Summer here in Georgia is a lot of fun for us, but it can be stressful for our lawns. Lack of rain, high heat, and heavy traffic from backyard barbeques and weekly mowing can all take their toll on your grass. These stressors can weaken the immune system of your lawn, leaving it open to a number of nasty fungal infections. Don’t worry, we’ve put together a few fall lawn fungus tips to help identify, treat, and prevent a lawn fungus from taking hold.
When it comes to lawn fungus management, the first step is knowing which fungi are more common here and how to identify them. The most common lawn fungi affecting Georgia lawns this fall are brown patch, large patch, dollar spot, and fairy ring.
Brown patch is a nasty lawn fungus that affects all turfgrass species here in Georgia. If you can identify this fungus early, then you’ll be able to react quickly and protect your grass from extensive damage. Luckily, this is a pretty easy fungus to identify.
As the name suggests, it dries out patches of the lawn, turning it brown in these areas. Brown patch disease can thin the affected grass, weakening your turf and reducing your property’s curb appeal. When looking closely, you’ll be able to see lesions on the grass blades. The lesions are tan with dark brown or black borders.
Brown patch is a common fall fungus, developing in lawns when temperatures during the day are in the 80s and nighttime temperatures are in the 60s. This fungus is worse when lawns experience more dew than usual.
Large patch is a lawn fungus that is so similar to brown patch it was actually considered the same disease until recently. The differences between these two diseases are in the affected grass types, timing, symptoms, and methods of treatment.
Large patch, unlike brown patch, only affects warm-season grasses. Unfortunately, it affects all warm-season grasses. Zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and seashore paspalum are all extremely prone to developing large patch. Among the warm-season grass types, only bermudagrass has any resistance to the fungus.
Symptoms of large patch are pretty easy to spot. Large patches, 3ft – 25ft in diameter, of brown and thinned out grass will spread throughout the yard.
Dollar spot is a common lawn fungus here in Georgia. This fungus appears as small, yellow or brown circles of grass. As the name suggests, these circles of affected grass are about the size of a silver dollar. When left untreated, these small circles can grow and combine into large patches of dying grass. Upon close inspection of the grass you will see small yellow or brown lesions with a rust-colored border around them.
Fairy ring is a fascinating lawn fungus characterized by large circles of dark green or brown grass and is sometimes accompanied by a ring of mushrooms or puffballs. The fungus can cause a lot of damage to a lawn, even turning the grass and soil hydrophobic (water-repellant).
Once you’ve identified the type of lawn fungus affecting your lawn, it’s time to treat it. Here are a few different and effective ways to treat lawn fungi like brown patch, large patch, dollar spot, and fairy ring here in Georgia.
Lawn fungi love it when there’s too much water on the lawn. Whether it be from heavy dew, consistent rain, or overwatering, too much moisture can become a big problem. A great way to treat lawn fungus is to change the way you’re watering your lawn. Only water your lawn before the hottest part of the day, this way you’ll give plenty of time for the excess water to evaporate away before night.
Another way to treat lawn fungus is by ensuring your lawn is healthy. A great way to do this is through well-timed fertilization and fungicide treatments. Investing in a yearly lawn care program will ensure your lawn gets the right amount of nutrients at the right time. You can also use a fungicide treatment to directly attack the fungus.
Two big components of a fungus-prone lawn are soil compaction and too much thatch. These two problems can cause pooling water and a reduction in nutrient absorption for your lawn. Both of which create a perfect environment for lawn fungus to develop.
If it’s difficult to drive a screwdriver into your soil or if you’re seeing water pool on your lawn, then it’s time to aerate your lawn. Lawn aeration is the process of pulling out cores of compacted soil and thatch and then redistributing them across the lawn. This relieves your lawn of soil compaction and thatch, allowing for the easy transfer of water, nutrients, and air. Ultimately, the immune system of your lawn will become stronger, making it less likely for lawn fungi to develop. Aeration has a ton of benefits for your lawn.
The best way to prevent lawn fungi from developing in your Georgia lawn is by ensuring your lawn is nice and healthy in the first place. Here are a few cultural practices to maintain a healthy, fungus-free lawn.
A big reason why lawn fungus may develop is that you’re mowing your lawn too short. The general rule of thumb is to never cut more than ⅓ of your grass height. Cutting the grass too short can severely affect the immune system of your lawn, leaving it open to fungal infections and pest infestations.
When it comes to lawn fungus prevention, proper watering plays a big part. Lawn fungus loves it when there’s too much water on the lawn, it’s the perfect fungal environment. Proper watering techniques can help you avoid a lawn fungus infection.
Deep watering, done less frequently, is the best technique for watering your lawn. This means allowing the water to penetrate up to three inches deep. This will encourage deep root growth and a healthier lawn.
As mentioned above, never water your lawn near the end of the day. This is one of the worst things you can do to your lawn. If you water at the end of the day, there won’t be enough time for any excess water to evaporate away. This water will sit on your lawn overnight. Too much water plus cool night temperatures can result in a wicked lawn fungus. Water early in the day, before the hottest part of the day, your lawn will thank you for it.
Finally, steer clear of nitrogen-heavy fertilizers. Lawn fungi thrive on nitrogen, it’s food for them. If your lawn has a weak immune system or if it’s had a lot of moisture and is at risk of fungal infection, then the last thing it needs is a heavy dose of nitrogen. Stick with a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer so your lawn still gets the nitrogen, but not in such a heavy, fungus-friendly, dose.
Nobody wants a lawn fungus. They weaken your lawn and are bad for curb appeal. Investing in a lawn care program from Environmental Turf Management will help keep your lawn healthy and fungus-free all year.