Posts Tagged ‘lawn diseases’

12 Ways You Can Prevent Lawn Disease

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Disease pathogens are always present in your lawn. But whether they have the opportunity to infect the grass depends on the right environmental conditions being present and the lawn being weak enough to become infected. You can’t control the environmental conditions surrounding your lawn, but if you focus on keeping your lawn strong and immune, it is very unlikely that a disease will take hold. Here are 12 ways that you can strengthen your lawn against disease:

  1. Don’t plant a grass species that is unsuited to your environment. Any grass seed that is continually stressed and struggling in unfavorable conditions will be more susceptible to disease. Be practical: even if you love the idea of a Kentucky bluegrass lawn, it’s not going to do well if you live in south Florida. Instead, pick a grass seed type that will thrive in your region’s climate and soil conditions.
  2. Make appropriate plans for shady areas. Shaded areas tend to more disease-prone because they are humid and slow down grass growth. If possible, pick a grass seed that is shade-tolerant or shade loving, such as a short fescue variety. Otherwise try to increase sun exposure through pruning, mow the grass to a higher height, and water less frequently.
  3. Don’t fall prey to over fertilization. Too much nitrogen in the soil will cause the grass to grow quickly without a sufficient store of carbohydrates to back up that growth. The grass will therefore have less energy to repair itself in the case of injury, and the new growth itself is weaker. The cell walls are thinner, and pathogens are able to penetrate them more easily. Some diseases that are common to over fertilization are leaf spot, brown patch, and Pythium blight.
  4. Don’t under fertilize, either. A lawn that is under fertilized will also slow down in overall growth, which will make the lawn more susceptible to disease. Diseases that are common to an under fertilized lawn are red thread disease, dollar spot, and rust disease.
  5. Avoid scalping the lawn. A scalped lawn has lost a significant amount of carbohydrates, and its ability to perform photosynthesis is severely limited. A disease-causing fungus will also limit photosynthesis after infecting a grass. Mow as high as possible to both prevent and fight against disease. 
  6. Always cut your lawn with sharp mower blades. Mowing your lawn literally creates cuts across your grass, which need to heal and close up. If the cuts are sharp and clean then they won’t take long to heal. But if they are jagged and rough (caused by dull mower blades), the cuts will take longer to heal, and therefore allow more time for pathogens to enter through them.
  7. Aerate your soil once or twice a year. Compacted soil will gradually limit the length of your lawn’s root system, slow the absorption of nutrients, and block water from easily entering the soil. All of these problems will lessen your lawn’s tolerance for and endurance to stress, which makes it more likely to fall susceptible to disease.
  8. Try to limit your lawn’s thatch layer, and dethatch if necessary. Some disease pathogens live in thatch until conditions are right. Examples include summer patch, melting-out disease, and leaf spot. Keep up with recommended maintenance practices so that your lawn’s thatch layer remains ½” or less. If it increases, use a dethatcher to remove the extra thatch and reseed.
  9. Only irrigate your lawn when it shows signs of water deprivation, and then as deeply as possible. Over watering will create the same kind of weak growth that over fertilizing does. Many disease pathogens also require extra water to become active. Limit this possibility by watering only when the grass begins to wilt and turn a bluish-gray color. The goal is to give the lawn as much water as possible while keeping it as dry as possible.
  10. Water early in the morning so that you don’t extend the dew period. Early in the morning, about 2 a.m. to 8 a.m., the grass will be wet from dew. Dew makes the grass moist and humid, which fungi love, and it provides guttaiton fluid, which fungi like to feed on. This period will be the best time to irrigate your lawn because you will be taking advantage of the already wet grass instead of prolonging the dew period. You will also wash off some of that guttation fluid through your irrigation.
  11. Correct your soil pH when possible. A lawn growing in a soil whose pH is overly high or low tends to suffer because it cannot absorb as many nutrients. Have soil tests done every two to three years to determine what your soil pH is and what you can do to adjust it.
  12. Limit your use of pesticides. Most pesticides are indiscriminate and will kill beneficial insects as well as harmful ones. They will even kill soil microorganisms. These microorganisms help break down thatch and compete with pathogens for food. Some microorganisms even produce chemicals that prevent pathogens from growing. If you have a pest problem, try first to manage the population culturally or biologically before trying a pesticide.

Tony Allen is an expert writer on gardening and has published numerous articles on Zoysia Grass Seeds and Buffalo grass seed. He is currently writing for Nature’s Finest Seed has a lot to offer when it comes to grass seed and resources for your lawn.