Lawn Disease Control: What to Do and When to Do It

Lawn Disease Control: What to Do and When to Do It

Texas is BIG — and so is the list of diseases that infect lawns across the state. Texas lawn diseases come with disturbingly descriptive names including smut, root rot, and slime mold.

Late summer and early fall are the perfect time to check for signs of lawn disease, take steps to prevent it, and keep your yard healthy.

If your lawn looks shabby and you suspect disease, investigate. Bald spots and discoloration can also be caused by insects, mowing too short, improper fertilizing, pets, insufficient watering, and — depending on your grass variety — either too much sun or too little. Too much phosphorus in your soil can cause the grass to turn yellow in a condition called iron chlorosis, mimicking a disease.

Turfgrass disease can be tricky to diagnose, particularly if you let a lot of elapse between damage and investigation. It’s wise to call in a local professional to help you identify your problem even if you intend to treat it yourself.

If your lawn is diseased, it’s likely from a fungus. The most common fungi in Texas are brown patch and take-all root rot.

Brown patch usually shows up in circular or doughnut patterns in popular Texas grasses such as St. Augustine, Bermuda, ryegrass and centipede grass. Take-all root rot likes the same grasses and makes blades turn yellow during the warm season. Left untreated it will take over large sections of your yard.

Fungicides can help cure your yard when applied at the right time and at proper intervals, which will vary depending on which disease your lawn has. Again, calling a lawn care professional is probably more effective than DIY guesswork.

The best defense against disease is prevention. Here are some rules of thumb to follow:

  • Watering

Water to a depth of 4 to 6 inches when needed — not on a daily basis. Water in the early morning so the hot Texas sun doesn’t evaporate moisture before it can reach the grass roots. Don’t water at night, as disease spreads when moisture remains too long.

  • Mowing and Raking

Mow to the height recommended for your grass variety. It’s best to mow when the grass blades are dry. Rake up leaves often. A wet, soggy pile of leaves is an invitation to lawn disease and pests.

  • Drainage

Provide good drainage to prevent damp conditions where fungi can thrive.

  • Aeration

Aerate your yard at least once a year to get rid of excess thatching and matting where diseases may lurk. Aerators cost from $20 to $200 at home and garden stores, and power aerators are available at rental centers.

  • Soil condition

Most lawns need a soil pH (acidic and alkalinity) level between 6.0 and 7.0. Due to the state’s size and diversity, Texas soils are all over the place. Some are acidid, some alkaline. In fact, 1,300 different soil types have been identified in Texas. Application of lime raises pH levels while sulfur lowers it. Soil test kits are available at garden centers or online for about $12-$30. Some kits will also test for phosphorus levels. The Texas A&M Extension Service also provides testing.

  • Fertilizer

A healthy, growing lawn needs its food, but like a good parent, you should monitor your yard’s intake. Too much nitrogen, a key ingredient in most fertilizers, promotes fungi growth. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application on your grass variety to avoid feeding it too much. Natural or certified organic fertilizers work best.

Maintaining a disease-free lawn is truly a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Fungicides can be helpful, but they’re not a cure-all. Different fungi have different life cycles, so maintaining a clean, healthy lawn year-round and keeping a watchful eye for signs of disease are the best medicine for your yard.

About the Author

Katie Marie is a writer, avid yogi, and outdoor explorer. She spends most of her time practicing meditation and wellness using organic elements within nature.

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