Posts Tagged ‘brown lawn’

Summer lawn tips

Dramatic weather fluctuations in temperature and humidity cause real problems to your summer lawn. Daily temperatures in the upper 80’s or low 90’s directly contribute to our cool-season grasses shutting down to protect themselves resulting in brown or tan patches in your lawn. High heat also contributes to fast drying of the soil which speeds up the browning in a normally green lawn.

 

Grub control being applied to a large lawn

 

Lawns really prefer temperatures in the 70’s, so grass browning is a normal part of summer. Even with adequate soil moisture, high heat slows lawn growth and the typical lush lawn you had in the spring fades to lighter shades of green. July and August can be brutal on lawns, especially if you are mowing too short and have not been diligent in preparing your lawn in the spring and even the previous fall for summer weather.

 
Thin lawns or those predisposed to quick drying, perhaps with a higher sand content or southern exposure means the soil will become very hot, leading to crabgrass germination and annual weeds like spotted spurge, oxalis, black medic, and purslane. These heat-loving weeds will pop up in a short time, barely noticeable until they begin filling in thin or bare areas within weeks. Spurge is particularly aggressive and will literally grow up and over your lawn like crabgrass. Crabgrass thrives in hot and dry weather, seemingly growing inches overnight under ideal summer conditions. What can be done?

 

 

Spurge is a fast growing summer annual weed.

Spurge is a fast growing summer annual weed.

 

 

Preventative measures are the best course of action starting off the year with a spring pre-emergent, broadleaf weed control, and high mowing, and mulched clippings to recycle valuable nutrients. However for severe weed infestations or those with a low tolerance for such invaders, summer spraying can provide some relief. There are several products available which will specifically target the crabgrass and annual weeds during July and August. A few treatments can do a nice job restoring a civilized lawn which may have become overrun by crabgrass along the driveway, walkway, or patio sections.

 
Areas prone to high heat such as along roads, thin areas, and pavers are particularly vulnerable to weed invasion even with a spring treatment of inhibitor simply due to the weak turf foundation and the harsh conditions of summer. Any pre-emergent product applied can only stand up so long in thin or bare areas of a lawn which is why a thick, healthy lawn is the best defense. High heat is not the only down side to summer lawn blues; high humidity can spell double trouble as diseases like summer and brown patch can really take hold and do damage in short order.

 
In the case of brown patch, too much water when combined with high heat can set your lawn up for damage and thinning virtually overnight. Watering in the morning is your best friend and a little less water is better than too much when it comes to irrigation systems. I’ve seen a lot of lawns killed with kindness as irrigation systems drown the grass, and although the color is better and there is less dry brown, damage from summers diseases can cause more significant turf loss.

 

 

For a free mowing magnet, just e-mail or call anytime.

For a free mowing magnet, just e-mail or call anytime.

 

 

On the flip side, short mowing and not enough irrigation promotes summer patch, especially in sod or bluegrass lawns. Summer patch damage becomes evident as pitting, scars, and crescent-shaped lesions due to heat, humidity, and turf under stress like drought. Short mowing further compounds the problem which means even more stress placed on your lawn resulting in permanent damage. Seeding with a disease-resistant rye grass into the patches in the fall will help ease the visual trauma.

 
Think of the summer as a time to get your lawn through a bad cold or flu and fall as the cure. The goal is to prevent as much damage as possible from weeds, insects, drought, and disease. Sometimes a light touch is better than spraying materials which further stunt and stress out an ecosystem already under duress. Each lawn is unique, but many underlying principles remain the same in respect to irrigation, mowing, and lawn treatments.  As always, the best offense is a good defense in the spring and fall. When in doubt, seek professional advice; what you chose to do or not do this summer really can impact your lawn.

 

In any case, take a vacation, this is great beach weather!

 

 

Enjoy your summer vacation but be sure to follow basic lawn tips.

Enjoy your summer vacation but be sure to follow basic lawn tips.

 

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The many causes of brown lawns

Brown lawns can spell trouble when the general assumption is drought is the cause.  While dry soil and heat exposure can certainly result in tan or brown grass; disease and insect infestation can mean an unpleasant surprise.  I have been seeing extensive second generation chinch bug damage in NH and VT lawns in 2013.  In some cases, the scope of the damage has been magnified by a population explosion which began in 2012.  Without proper diagnosis and action, chinch bug populations build exponentially month by month with two generations per year in most locations.  Since 2012 was so hot and dry, many assumed the browning in their lawn was the result of harsh weather.  While this may have been true in many cases, some browning masked chinch bugs.  If your lawn is brown now with an abundance of rain, you might have an insect and or disease problem.  Without looking up close, this small insect is difficult to identify.  A small pocket of chinch bug damage in your lawn can be as small as your fist or hand, while larger infestations can move like locusts across your lawn devouring a half acre or more over months.  I have seen both ends of the damage spectrum and everything in between over the last month.  Generally, you treat for chinch bugs because left alone, they will simply overwinter as adults, and start over again next spring; building in size and eating power with each successive generation.  The math is simple; a lawn treatment spraying for chinch bugs is much more cost effective than thousands in a lawn repair or renovation.

