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Every homeowner wants to see a smooth green lawn, and many will go to significant lengths to have one. From sodding and weeding to aerating and seeding, there seems to be no end to the things we do to ensure that our lawn is the talk of the town.
You can even find lawn care professionals that specialize in solving all manner of problems that may threaten your yard, who are ready to step in and straighten out anything that defies amateur efforts.
One of the trickier things about lawn care is disease. With all the worry about weeds, weather, and the wear and tear of ordinary traffic, many people will forget that plants can fall ill no less than humans can, and that curing them is often more complicated.
After all, plants cannot describe their symptoms, and too often a dangerous disease can be mistaken for simple lack of water or some other minor facet of the plant’s life.
Sickness can be of particular concern in a lawn because of the particular nature of grass root structure. Most grasses commonly used in lawns will form dense root networks that share water and nutrients. The roots can spread into unoccupied areas.
This is how diseases establish channels to spread and infect the rest of the lawn. A small amount of discoloration in an unnoticed corner of your yard could conceivably be a symptom of a disease that will rapidly spread to kill the entire area in short order.
Here, we will discuss two of the more common maladies that you may spot in your lawn, known as brown patch and dollar spot. Although similar enough in appearance to fool the casual observer, there are certain distinguishing features that are worth knowing for any conscientious homeowner wishing to properly care for their yard.
In addressing these conditions, we will look at symptoms, causes, and severity, as well as what measures can be taken to control or reverse the damage they cause. Keep in mind that mowing, raking, or other maintenance may destroy important indicators of these conditions, so take care to isolate either one as soon as you notice the signs.
Brown patch is a fungal condition that will create a ‘smoke ring’ pattern of dead or discolored grass in the affected foliage. It is derived from the fungal family Rhizoctonia, and has pronounced effects on turf grasses like tall fescue and ryegrass.
Damage to the plant will tend to form in brown and deadened lesions on the blades of grass. They appear below the crown areas where new growth tends to occur.
Its fungal family will stay away from the root structures because there is more competition to actively absorb the moisture that roots and brown patch fungus both need to survive and spread.
As a fungal condition, brown patch will spread quickly during seasons where dew or irrigation tend to remain longest on the leaves, generally meaning autumn and spring. Summer heat or freezing temperatures eliminate the presence of liquid and high moisture levels, which brown patch relies on for water source.
One thing that often exacerbates brown patch is when the lawn is mowed but the clippings are not properly removed. The decomposing clippings both catch exterior moisture and exude their own, creating an ideal environment for brown patch to spread to the newly mowed yard.
Brown patch can be controlled by taking steps to remove or reduce moisture from the yard. Carefully remove all clippings after mowing, and use a leaf blower to dry dew quickly in the early mornings.
Consider aerating to remove excess thatch layer as well. Thatch forms a loose and spongy layer between the blades and the roots, trapping large quantities of moisture and creating exceptional conditions for brown patch to develop and spread.
One method many homeowners report particularly successful is introducing seperate grass strains to the affected area. Brown patch primarily attacks turf grasses. Introducing other strains of grass, or modified turf, has been reported to be an effective measure to hold this disease at bay.
Since it is fungal in nature, one can use fungicide for serious cases. Any chemical treatment should be done by professionals familiar with the state of your lawn and conform with local regulations on their use.
Dollar spot is a fungal disorder stemming from the family Rutstroemiaceae. It manifests in small patches of deadened grass, killing it completely as opposed to the discolorations of brown patch. Dollar spot is similar brown patch as they both avoid the root structure, preferring the damper upper leaves.
Similar to many fungal afflictions, dollar spot thrives best in conditions of prolonged moisture. It can survive unfavorable conditions by reverting to dormant spores on the grass blades until favorable conditions return.
Symptoms will include a period of wilting in the affected area that may appear waterlogged or to have been trodden on, as well as streaks or rings of lesion tissue forming before the grass blights completely.
Dollar spot can be controlled by managing the chemical composition of the host soil, as well as the moisture levels in the surrounding grass. Irrigation should take place early morning or late evening. At these times the grass will not stay wet for too long.
Daylight or drip irrigation will ensure that the grass stays moist for minimal time while still allowing the root system to take in adequate quantities of water.
Fungicides are effective against dollar spot, albeit not the same ones as used against brown patch. One can also switch to genetically modified grass seeds specifically created to resist dollar spot or other fungal attacks.
Though very different in appearance and effect on the grass, dollar spot and brown patch can both be countered by many of the same treatments. Should you notice symptoms spreading, strongly consider expert lawn care advice.
Even the best of intentions can potentially worsen an otherwise controllable situation. If you notice any deterioration in your lawn consultation with experienced yard specialists is highly recommended.