Does Your Lawn Need Help?

Sep 8, 2022

Does Your Lawn Need Help?

Grass is the color green because of a pigment it produces called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is important because it absorbs the sun's light and converts it to sugars which is then used by the plant. This process is called photosynthesis. Grass may turn brown for a myriad of reasons, but all brown grass has one thing in common. This is the inability to produce food which stops the production of chlorophyll. No chlorophyll and your grass will turn brown.

1) Improper watering 

A drought can cause your lawn to be too dry and turn brown and go dormant. 

Conversely, keeping your lawn too wet can cause your lawn to be unable to use oxygen to perform its photosynthetic actions and cause browning issues. This can lead to pests attacking lawns or diseases.

If we do enter a drought condition during the year, decide if you will commit to watering or let your lawn go dormant.  If you water intermittently during a drought, you can easily kill your grass. This does more harm than good.

2)Cutting your lawn too short

Cutting your lawn too short stresses and weakens the blades of your grass. Cutting it way too short can expose the crown or roots to sun causing the opportunity for weeds, pests and diseases to enter your lawn easily. The optimum height of your lawn should be 2-3" tall. Also try to cut your lawn as many times as needed so you are now removing more than 1/3 of the blades at one time.

3) Lawn diseases

Fungi can cause problems in your lawn. Excessive moisture, (think of our crazy season this year), warm nights and high humidity are the perfect storm for diseases to attack your lawn.

Dollar spot is caused by a fungus called Sclelrotinia Homoeocarpa. Once it attaches to the blade, it literally steals the sugar that the grass produces thus causing death of the blade. This results in small dead patches of grass typically the size of the old silver dollar.  

Brown Patch Fungus is more deadly and is caused by a fungus called rhizoctonia.  

Brown patches can suddenly appear in your lawn. Typically, they are surrounded by a dark ring. Brown spots can be seen on the blades when examining closely. These spots will eventually take the whole blade. Brown patch likes high humidity, high temperatures and quick releasing nitrogen. It is always best to get a slow feeding fertilizer for your lawn. Look for fertilizers with a 6–8-week multi-types of nitrogen listed on the bags.

Rust in your lawn can be noticed when you cut it and your shoes turn orange. This fungal disease occurs on turf grasses when their growth is slowed. It usually happens in late summer or early fall when lawns are low on nitrogen or dry weather is upon us. Left untreated, it can weaken the vigor of the grass and open it up to more diseases and more problems. Fertilizing your lawn will give is enough of a boost to push this disease through its cycle and eradicate it.  

Pythium Blight

Symptoms of pythium blight occur when grass leaves are wet for 12 or more hours and daytime temperatures are 82 degrees or warmer. Dark green almost purple water-soaked leaves start to form irregular patches in the yard. Grass feeling almost greasy when rubbed together. Sometimes a "cotton candy "appearance to the grass can appear. This leads to stolor, crown and even root rot of the turf grasses.

Avoid watering at night and make sure your lawn is aerated so you have good water flow through the root system to avoid pythium.

Stripe Smut

Stripe smut is a perennial disease that survives in cold weather. The spores survive in the soil or on the blades. They can easily be spread by mowing, rain or wind. Stripe smut appears in cool, damp climates between 50and 60 degrees typically in spring and fall, grass will appear lighter in color. Dark colored stripes of brown will form on blades of grass. Eventually blades will wilt and curl causing browning.

As above, avoid late night waterings and make sure your lawn is aerated to avoid this problem.

4) Grubs

Typically, the Japanese Beetle grub is the culprit. Once they get their fill on eating our trees and shrubs, they lay their larvae in the ground. As it matures the larvae love to eat the roots of your grass. This causes your lawn to brown. If you grab your lawn and it peels up like carpet, you probably have grubs. At this stage of the season, use 24Hr Grub kill containing dylox to kill the grubs now. Season long preventatives will NOT work at this time. Follow recommended directions and water lawn promptly once product is applied.

5) Weeds

I think this may be one of the worst years ever for lawn weeds. Crabgrass continues to dominate lawns. Use weed out with crab-grass killer by Fertilome to eliminate this weed and plan on using a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer next spring in April to May for prevention.

Creeping Charlie, ground ivy and clover are taking over as well. Weed Free Zone by Fertilome is an awesome product which will eliminate these weeds and can be used in the landscape beds (Carefully of course) for wild onions and other hard to kill weeds. My favorite product is triclopyr ester by Hy-yield, this super high concentrated product (@ tablespoons per gallon) when used with a spreader sticker or herbicide enhancer (A glue to make the product stick to the weeds) yields the best result I have found of anything I have ever used. Fall is the best time to eliminate these weeds. I have also learned an application just before our first frost will actually be absorbed by the weed and kept over winter in its system. When spring arrives, it continues to destroy the weed. I think that's pretty awesome.

Those of you who have battled clover and ground ivy will appreciate that and make that a high priority to remember to do this.

I hope this helps you figure out what has happened to your lawn this year. Fall is such a great time to fertilize and throw down some more seed. After yet another yo-yo year of highs and lows, I think all our lawns could use some freshening up of seed and fertilizers. Remember if you do not fertilize your lawn any other time, now is THE BEST time to put down an application now and again in October. Springtime will yield huge results if you do these two applications now.

J.R. Pandy, "The No B.S.Gardener"
Pandy's Premier Garden Center

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