are thick and healthy, making the blades thick and healthy too. You will fight the constant urge to take off your shoes and dig your toes into the grass. Your grass’s roots will grow to fill in the newly loosened soil, even where growth was sparse due to compaction.

Earthworms (nature’s aerators) will thrive, moving through the soil and benefiting the soil with their tunneling and...poo. (Earthworm poo (AKA castings) is insanely great fertilizer). This in turn allows even more air, water and nutrients deeper into the root zone. And there’s still more...

Along with earthworms, naturally occurring microbes present in healthy soil will also thrive with the additional oxygen and nutrients. These microbes play a much larger role in grass (and all plants) health than most people realize: it is the action of these microbes breaking down the nutrients in the soil (applied or naturally occurring) that allows the grass to actually use what’s there. Without these microbes it wouldn't matter how much fertilizer you use-your grass would starve without them. Actually, we'd all starve without them.

Now that the soil is nice and porous, teeming with earthworms and microbes creating a healthy soil ecosystem there’s yet another benefit. Any applied nutrients stay at the application site (instead of washing off onto your neighbor’s lawn). Because fertilizer, lime and other nutrients can reach the root zone where they are actually utilized rather than sitting on the surface or heading to the neighbor's, who totally doesn't deserve them, everything that’s applied goes that much further.

Hold on, not done yet!

Many common lawn weeds are simply better at thriving in poor soil conditions than grass. Crabgrass, goosegrass and buttonweed grow better in compacted soil than turf grasses do. White clover does well in nitrogen-poor soils (because it can make it’s own), a problem when nitrogen can’t reach the root zone or can’t be utilized because of poor microbe activity.

Apply too much nitrogen and henbit and chickweed have a field day. Annual bluegrass and nut sedge thrive in wet, waterlogged soils. And weed seeds of all types will readily germinate in areas of sparse grass growth. Aeration can improve all these conditions, meaning better weed control with less herbicide use.

After aeration, your lawn will also change your oil and clean your gutters.

Okay, not those last two, but isn't everything else regular aeration can do to make your lawn more healthy enough? Over time, the effects of aerating are cumulative. If you're not aerating at least yearly in spring or fall (twice yearly, in spring and fall, is even better), you should to save water, use less fertilizer and chemicals, reduce weeds and improve overall soil health for a beautiful lawn.

Water Your Lawn the Right Way!

 Is your irrigation effective?

Is your irrigation effective?

Don’t you wish that watering your lawn was like a “one size fits all” t-shirt? Wouldn’t it be nice to follow one set of guidelines, set your irrigation unit once, and forget about the whole thing once and for all? Unfortunately, when it comes to watering the “set it and forget it” method does not apply.

The good news is that watering properly does not require a ton of work. Determine how much water your lawn needs and how often it needs it by considering how established your lawn is and what the soil is like. You will also need to pay attention to rainfall amounts (inches of rainwater after a storm)… sometimes you may not need to water at all!

WORDS FROM THE WISE, ABOUT RAIN SENSORS.

If your irrigation system is not already outfitted with one, install a rain sensor to minimize your work. A rainfall sensor will automatically turn off your irrigation system when rain occurs, reducing the amount of water you use. This gadget benefits you two-fold, it reduces your water bill and minimizes the risk of your turf incurring any serious fungal issues associated with overwatering.

Overwatering is the most common mistake homeowners make. If you overwater in the heat of the summer, your lawn may contract any number of diseases. Stressed turf can, in turn, attract insects that will incur further damage. This is why proper watering is essential to both your lawn’s health… and keeping money in your wallet.

TESTING, TESTING, 1, 2, 3

Before we tell you how much to water your lawn and when to water, you should know what you’re starting with. Check your irrigation system by placing three to four rain gauges around your lawn.  Run each zone and then make note of how many inches of water have been delivered to your plants. This will help you realize which zones are over and under performing.

WHEN TO WATER

Water your lawn early in the morning. Your sprinklers should go on between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. Air temperatures are cooler at this time, meaning a lower rate of evaporation and more water to your turf. It is best to avoid watering in the middle of the night or after 8 a.m. Water left to sit on your turf in the middle of the night can lead to fungal issues, while water sitting on your grass blades during the heat of the day can magnify the sun and burn your turf.

