One day you are outside admiring your lawn, and you notice a small spot in the grass. The next day, you see that the spot has grown, but it doesn’t cross your mind yet that there is a problem. Then, before you know it, there are spots everywhere, and they are getting bigger every day. It’s official: You have a lawn disease, and you need to deal with it before you it affects the whole yard.
Unfortunately, there are nearly as many causes as there are diseases. You may live in an area that is susceptible to lawn diseases because of the climate, or you may have a soil condition in your locality that is not conducive to a healthy lawn. You may also have a kind of grass that is more prone to disease than others are.
If so, you can try these tips for dealing with and avoiding lawn disease:
Lawn Fungus and Mildew
Even if you try to take proper care of your lawn, it can end up with a fungus. Certainly, you can take precautions to avoid it, but much depends on the balance of the landscape, humidity and other factors. Common diseases caused by a fungus include brown spot, dollar spot, fairy rings, grease spot, powdery mildew, red thread and various kinds of blight.
Things that can cause an occurrence of fungi related lawn disease are often hard to determine because too much or too little of something can be the culprit. For example, too much or too little fertilizer or water can cause it. The same is true for pesticides and many chemicals.
It will require a fungicide to rid the lawn of the disease. These come in two forms: contact and systemic. The former clings to the blades of grass or the leaves of the vegetation, and the latter enters the plant through its root system and works from the inside out.
It is common to purchase a chemical and spray it on the lawn. However, for the sake of the environment, it is best to choose an organic fungicide such as Dr. Earth Natural and Organic Fungicide, and Natural Industries Actinovate Organic Fungicide. Using these natural remedies rather than broad spectrum kill everything chemicals will also help to prevent the killing of beneficial insects and organisms. Diseases may become resistant to fungicides, so alternate from one to another if you need to use one regularly.
One important thing you can do to prevent a fungus is to water the lawn in the morning. Watering it just before the sun comes up keeps the sun from burning it, yet allows the excess moisture to evaporate throughout the day. Moisture on the lawn overnight is a big cause of lawn disease. It is also helpful to mow often and follow the tips below for dealing with thatch.
If you have ever used your fingers to separate blades of grass in your lawn to look through them, you may have seen what appears to be dead grass between the green part of the grass and the soil. This brown organic material is called thatch. Thatch is grass, leaves, vegetation and other organic material that is slow to or that will not decompose.
A little bit of thatch can be beneficial to the lawn because it can act like a mulch offering protection from the elements and retains moisture. However, too much thatch is harmful because it can house bacteria, insects and organisms that can destroy your lawn. Or as it builds up it can smother your turf grass.
Some people use lawn mowers that mulch the clippings and leave them on the lawn. After a while, if these clippings do not quickly decompose they can build up and turn into thatch. Mulching lawnmowers can be a terrific tool for organic lawn care, but if you are ending up with too many clippings that don’t rapidly break down the best thing to do with the clippings is to collect them to make compost. You can later put the compost on the lawn safely without it building up.
But why have to take this extra step when nature could be doing it for you? If your grass clippings are not breaking down fast enough, you may have soil devoid of the microorganisms, like worms, that eat the clippings and convert it into the natural fertilizer that your lawn needs. Working on your soil will give you the best long-term fix. Add compost spring and fall to your lawn to bring it back to life.
Things that can cause thatch include
- Fertilizing with too much nitrogen
- Growing grass that is extremely thick and hardy such as St. Augustine
- Having clay-like soil
- Waiting until the grass is too tall before mowing it.
In these situations, the solution is to cut back on nitrogen, mow more often, thin out the grass and loosen the soil periodically by aerating and power raking it, and using a substance such as gypsum to loosen the soil further. Adding compost is the best remedy for amending soils heavy with clay. Avoid fertilizers or any substance that would make the soil more acidic. Also, avoid pesticides that kill beneficial organisms and worms, which are good for aerating the soil and crucial for converting your clippings into fertilizer.
Keeping your yard free of lawn diseases is just a matter of basic care. Pay attention to watering habits, mow often, don’t over fertilize, be cautious with pesticides and aerate your lawn once or twice per year. You may still have an occasional issue, but chances are you can resolve it soon enough to avoid extreme damage.