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Lawn Care Tips

The Most Common Grass Diseases in Pensacola and How to Treat Them

Posted by Pete Blackman

Sep 8, 2017 9:53:16 AM

field of grass and perfect sky.jpeg

For Pensacola-area homeowners and business owners alike, caring for the lawns, shrubs, and trees that frame our properties is both important to us and uniquely challenging.

Unlike some other areas, even just a short drive north, east, or west of us, the Pensacola region of northwestern Florida’s Gulf Coast enjoys a long, hot, and wet growing season with just a brief (but vital) cooling-off period during the short winter. The combination of high temperatures, plenty of sunshine, frequent drenching rainstorms and even the possibility of hurricanes or other severe weather from time to time, our Pensacola lawns are often studies in extremes.

To make matters even more challenging, there are several different types of turfgrass that commonly grow in the area, each with their own optimal combinations of sunlight, water, and fertilizer. And, there are a number of common insect pests as well as diseases that can overtake healthy grass, and weeds that can crowd it out.

So, a homeowner or business owner who wants to make sure their lawn and landscaping are always looking the best they can has a lot of work ahead of them. To survive and thrive, every Pensacola lawn needs consistent and appropriate:

  • Mowing
  • Watering
  • Fertilizing
  • Aerating
  • Weed control
  • Pest control
  • Disease control

While most people are comfortable taking on the responsibility to mow the lawn, and watering comes in as a close second, the rest of the items on that list present challenges to most DIY-ers both in how much time they take and in the knowledge required to handle the responsibilities effectively. That’s where Lawn Master’s skill and experience comes into play.

In the following sections, we’ll zero in specifically on protecting your Pensacola lawn by means of disease prevention and treatment.

Common Lawn Diseases in Pensacola and Surrounding Areas

pythium_blight.jpgThere are many different lawn diseases that could potentially harm your lawn along our section of the Gulf Coast, but six of them are the most common culprits we run into, accounting for the overwhelming majority of issues Pensacola homeowners and commercial facility managers face when protecting their lawns. They are:

  • Pythium Blight
  • Brown Patch
  • Dollar Spot
  • Fairy Ring
  • Rust
  • Harmful Nematodes

In the next four sections, we’ll discuss how to identify each of these harmful lawn diseases, what causes each of them, how you can go about preventing them from affecting your lawn, and how to treat your lawn if it’s already succumbed to one of these diseases.

Identification

brown-grass-1.jpgIt takes a keen eye and perseverance to ensure you notice if your grass is falling victim to a common lawn disease. Identifying these common Pensacola lawn diseases can make the difference between successfully treating the disease and watching your lawn suffer and die.

  • Pythium Blight – A fast-spreading fungal disease that presents initially as small, circular patches of collapsed, water-soaked leaves and stems on close-mown turf.
  • Brown patch (or Large patch) – A fungal disease that may show up as a gray-purple ring up to 20 inches in diameter.
  • Dollar Spot – This fungal disease creates small silver-dollar-sized spots where the grass is leveled down to the roots. Although generally small, these spots can appear all over the lawn.
  • Leaf Spot – A fungal disease that creates tiny lesions on grass that look like cigarette burns, and can progress to large patches of brown and wilted turf.
  • Fairy Ring – A fungal outbreak in the soil beneath the grass. It can create dark rings from several inches to 20 feet in diameter. Sometimes mushrooms will grow along the outer edge of the ring.
  • Rust – Rust causes grass to yellow and then to progress to a bright orange color. Blades can droop toward the ground and appear shredded.
  • Harmful Nematodes - These are actually a type of roundworm that commonly affects Pensacola lawns in the colder months, so it could theoretically be considered a “pest”, but they’re incredibly small (only about 1/50 of an inch), so you’re unlikely to identify them with your naked eye. Instead, like other diseases, you’ll note their effect: root knots or galls, injured root tips, excessive root branching, leaf galls, lesions or dying tissue, and twisted, distorted leaves.