WATERING NEW SOD

You should have one driving goal for your newly laid sod, develop the roots. As a general rule of thumb, you want to prevent the sod from drying out for the first two to three weeks. This means keeping your lawn constantly moist by watering two to three times a day. Sod installed in the summer can be watered up to four times a day for the first three weeks! After this period passes, you can begin to follow the watering guidelines for established lawns.

WATERING ESTABLISHED LAWNS

Your goal is to establish deep roots, so water your turf deeply and infrequently. Established lawns require 1-1 1/2” of water per week. Schedule your irrigation system to water every three to four days, this will support your goal to establish deep rooting. Each time your system runs, the irrigation should apply 1/2” to 3/4” of water. If you’re not sure how much water you are applying, use rain gauges to measure how much water is actually being delivered to your turf.

 

Five Essential Tips for the Perfect Lawn

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For most homeowners, creating the perfect lawn seems more like a fairy tale than a realistic goal.  No magic pill, wish-granting genie, or wand waving can replace the hard work it will take to achieve the lush green expanse we all crave.  Most of us are just happy the yard is green.
Does it matter that most of what’s green in the yard are weeds?  Lots of weeds may not seem like such a problem now, but it’s certainly depressing to look at a yard of dirt in winter.

The truth is, your lawn serves both form and function.  Turfgrass helps filter the air around your home, capturing tons of dirt and dust keeping you and your family healthy.  It also releases a tremendous amount of oxygen paying you back for all that hard work.

Even if your thumb isn’t green, following our Five Essential Tips to the Perfect Lawn will go a long way to achieving the yard you’d be proud of.

1) SITE PREPARATION

Site preparation is crucial to your lawn’s success.  Start by removing any weeds and debris from your yard.  The easiest way to do this is to spray Round-Up.  Round-Up should be applied and let to dry for 24 hours.  We would suggest waiting three days, (although Scotts says you can plant 24 hours after applying), to seed your yard.  If the ground is especially compacted, rent a roto-tiller to loosen the soil.

Consider the drainage and grade in your yard.  Does water always pool in one spot when it rains?  That’s probably why you could never grow anything but moss over there.  This is your golden opportunity to create an even grade to your lawn, use it!

If your home is a new build, you may have to dig a little deeper.  Dig a couple holes around the yard that are at least 8 inches deep.  Are you finding tons of leftover construction material?  If this is the case, you will most likely need professional help.  Typically this calls for the removal of the top 8 inches of soil.  Make sure your contractor is replacing this poor soil with a mix of topsoil and compost.  Nutrient rich soil is just the antidote for a poor performing lawn.

 

2) CHOOSING THE PERFECT GRASS (FOR THE PERFECT LAWN)

That black thumb you claim to have may not entirely be of your making.  Choosing the appropriate grass for your property is the first step to success.  Before you can make your selection, take note of the sunlight in your yard.  Does the north side get blazing sun all day?  Does the east side of your home only get sun until 11 AM?  Consider also water availability.  Does your irrigation reach that corner of the yard?  Lastly, consider the soil.  Maybe your property is extremely sandy or clayish.  If you do a little homework, you can make more sustainable choices.

Still confused?  The North Carolina Cooperative Extension has a wonderful online tool to help you choose the right turf.  NC State’s Turfgrass Selection Aid gives you brief descriptions, planting, and maintenance instructions for the best warm-season grasses for our area.  It also provides pictures of these grasses for each season, helping you to determine the look you want for your perfect lawn year-round!

 

3) IRRIGATION

Properly irrigating your lawn doesn’t just mean healthier turf, it also means a more wisely spent water bill.  Water your lawn in the morning.  Early morning watering means less loss through evaporation and decreased risk of disease for your lawn.

Apply a half-inch of water to your lawn every three to four days.  Deep, infrequent waterings is what makes your perfect lawn develop a nice deep root system.  You should be giving your lawn an inch of water a week.  If it rains, take this into account.  Adjust your irrigation as needed.  Overwatering can sometimes be just as bad as not watering at all.

 

4) MOWING

Make sure to have your mower blades sharpened once a year.  Dull blades can rip the grass, leaving it weak and susceptible to disease.

