Posts Tagged ‘brown lawn’

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!


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. 


Chinch bug lawn issues

Published by mrgrass on May 20th, 2013 - in Lawn Pests, Bugs & Insects


Chinch bugs are small insects that can make your lawn appear as though it’s dry but is actually slowly killing it before your eyes.  The adult chinch bug is a small insect that can be seen darting around in the thatch layer or surface of the lawn.  The adult is black with a characteristic white diamond on its back while in the young stage, it is bright red and orange; very easy to see if you look close enough.

The chinch bug does damage by piercing the stem of the grass blade and sucking out the juices like a vampire.  Unable to restore or keep up with this moisture loss, turf slowly dies and appears as yellowing or brown patches that can coalesce into larger areas.

New chinch bug damage on a lawn


I have included two pictures taken last week that clearly illustrate chinch bug damage Notice that the picture (seen above) of the more recent damage appears as small brown areas that can easily be mistaken for drought stress or a hot spot in the lawn. The rear lawn (see below) is severely damaged and the front lawn still under attack from chinch bugs overwintering and beginning their reign of terror this spring. The damage appears as razor stubble, for lack of a better analogy, where the grass is still rooted but the tops are dead, leaving only a small piece of the crown and old leaves behind like razor stubble or five o’clock shadow.  This lawn will be treated once to knock the chinch bugs back so no further damage occurs. Seeding will be done in the future to restore lost turf. 

Old chinch bug damage on a lawn

Left unchecked, chinch bug populations can explode in one season, destroying large portions of your lawn right underneath your weekly mowing schedule.  What you think is a dry lawn is really a lawn under attack, perishing from the small, yet determined chinch bug.  Since chinch bugs can have two full generations per year in NH or VT, a lawn that becomes infested can quickly succumb in a matter of months, requiring treatment and renovation involving seeding and thatch removal.

If you suspect your lawn does not look right and has unusual browning or coloring, call in a professional before a costly lawn renovation is necessary.

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