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  Insects / Animals > Diagnosising Lawn Spots

Insects / Animals

Diagnosising Lawn Spots

Dead spots on lawns are common at this time of year. Some spots are numerous but small, barely three inches in diameter. Some are much larger, several feet in diameter, and may have a dark green halo around the edge. Others are small and bright yellow, with thickly growing grass around them. At least four conditions can cause dead spots in your lawn. Before you decide that a disease is the only cause, put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and do a little detective work.


The first condition to suspect is poor roots on your turf. If the area is poorly drained and water stands on a spot for more than 24 hours, the grass roots will rot, causing a dead patch. If you have a sodded lawn less than one year old, it is possible the soil underneath the sod was never plowed to relieve compaction. Where the sod has rooted poorly, brown patches will develop as dry weather sets in. If one part of the lawn was once used as a baseball home plate or a soccer goalie area, the earth beneath is almost as hard as concrete. It=s easy to see why green grass would turn brown there.


Bright yellow spots surrounded by dark green grass are a sure sign on dog urine damage. Female dogs, because they squat to urinate, are the primary culprits. Dog urine has a high percentage of nitrogen because they consume protein as part of their diet. Nitrogen is a fertilizer at low concentrations. But when the chemical is concentrated in urine it acts like a solution of table salt on your grass. The acidity of the urine is not the problem; sprinkling lime on the spot will not bring back the dead grass. Dog trainers say that the only cure for the problem, if the dog is your own, is to train the pet. Find an appropriate "potty spot" and reward the dog for using it. If the dog belongs to a neighbor you'll have to polish your diplomacy skills and talk to them.


Many homeowners blame any dead spots on a disease called "Brown Patch". Brown patch spots are small to begin with but in warm weather they can enlarge rapidly. Seen from above, the patch will look like a doughnut - a ring of tan grass having a patch of green grass in the center. Individual grass blades will be brown down to the crown - where the blade emerges from the ground - but the crown itself will be green. Early in the morning during hot, damp weather you might see a white fungal web or dark green grass at the edge of the dead grass patch.


Walt Disney created "101 Dalmatians". Dollar spot disease creates a Dalmatian-like lawn. Straw-colored spots, two to three inches in diameter, are scattered throughout the lawn. Sometimes the first time you notice the spots is when you return from vacation and complete a long-overdue lawn mowing. Spots that were not obvious when the grass was six inches high stand out in stark contrast after a pass with the mower.

KEEP GRASS HEALTHY Remember that the fungi that cause brown patch and dollar spot are constantly present. They can not be eliminated. Your grass gets sick because it is weak and becomes susceptible to the disease. You can help keep the grass strong by fertilizing only when the grass needs it: during the cool months for fescue and every five weeks during the warm months for Bermuda grass. Never water in the evening. The best time to water is in early morning.

FUNGICIDES If you are absolutely sure you have a disease, consider using a fungicide. Chlorothalonil (Daconil) and triademefon (Bayleton, Fung-Away) are labeled for lawn disease control. Although they are effective, their cost may cause you to reconsider their use. To cure brown patch in a lawn requires an application of fungicide every 14 days. A lawn fungicide costs approximately $20 per 1000 square feet per application. For a typical 5,000 square foot lawn, that comes to $100 every two weeks. Let your pocketbook be your guide!

POSITIVE IDENTIFICATION Obviously, it would be nice to have a positive identification of a disease before you decide on the best course of action. You can get that positive ID from your local Extension office. Bring them a sample of your sick grass growing in soil, eight inches in diameter. It will be sent, free of charge, to the state disease lab in Athens for identification and treatment recommendations.


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