To mow at the proper height, take the season into account.  NC State’s Turfgrass Selection Aid can help.  Look up your turf grass and then adjust your mower to NC State recommendations for the season.  It may seem counterintuitive, but letting your lawn grow longer at certain times of the year is important.  The longer the grass blades are, the deeper your roots must reach to support them.  Adjusting your mower height seasonally is vital to sustainability.

 

5) FERTILIZING

When you take medicine, you do it because you know your sick.  Do fertilize because you know your lawn needs fertilizer?  The best decisions are informed ones.  Conduct a soil test regularly. Visit or call the NC State Cooperative Extension-find your branch here.  Most provide both do-it-yourself test kits and services for more in-depth analysis.

Once you’ve received your results, make sure your soil’s pH levels are close to 6.5-7.  If your pH is off, it can actually limit the availability of nutrients to your turf.  This means that all that fertilizer you put down in the past may have not been used by your turf because the pH wouldn’t have allowed it!

Once your pH hovers around the 6.5-7 mark,  visit NC State’s Turfgrass Selection Aid again to read up on how much fertilizer your should be applying for your specific turf type.

Boxwood Care

When healthy, boxwood’s glossy, deep green leaves, tidy shape and fine texture make them popular and effective landscape plants. Unfortunately, boxwood are often yellowed or dull in color, plagued by insects or disease pests, poorly maintained and “ratty” looking. There are ways to improve the look of your problem boxwood with regular maintenance-read on!

The first step is to improve the growing environment as much as possible. As with all plants, boxwood are more susceptible to damage by pests when the growing environment is not ideal and causes stress to the plant. Some common examples of poor growing environments are compacted soil, poor drainage, excessive sun or wind, or soil that is too acidic.

Proper siting and soil preparation can give boxwood an advantage against many of these issues. Choose a northern or eastern exposure for best results (or situate boxwood in the shade of other, taller trees and shrubs). Adding organic soil amendments at planting can help with compacted soil and poor drainage, though any area that ever gets standing water should be avoided-constantly wet roots are fatal to boxwood. And because the ideal soil pH for each is pretty different, avoid planting boxwood and azaleas or other acid-loving shrubs in the same area.

If you have boxwood and they don’t look their best, regular attention to their needs can improve their health and appearance.

  • Mulch regularly with organic material. Boxwood are shallow rooted and moisture fluctuations affect these roots. Mulching keeps soil moisture even, and increases organic content of soil as it breaks down. When applying new mulch, be sure that it does not contact the stem.

  • Test pH and apply a calcium product to reach a pH of 6.5 to 7.2. It may take several applications to reach ideal pH. We recommend Solu-Cal or Bonide Turf Turbo, please follow the label directions for application rate and frequency.

  • Test pH every year until the target range is achieved, then every other year to keep it in range, applying calcium as needed.

  • Boxwood are relatively heavy feeders, so fertilize with a non-acidifying slow release organic fertilizer around Thanksgiving. Boxwood roots are most active at this time and will make the best use of the available nutrients.

 

Common Pests of Boxwood

Monitor closely for insect pests and treat if observed:

Psyllid damage on boxwood results in cupped leaves at the tips

  • Mites Pale speckles on leaves, beginning on the undersides. More of a problem when boxwood are planted in too much sun. Spray with horticultural oil.

  • Leafminers Light-colored tracks visible on leaves. Prune off any new growth with tracks when first seen in early spring, and spray with spinosad (Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew).

  • Psyllids Cupping of leaves. Prune out the damaged areas and spray horticultural oil or soap when new growth appears.

  • Leaf miners and psyllids can also be prevented with a soil drench of systemic insecticide applied in spring before new growth is visible.

 

Common Boxwood Diseases

Watch for symptoms of these diseases. Many are reversible only if caught early and addressed with TLC:

Volutella: affected branch (in center of picture) turning from dull green to tan

  • Phytopthora Initially, individual branches turn dull and light green, then tan. This can spread rapidly and kill the whole shrub. Often a problem in compacted or waterlogged soils. Regular soil drenches of systemic fungicide may hold the disease at bay, but the plant usually succumbs eventually. Any boxwood subsequently replanted where one died of phytopthora will likely also succumb.

