Archive for June, 2011

Lawn diseases can mimic drought or insect damage

Published by JKeefe on June 27th, 2011 - in Lawn Care Companies, Turf Disease

Summer patch, very common in hot weather

Most lawn diseases are fungal in nature, appearing from early spring to late fall, manifesting from minor discoloration to swift turf death, such as in brown patch disease.

Turf diseases are very difficult to diagnose in a home lawn due in part to the complex nature of the appearance as it relates to air temperature, mowing height, fertility, thatch thickness, and moisture present on the lawn surface.  Like an episode of CSI, diagnosing and treating lawn diseases requires experience and a future game plan for successful treatment.  By the time most people see the damage appear in their home lawn, the fungal disease has manifested as brown spots or dead patches.  Since most lawn diseases are fungal in nature, they love humidity or moisture in order to activate and complete a life cycle, be it brief.  Temperature also plays a huge role, from the cool weather of snow molds to the high heat and humidity required to see brown patch disease.

Red thread looks mean but really is not a serious disease

June of 2011 has brought about an unusual set of weather phenomena from cool wet days to hot, moist nights several weeks ago.  The result of this kind of weather predisposes home lawns to multiple disease infections.  The best offense is a good defense in these kinds of circumstances.  First, any watering should be done in the am or daytime, allowing the lawn to dry out in time for nightfall.  Grass left wet over night sets the stage for all kinds of fungal diseases.  Your mowing height is very important during the summer and should be kept at or near 3”.  A shorter cut predisposes the lawn to stress and assists in the ability of disease to not only manifest itself, but cause more damage than a lawn cut properly.  I cannot stress the importance of proper mowing height, especially in the June through August time frame.

Thatch management through core aeration is a critical process that can help minimize patch diseases when done in the spring or fall.  Overseeding with disease resistant grass varieties can also help prevent the future visual annoyance of dead or brown patches caused by patch diseases.  If your lawn has confirmed disease issues, the use of fungicides may be desired to help reduce the occurrence of especially serious ones like Brown Patch, Necrotic Ring Spot, Fusarium Blight, Pythium, or Summer Patch.

Slow-release fertilizers should be used during the summer months as excessive fertility can lend to the appearance of certain diseases under the right conditions.  On a good note, red thread, minor leaf spot, and powdery mildew are generally not lethal and usually more aesthetically displeasing than damaging.  The key to any great lawn is maintaining a balance and doing many “little” things right to keep a healthy balance.  When it comes to lawn diseases, heat and humidity generally set the stage for a fungal outbreak in your lawn.  If you think you have an ongoing disease issue in your lawn, have an experienced, qualified person check things out.  This way, a plan can be put into place, be it a fungicide treatment now or setting up core aeration for this fall.  Left unchecked, some diseases can damage your sod or bluegrass lawn, causing scars, depressions, or thin areas.  June of this year seems to be one filled with diseases so far – I can hardly wait for July!


Preparing your lawn for summer

Published by JKeefe on June 20th, 2011 - in Cultural Practices, Misc.


Proper mowing height is the single most important thing you can do to your lawn

As June fades into July, there are definite guidelines on what you, as a homeowner should do and not do as it relates to your lawn.  The most important and often discarded piece of valuable turf information is mowing height.  Like a doctor speaking with a patient, mowing is one of the most important pieces of advice a homeowner can follow.  Even if you have your lawn professionally cut, this does not automatically mean the job will be done right.  I have seen too many commercial lawns scalped or mown below 2” during the summer, only to become stressed weakened and prone to both weeds and crabgrass.

So what is the ideal summer cut?  For most lawns, sun or shaded situations call for a high cut at 3” or maybe a little higher.  Sunny areas are prone to stress when cut in the middle of a hot day, predisposing them to all kinds of heat and mower stress.  As the grass is cut, depending upon the sharpness of the blade, the leaves lose water and can brown with the increased moisture demand.  Said another way, if you cut something, it bleeds – in this case a grass blade is mostly water.  When a mower cuts it, especially during the day, and below 2”, the lawn loses moisture rapidly.  If the soil is dry and cannot support replacing this moisture loss, you can see browning the same day or shortly thereafter.  These areas can appear as brown patches, yellowing, or widespread discoloration depending upon the time and day temperature.