Causes

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  • Pythium BlightPythium Blight is especially common during the winter as it is greatly encouraged by excessive nitrogen-based fertilization during the fall. This causes the grass to remain thicker and lusher into the colder weather than it should and provides for deeper root systems. Under those conditions, the disease finds a perfect environment for growth during a time of year when it would normally struggle to survive as your grass goes dormant.
  • Brown patch (or Large patch) – Brown patch is caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani. Like other common fungal outbreaks that can harm your lawn, brown patch thrives when your lawn receives excessive fertilizer and water. This is most common in the autumn when the weather is cooling down and the soil is able to keep more of its moisture and nutrients, but we just keep irrigating and fertilizing anyway.
  • Dollar Spot – Dollar spot is also caused by a fungal outbreak, and can therefore thrive in exceptionally wet and nitrogen-rich conditions. It can also be spread to other parts of the lawn by dumping infected grass clippings on healthy grass.
  • Leaf Spot – When temperatures are between 77 and 86 degrees during the day and above 65 degrees at night, you should keep an eye out for the leaf spot disease. It is most severe during rainy, humid periods. When conditions of moisture and high humidity are present, the fungus produces numerous spores that are spread by wind, rainfall and irrigation, and mowing.
  • Fairy Ring – In this case, the fungus responsible does not attack the grass directly, but rather overtakes the soil and robs the turfgrass of vital moisture and nutrients. Since this diseases are caused by fungus, they can be spread by dropping infected lawn clippings on uninfected grass.
  • Rust – Especially prevalent in Zoysiagrass lawns, the unpleasant results of lawn rust include yellow or orange “dust” that coats and discolors the lawn and even your shoes. Once again, this is caused by a fungus, and the “dust” is actually fungal spores that spread naturally with the wind and/or as you and your pets walk through the lawn.
  • Harmful Nematodes - Harmful Nematodes are also especially common during the winter and, like Pythium Blight, the roundworms thrive when excessive nitrogen-based fertilizer is applied during the fall. Since the grass remains abnormally thick and lush into the winter and maintains deeper root systems, the nematodes find can feed and multiply during a time of year when they would normally struggle to survive.

Prevention

fertilizer-grass.jpgObviously, the best option for eliminating these and other grass diseases in Pensacola is to prevent them from infecting your lawn in the first place. While they’re not necessarily easy or guaranteed to work, the following tips can accomplish just that:

  • The very best defense against lawn diseases is a strong, healthy, and vibrant lawn. Healthy and strong turfgrass can often resist fungal diseases without additional help.
  • Be sure your fertilization schedule is appropriate for your grass type and the current weather trends. Fertilization should taper off early in the fall so that your grass can go dormant naturally during the short winter.
  • After the first few mowings of the fall, rake up excess thatch so the grass and soil is  exposed to the cooler air and sunlight.
  • Be sure not to water the lawn too much, especially late in the day, to avoid fungal issues. Mowing while the grass is wet is also not advised.
  • A stressed and weakened lawn is more susceptible to diseases, so don’t mow your grass too short each time, or wait until it’s far too long before trimming it.

Treatment

Freshly cut grass detail.jpegEven with the best of efforts, there’s a good chance you’ll one day need to take offensive action against one or more common Pensacola grass diseases that have taken hold in your lawn. Doing so generally involves a combination of strategic chemical intervention (to eliminate the current outbreak,) and the preventative measures described above (to prevent future outbreaks from occurring):

  • Get professional help to choose the most appropriate combination of treatments for your lawn and the specific disease it’s facing.
  • Follow an intelligent fertilizing schedule that tapers off early in the fall to allow your grass to go dormant naturally.
  • If you absolutely must have a green lawn all year, consider overseeding with treated ryegrass seeds that are disease-resistant, especially to Pythium Blight (which ryegrass can be especially susceptible to.)
  • Rake after the last few mowings in the fall to remove excess thatch and leave the grass and soil exposed to the cooler air.
  • Avoid excess watering, especially late in the day, and never mow while the grass is wet.
  • Avoid mowing the grass too short as this causes stress, which leaves it more susceptible to these diseases.

In all cases, it’s important to remember lawn treatments are powerful and require a high level of understanding before application. Lawn care products are at risk of being ineffective, and even potentially dangerous, if stored improperly or misused. That’s why we strongly recommend getting help from a Pensacola lawn care professional who’s familiar with the area and has experience treating the particular disease your lawn is facing.

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Topics: Lawn Care Tips, Insect Management

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