  • Volutella boxwood blight Branches show new growth late or not at all, then parts of branches turn light green to tan; powdery spores may be visible on undersides of leaves. Prune out affected areas. Volutella is controlled by proper thinning to allow good air circulation.

  • Nematodes Plants bronze, become stunted and generally lose vigor. Nematodes are endemic and can only be controlled by good cultural practices (pH management is very important) and keeping plants healthy and strong.

  • Boxwood decline A poorly understood complex of reduced vigor, defoliation and eventual death, possibly involving a combination of several of the aforementioned diseases and poor planting environment. Again, cultural practices and planting environment have the most effect on prevention. American and Korean boxwood seem less susceptible.

Additional Tips

Spray boxwood in winter with horticultural oil to smother any overwintering mites or other insects. This also provides some protection against winter burn.

Make sure soil around boxwood roots is not too dry when freezing or windy weather is forecast in winter. This will also help to prevent winter burn.

In early spring, prune boxwood to allow light and air into the center of the shrub. 

Photo Credits
Psyllid damage and Volutella by SB_Johnny (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons,

Grubs in Your Lawn?

There may be an invisible foe causing damage to your lawn, and you’ll never suspect until patches of grass die. Or, you may get night time visits from the neighborhood skunks and raccoons, digging up your lawn looking for a tasty treat. If this sounds familiar, you may have a white grub problem.

White grubs are the larvae of several types of beetles, particularly Japanese beetles, June bugs, green scarabs and chafer beetles. The grubs of all of these pests look very similar, varying mostly in size. They feed on the roots of turf grasses, denying the leaves water and nutrients and causing death to the grass. Damaged areas can be lifted up in chunks like sod.

 White grub in typical "c" shape. Regardeless of the species, lawn-damaging grubs will look much like this, varying mostly in size.  Grub photo by David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

White grub in typical "c" shape. Regardeless of the species, lawn-damaging grubs will look much like this, varying mostly in size.

Grub photo by David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Almost every lawn has some grubs, and at lower levels the damage they cause is barely noticeable. At higher levels, however, they can kill large areas quickly.  To see if you have a problem in your lawn, take a spade and cut 1 ft. x 1 ft. section of grass, peeling it back like sod. Dig up the soil about 4 inches deep and sift for grubs. Repeat in a few locations on your lawn. If you find 5 or more grubs per test hole, you should consider applying a pesticide. (Replace the soil, flip the grass back over it and water well when you are done. Toss any grubs you did find onto the lawn, where birds will find them quickly.)

There’s no need to check for grubs if you had grub problems last year and did not treat for them; you’ll likely have even more this year. There’s also no need to check for them if the damage caused is more than you find acceptable, however much that is.

Control methods need to be applied when the grubs are actively feeding, otherwise the application is wasted. Grubs feed in spring (April-early May) before emerging as adults, and again in late summer (August-early October) when the next generation of eggs hatch and feed before retreating deeper into the soil to overwinter. These are the times to apply grub control. Grubs will also retreat and stop feeding during periods of dry weather, so apply pesticides a few days after rain, or irrigate well a few days before application if it's been particularly dry.

The most effective pesticides for grub control are those containing imidacloprid. Be aware that imidacloprid is toxic to bees, as are all chemical grub controls, and must be applied carefully and according to label directions.

Lawn damage caused by skunks digging up grubs

If you want to stick to organic grub control you do have a few options. Milky spore works on Japanese beetle grubs only, and will not control other grub species, but is safe for everything including bees. There are also nematodes that kill all types of white grubs and if applied correctly work well to control grubs and other soil-dwelling insect pests, and are harmless to all other organisms. For the nematodes, the “correctly” part can be tricky as they have a narrow range of preferred temperature and are sensitive to the sun's UV rays and drying out. If you want to try nematodes, look for Heterorhabditis as they work best on grubs.

Finally, do not use Japanese beetle traps in the hopes of reducing adult Japanese beetle populations. They work well to attract every Japanese beetle in the neighborhood to your yard, where they will happily lay eggs in your lawn and create a grub problem.

What DIY Lawn Care Really Costs

Remember when you bought your mower?  You may have had big hair, been looking forward to the newest episode of Friends, or it just may have been before you knew the name Kanye West… in other words, simpler times.

