Just like all living things, your lawn can become ill. Just like a human being, sickness can even kill your lawn. Just as humans need to maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent sickness, the same holds true for your lawn. Without proper landscape maintenance, a disease can overwhelm and take the life of your entire lawn.
There are many types of diseases related to grass. Most are fungal by nature and can be prevented or remedied should they strike your landscape. Here we will list the conditions which cause disease and how to identify five of the most common lawn and grass diseases. After the list we will give steps to help resolve a breakout of grass disease.
Conditional Causes of Common Fungal Lawn Diseases
Fungal diseases need three different conditions to begin infecting your lawn. All three conditions are needed or your lawn will be able to fight off the infection. Here are the three conditions, all of which are needed for an outbreak to occur:
- Pathogens of a specific disease must be present
- Suitable weather which allows the disease to further develop
- Grass which is susceptible to the particular lawn disease
Disease activity usually happens when the season is stressful to the grass. For example, warm-season grass is more susceptible in the winter’s colder months when growth slows. On the flip side, cooler-season grasses are more likely to be infected when the weather is warmer.
Too much rainfall (or too little), along with diminished sun exposure can hinder your lawn’s ability to fight back against an infection.
Below you will find information about five common types of fungal diseases for lawns and how to identify each one.
Summer Patch Lawn Disease
The primary clue to identifying summer patch lawn disease is circle areas of grass being formed, starting with dying tan grass in the outermost part of the circle. After the dying blades, dead blades begin when moving towards the center of the circles. Healthy grass may appear in the middle of the circles. Dark brownish strings may cover the crowns of the grass.
Rust Lawn Disease
When a lawn is suffering from rust lawn disease, occasional patches of grass become weak and thinning. These blades develop yellows spots which will turn to the color of rust. Orange-red specks sometimes cover the blades of the grass and will attach themselves to anything that touches them such as lawn mowers, shoes or rakes.
Snow Mold Lawn Disease
The name of snow mold lawn disease is very fitting; this disease looks similar to a snowy-mold concoction with small circular spots of around 1 foot each. When dry, the blades appear pinkish. However, the blades of grass become easily soaked by water and turn red and tan. After the sun dries the grass blades, the fungus returns to a pink or white color.
Brown Patch Lawn Disease
When your lawn suffers from brown patch lawn disease, circles are formed as wide as three feet in diameter. Many times the inner third of the circle remains relatively undamaged, making the appearance of tannish rings in your yard. The blades of your grass will turn tan and then as the blades die, they will turn a smoky gray color.
Dollar Spot Lawn Disease
When the dollar spot lawn disease first takes hold, small circles the size of a silver-dollar will appear. The circles can expand up to six inches in width and after time, can merge with neighboring circles to create larger sporadic groups. The blades of grass will contain spots of yellow which appear wet, while the rest of the blade appears healthy.
How to Remedy a Fungal Lawn Infection
The best way to cure a fungal lawn infection is by following good lawn care practices. If you follow the tips below, most infections will clear themselves out with a little patience and time. This will create a healthy lawn. Usually a local landscape contractor who also follows good lawn care practices is the best choice to remove the fungus sooner.
- Irrigate earlier rather than later in the day. When you do this, your grass has a chance to dry out during the day instead of becoming saturated. Your lawn should get about 1 inch of water per week.
- Make sure your mower blades are sharpened. Dull blades will rip the tips off of grass blades rather than making a clean cut, which increases chances of spreading the infection.
- Don’t mow more than one-third of the grass height. Anytime you cut your grass it creates stress on the blades and weakens them. This increases chances for disease outbreak.
- Make sure you are using the correct amount of fertilizer. Your lawn needs the proper nutrients which are provided by fertilizer. But too much can damage it. Follow the instructions on the bottle properly.
- Remove dead grass from lawn by dethatching. Dead grass eventually can build up at the level of the soil. Use a special dethatching rake to rake away the dead grass. Attachments are also available for mowers.
- Loosen compacted soil by aerating your lawn. Over time your soil becomes compacted and restricts proper drainage. This can cause fungus growth. You can do this manually or hire a professional landscaper to aerate your lawn.
- Investigate and amend your specific soil. Take a soil sample to your local USDA Extension Office and they will test the soil and tell you exactly which additives are necessary the combination of your exact soil and type of grass. The service is usually about $20.
- Apply the proper amount of fungicide. There are many types of fungicide, but be sure of what fungus you have before treating. The Extension Office above can also test for grass fungus and let you know exactly which type you need to treat. This gives the best results.