Properly identifying and controlling diseases in your lawn can be one of the more challenging aspects of lawn care. Left alone, diseases like brown patch or dollar spot can quickly turn a beautiful lawn into a splotchy mess, or worse. Even trained experts can have trouble identifying a lawn disease. Without correct identification, a disease will likely be difficult to control.
But if you take a thoughtful approach, know when to ask for a little help, and get familiar with the conditions under which common lawn diseases thrive, you can beat them. Here are the simple steps to controlling common lawn diseases.
Identify the disease. This seems obvious but it is often not as simple as it sounds. Some lawn diseases, such as rust, are pretty easy to identify. But others look similar and may take a trained eye to properly identify. You can, however, do a little homework and narrow the possibilities.
Almost all lawn diseases are caused by fungi. Each type of fungus thrives under specific conditions, usually a combination of heat, humidity, light and moisture, and may occur only at a specific time of year or in a certain region of the country. Some diseases only attack specific types of grasses. Others thrive when the lawn is not being properly cared for, whether it’s getting too much or too little water or fertilizer, isn’t being mowed at the proper height, or has developed a thick layer of thatch.
If you get to know a little about what different lawn diseases look like and the conditions under which they thrive, you can often identify them or at least narrow the choices. Visit a good lawn and garden shop. Take them a digital photo of the problem and they’ll help identify the solution. If you still can’t positively identify which disease is infecting your lawn, take a sample of the turf to your local nursery or cooperative extension office. A 1- to 2-foot piece of sod, taken from the edge of the diseased area, is usually best. (Ideally, half the sample should be healthy grass; the other half should show symptoms of the problem.) Write down the type of grass you have, how old it is, how you care for it and the specific symptoms you have seen and when. If necessary, some state cooperative extension offices will send the sample out for lab testing.
Adjust lawn care practices. Once a disease is properly identified, you can often adjust how you care for your lawn and create conditions that are less favorable for the disease and more favorable for healthy growth of your grass. For example, heavy thatch encourages the development of many diseases, including brown patch and dollar spot. Aerating or dethatching helps reduce the problem. Over fertilizing and improper watering also encourage disease. Care for your lawn properly and many diseases won’t be serious problems.
Overseed with resistant varieties. If a lawn disease becomes a persistent problem, you may want to switch to a different type or variety of grass. Turf breeders have developed many new varieties that resist common diseases. Your cooperative extension office or local nursery can give you specific variety names.
Use a fungicide. Get the upper hand on the most common lawn diseases by using products like Bayer Advanced™ Fungus Control for Lawns Granules. Bayer Advanced Lawn Fungus Control will cure most diseases and provide up to 2 months of protection against further infection.