You learned the information necessary to know about DIY lawn care, (according to the Home Depot guy), and then proceeded to follow those instructions diligently only to yield this…

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DIY LAWN CARE

How can mow, water, fertilize, repeat be wrong?  The Home Depot guy said its pretty straightforward… but we all know it’s really not.  DIY Lawn care takes a lot of work, and lots of details matter.  Let’s discuss the five details of DIY lawn care that cost us more than we bargained for.

 

MOWING

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Over the years your mower has been a powerhouse.  You probably don’t want to admit to your spouse all the things you ran over with it, or explain why it doesn’t start up right away anymore.  But all things considered, you’re pleased the mower still runs.

Now after years of faithful service, how many times have you gotten the mower blade sharpened?  Once, twice, never? Cutting your lawn with dull or nicked blades results in something called “white tipping.”

Dull blades cause grass blades to have dry, torn, and whitish tips, leaving your weakened lawn much more susceptible to disease and pest damage.

Another very common mistake is mowing at the improper height.  Never cut off more than one-third of your grass blade.  We know how tempting it is to mow super short, but cutting more to prolong the time between your next mow is more harmful than helpful.  Long grass blades mean deep, healthy root systems, thus creating a lush green lawn.  Properly cut turf also minimizes the chances of disease and pest problems arising. Not sure what height you’re supposed to cut?  Check out Table 9-1 from North Carolina’s Cooperative Extension

FERTILIZER

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Fertilizer is a fickle friend.  Too much or too little fertilizer can ruin the viability of your lawn. Applying the correct amount of fertilizer at the wrong time can wreck havoc or just be downright wasteful.  According to the landscape professionals of The Southern Landscape Group: a soil test should be conducted every two years on established lawns.  A soil test provides homeowners with the information necessary to determine the exact lime, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium needs of the lawn.

There are general rules of thumb to know about lime and fertilizer.  The ideal pH for most turf is between 6.5 and 7.  Soil pH is key to a healthy lawn.  Unbalanced soil acidity can limit a lawn’s ability to access nutrients that exist in the soil.  Meaning that even if you fertilize perfectly, your pH may be holding your fertilizer hostage from your lawn.  It is best to apply lime in the winter when there is less foot traffic on your lawn, and runoff is minimal.

For warm season grasses like bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustine grass, carpetgrass, and bahiagrass avoid applying nitrogen in the Winter months as it may burn your lawn.  For cool-season grasses like tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescues, and perennial ryegrass avoid burning your grass by not applying nitrogen from February to September.

To apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, divide the nitrogen content of the fertilizer by 100.  For instance, a bag labeled 16-3-7 has a nitrogen content of 16.  100 divided by 16 is 6.25, so one would apply 6.25 pounds of fertilizer to every 1,000 square feet of lawn.  To apply .5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, divide the nitrogen content of your fertilizer by 50.

WEED MANAGEMENT

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We heard you say, “Finally!” when you saw Scott’s Four Step Lawn Care Program.  Weed and feed products just make sense for the average homeowner, but the truth of the matter is that these products should only be used when necessary.  If you don’t have an issue with dandelions, why are you treating for it?

To be perfectly honest, weed and feed products are really just a more inventive way to drain your wallet.  Half of the bag you have at home is fertilizer and the other half is pre or post emergent herbicide.  In the end your getting way less of what your lawn may really need, fertilizer.

To kill weeds, it’s essential that you identify your weeds before treating.  Bring a sample to your local landscape professional to properly identify, then decided your treatment options.  Treating for weeds also requires an understanding of weed life cycles, so take care in choosing who you get your information from.

If you’re interested in taking up this task on your own, check out information on weed life cycles at North Carolina’s Cooperative Extension.

Treatment products should only be used if hand pulling cannot suffice.  Be careful when and where you apply herbicide. Avoid applying near trees and shrubs as it may cause damage to roots, also make sure not to apply herbicide if sowing a new lawn. Remember, pre-emergent herbicide stops weeds and grass seed from germinating, while post-emergent kills existing weeds.

WATERING

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Watering early in the morning reduces the probability of your lawn contracting a disease or losing water due to evaporation.  Established lawns need a moisture depth of 6 to 8 inches.  One inch of water per week should satisfy these needs. Homeowners typically apply a half inch of water every three to four days.