The shorter the mowing height, especially as it approaches the 1” level, the more substantial damage can be caused from June through August.  The shorter the cut, the hotter the soil becomes, causing weed seeds to germinate.  Any pre-emergent barrier that may have been put down pre-maturely degrades, allowing weeds to germinate unnecessarily.  Removal of grass clippings may provide an aesthetically pleasing view, but it removes critical organic matter week after week.  There may be an occasion for this procedure, but on the whole, grass clippings should be mulched and returned to the lawn surface like leaves falling in a forest.  This way, whatever energy and professional care you are putting into your lawn will not go to waste but will provide the most benefit possible.


Lawn watering, from green to brown

Watering your lawn is essential if you want to minimize browning

June is typically a transition month from cooler wet weather to warmer and drier weather in NH and VT.  While you may enjoy the warmer weather, your lawn is composed of cool season grasses and disapproves of 80 or 90 degree days.  Your grass is designed to flourish in 60 or 70 degree temperatures, but set the weather to broil and you will have consequences.  For instance, even a healthy green lawn with plenty of water is still susceptible to leaf scorch – a condition similar to taking a vacation in Mexico in January.  The lawn has succulent leaves, full of moisture, and they may not be fully prepared for hot weather.  I have seen lawns turn from a vibrant green to patches of white or tan overnight!  I can hear the phrase “what happened?” echo down the street from front porch to porch.

How can such a thing be prevented?  You can mow regularly with a sharp blade to 3,” not too short as to cause stress.  Don’t over fertilize either because too much of a good thing is never healthy.  A lawn cranked up on the golden juice of high soluble fertilizers is predisposed to stress and what we in the business call the classic “crash.”  This crash is a like watching a nice sports car hit a concrete wall – most unpleasant.  A lawn that is racing in terms of growth can be dangerous, especially if that same lawn runs out of soil moisture and/or hits a period of 90 degree days.  This type of weather can spell all kinds of trouble for what seemed bliss for you as a homeowner. You may see all kinds of white blotching as “hot spots,” as the sunniest areas tend to dry out first and turn a dull purple or off green.

Classic drought stress brought on in June by warm weather and minimal rainfall

Don’t confuse this type of situation with summer diseases which may also be present.  Dollar spot, brown patch, and a hoard of numerous villains await a weak, dry lawn, or one that stays wet overnight due to late watering or humidity.  Drought stress or sun scald can mimic diseases like dollar spot or patch diseases during the summer.  If you are in doubt, have a professional look in order to determine what course of action may be required.

Hot spots in a lawn should receive top priority when it comes to watering

When it comes to watering, anything is better than nothing when it comes to your lawn turning from green, to dull purple, to light tan, to all out brown.  Drought stress, combined with hot weather, can cause a lawn to crash and brown out in mere days if left unattended.  Any irrigation is better than no irrigation in the sense that once your lawn goes brown, it takes weeks to start new growth and push out new green leaves.  Brown grass leaves don’t just rehydrate and turn green for the most part – they are gone and need to be replaced.  Early intervention by watering can either minimize or prevent massive browning if done correctly.  Most turf wants 1” of rainfall per week to continue normal activities.  If you can water in the morning, this is preferred to help minimize disease and evaporation in the day’s heat.  Watering for a soaking is better than a light misting.  In other words, a 1hr soak is better than 15 minutes a day, yet 15 minutes a day is better than no irrigation at all.  Early watering will yield faster results and help the lawn stay green before things turn tan or brown.  Watch for those hazing dull patches, those sections that don’t bounce back after you walk over them so you can still see your footprints.  These are the priority areas that need water versus turf that is still a vibrant green.

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