Brown patch and pythium disease

Both diseases damage and thin a lawn to varying degrees during the summer months under warm, humid weather.

While chinch bugs may reign supreme as surface lawn destroyers, disease can also pop up quickly with humid and warm weather.  Several diseases which can cause fast browning and turf loss are brown patch and pythium.  Like most fungal diseases, temperature and moisture are critical factors and can influence the likelihood your lawn will become infected.  Warm temperatures overnight, usually between 60 to 65 degrees and moisture due to an evening or late afternoon thunderstorm are a perfect storm for pythium and brown patch.  Ryegrass is especially susceptible to pythium fungus, a fast moving disease that usually kills grass when it appears.  Pythium damage can be seen as sunken, greasy, waterlogged patches of grass which appear matted.   Brown patch is best identified by lesions on the leaf blade with a tan interior and a brown or yellow perimeter.  Brown patch can appear as small blotches or patches up to several feet in diameter.

While fungicides can be helpful, best results are achieved proactively versus reactively and even then there is no guarantee.  Most fungicides only last a week or two under ideal conditions and if you look at the past weather this summer, an ideal spray program would equate to 4-6 proactive treatments; bordering on a golf course regime!  Your best bet to combat both pythuim and brown patch is to mow high (3”), mow when the lawn is dry, and use slow release fertilizers in the summer at reduced rates.  Run your irrigation only in the morning and keep the cycle deep and infrequent.  You can kill your lawn with kindness by watering too much or watering every day regardless of the weather.  A lawn with wet feet overnight is an ideal candidate for contracting brown patch or pythium.  If your lawn does contract brown patch, it may recover on its own depending upon the severity but some turf thinning is likely.  If your lawn succumbs to pythium, often reseeding or over seeding is the only solution in the fall to replace dead grass.

The weather never ceases to amaze me when it comes to throwing curve balls during a given summer.  While 2012 was one of the hottest and driest on record, 2013 may go down as the wettest and most humid!  Don’t let your lawn head into winter damaged; fall is the best time to fix things before 2014.  Aeration, over seeding and or lawn repairs are relevant and appropriate turf improvement services offered by your local lawn care professional.  Don’t despair, school starts soon!

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Lawn Diseases

Published by mrgrass on June 11th, 2013 - in Turf Disease

Lawn diseases can be a very confusing subject because the average homeowner would have a hard time telling the difference between a lawn disease, stress, or insect activity.  Spring diseases range from snow mold coming out of winter, to leaf spot, dollar spot, and red thread.  Summer diseases can range from damping off disease, patch disease, brown patch, and rust.  Fall diseases mirror spring without snow mold.

Lawn diseases 

Most grass diseases can be traced back to a fungus, adequate moisture/temperature (climate), and the susceptible host plant.  Like any disease triangle, all three pieces listed above must occur to produce what you visually see as a problem.  Most diseases are fungal in nature and as such, most adore moisture – lots of it!  As such, many lawn diseases can be attributed to excessive irrigation in a manicured, suburban lawn.  Too much kindness can lead to all kinds of disease issues in your lawn when it comes to watering.  Too much water fills up valuable air pockets in the soil that leads to shallow roots and predisposes your lawn to all kinds of health issues.  Watering late in the day leaves moisture and water on the surface of the leaf blade, on the soil, and raises humidity low to the ground.  Any of these facts can cause a disease outbreak in mere hours with the right temperature and host; your lawn!  Fungal diseases can be aesthetic like red thread and not really cause much harm.  Or, fungal diseases can progress all the way to summer brown patch with the possibility of not only losing lawn  density overnight but having dead patches before that first cup of coffee is finished the next morning! 

As a homeowner, you have the largest control on preventing or contributing to fungal diseases in your lawn. Mowing a lawn when wet can spread diseases from lawn to lawn if you have a mowing company out each week.  Over-watering can cause disease and root problems as previously mentioned.  Watering in the morning or day can minimize moisture presence overnight, reducing the likelihood of a fungal outbreak.  While most diseases are fungal in nature, some are bacterial and some are found in the soil itself which become active during the ideal weather conditions.  Extended rainy periods can induce leaf spot disease and turf thinning if followed by hot sunny weather.  Stress on a lawn such as mowing a sod/blue grass lawn too short can induce symptoms such as pitting or scarring with patch disease.  Some diseases are more likely under high fertilizer use and some under low.  Lawn diseases are complicated and difficult to diagnosis without real field experience.  Treatment and prevention of lawn diseases run hand-in-hand and are just more reasons to have a professional lawn care company helping you each month throughout the growing season.  When it comes to diagnosing and treating lawn diseases, there is no substitute for real field experience and education, everything you get with Chippers’ turf division. 

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