To make sure your watering appropriately, place an open can on the lawn for a period of time and confirm that the contents measure a half inch high.

EQUIPMENT

Are you confident in the investment you made in lawn equipment? It’s a big investment. Besides the initial layout, how do you know your equipment is calibrated properly or that you’re maintaining it correctly?  Make a point to inspect your lawn equipment before every spring.  Does your mower blade need to be sharpened?  Does that chainsaw of yours emit blue smoke every time it starts?  These are the kind of details that make DIY lawn care overly time-consuming, not to mention costly.

With all things considered, what is your time worth to you? We’re not all gardeners.  It may be more cost effective for you to leave the lawn care up to the experts.

Brown Patch Disease in Lawns

As warm (hot!) summer weather approaches the risk of brown patch disease developing in your lawn increases. Because this disease is fast moving and potentially destructive to large areas of grass, it is important to recognize the symptoms and begin treatment immediately. Even better, learn the factors that contribute to brown patch disease developing in the first place, as proper management can reduce the chances of developing it.

 Brown patch in fescue lawn, late May

Brown patch in fescue lawn, late May

Brown patch is caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani. Though it will grow and spread at temperatures over 65F, it becomes most active and aggressive when day temperatures are over 80F, night temperatures are over 70F, and humidity is high. In other words, pretty much all summer here in the Piedmont and Sandhills. Different grass strains have differing resistance to brown patch, with some being highly resistant and some being very susceptible.

 Brown patch lesions on individual blades of fescue

Brown patch lesions on individual blades of fescue

Symptoms are tan-brown patches of dead grass that may seem to appear virtually overnight. Spots may be round or irregular in shape. Affected spots range from a few inches to several feet in diameter, and smaller patches may merge to create larger, irregular patches. Close inspection of individual grass blades at the edge of the affected areas will reveal the irregular tan-brown spots with a dark border that eventually kill the individual grass blade, then the grass plant, spreading rapidly through your lawn.

Besides high temperatures and humidity, high levels of nitrogen can encourage brown patch. Fast release fertilizers, while they may cause rapid greening, will encourage brown patch spread by producing soft, lush growth that is more easily infected by the pathogen. Nitrogen doesn't cause brown patch, but it can make a mild infection much worse. Once the infection is controlled, lawns actually recover better with proper fertilizer applications.

Mowing can also contribute to the development of brown patch disease. Too low (under 2.5” for fescue, under 1.5" for bermuda and zoysia) reduces the plant’s ability to produce food energy, weakening it and making it susceptible to infection. Let grass get too high (over 3.5” for fescue, over 2" for bermuda and zoysia) and humidity at the plant level increases, increasing the risk of infection. Mow frequently enough to remove no more than 1/3 of the length per mowing, as cutting more severely can stress the grass, increasing the risk of disease.

To minimize the risk of developing brown patch in your lawn, only fertilize at the appropriate rate for summer, if at all, and use a slow release fertilizer. Keep mowing height at around 3.5” for cool season grasses and 1.5-2" for warm season grasses, and mow frequently enough that you don’t stress the grass by removing too much at once. Aerating in spring can increase airflow around grass plants, reducing humidity and the risk of disease.

Keep in mind that if your turf is a susceptible type it may be difficult to completely prevent brown patch disease and preventive fungicide applications may be in order as soon as temperatures begin to reach the 80F mark. Fungicide applications will not reverse any damage that has already occurred, making preventive applications important if you have low tolerance for any visible damage.

If brown patch does develop it is important to treat promptly, as under the right conditions it spreads very quickly, and continues to spread as long as conditions are favorable. Treatment must be continued for as long as disease pressure remains, generally every two to three weeks depending on the product used. Look for fungicide labels specifying brown patch control that is for use on lawns. You may also prefer to use a lawn care service like Nature's Select to apply fungicides, as commercial applicators have access to controls not available to the homeowner (plus you don’t have to mix and apply or store the extra).   

So, even though brown patch disease can be very damaging, knowing how to minimize the likelihood of developing the disease, early identification in case of infection, and prompt treatment or prevention can minimize the damage brown patch causes to your lawn.