Spring brings lots of things that make being outdoors more fun – warm sunshine, bright blossoms, baby birds; but it also brings lawn diseases which, if not addressed right away, can take over your whole yard by the time autumn rolls around.
Most lawn diseases are caused by fungi, which can lie dormant in your soil until activated by an outside factor like a change in temperature or weather. They can also be brought in by the wind, on the soles of shoes, on lawn equipment – even on plant roots and leaves. Fungi are especially problematic because they draw their nutrients from the host – either the soil or the plants, or both – so getting rid of them can be difficult unless you catch them early.
Being vigilant in the spring means you can nip these problems in the bud before they gain momentum. Here are a few of the most common cool-weather lawn diseases you should be on the lookout for so you can prevent a widespread outbreak:
- Fusarium patch (pink snow mold): Beginning as small brown or tan circles which can eventually grow to two feet in diameter, pink snow mold derives its name from the color of the fungus when it’s wet. Pink snow mold affects the crown and roots of grass.
- Typhula blight (gray snow mold): Gray snow mold looks similar to its pink cousin, but the fungus is gray instead of pink. It also tends to make the grass appear matted.
- Red thread: This fungus is named for the red threadlike filaments that form around the grass blades, binding them together. In its later stage, the blades will turn brown and the red threads will be especially noticeable after a rain.
- Fairy rings: If you’ve ever seen a ring of toadstools in your yard, you’ve seen a fairy ring. Usually, they begin as bright green circles of grass surrounded by brown grass, which is often dotted with small mushrooms.
As with human disease, the best way to prevent lawn disease is by taking a few key preventive measures:
- First, be careful not to mow your lawn too short. Short grass exposes more soil to fungi and bacteria that can cause disease to develop. Plus, it weakens grass so it’s not able to withstand an attack as well.
- De-thatch your patch. A buildup of dead grass and other materials during the winter can cause a buildup of thatch that prevents your grass from getting the nutrients it needs, and also provides an ideal place for fungi to grow and spread. Removing thatch enables both sun and air to reach the soil surface, discouraging most fungi from moving in.
- Feed regularly. Healthy grass with strong roots is one of the best defenses against fungi and other pathogens. Choose a fertilizer that’s right for your type of grass, then apply it according to manufacturer’s directions.
- Don’t over-water (but don’t under-water, either). Just as your lawn needs the proper amount of food, it also needs the right amount of water. Aim for an inch of water a week, and keep an eye out for dry or wet spots that can weaken grass and enable diseases to take hold.
- Use fungicides when necessary. Keeping your lawn healthy will help avoid most diseases, but if a disease does develop in your lawn, applying a fungicide according to manufacturer’s directions can help you eliminate it and prevent it from recurring.
The best way to identify spring lawn diseases is by inspecting your lawn carefully. Kill two birds with one stone by combining inspection with raking and de-thatching, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier lawn!