What could be causing this?

Timbo424June 25, 2014

Hey everyone, new to the site and I'm hoping someone can lend a hand. I have a 2 foot circle and then maybe a 4 foot oval of brown (almost dead) grass in my back yard. (I'm including a picture but I'm on a mobile device so not sure if it will upload) little history on my lawn. We had the whole yard leveled and started from scratch. We had it hydro seeded in the fall, unfortunately I'm not sure on the type of grass was In it. It came in great super green and healthy. Winter came and went it was as still looking pretty good. We have a lawn care company come out and fertilize and what not. We have only had 2 applications and it a hybrid organic treatment. It has been pretty dry in western MA past few weeks. I have been watering the lawn once or twice a week depending on rain fall. I'll let the sprinkler go 30min or so and it usually gives me 1/4 to 1/2 of water. I did notice that the soil is pretty hard packed I didn't check the whole yard certain areas. The front yard is fine. I do have a dog but I feel it is not due to him seeing that you doesn't do his business there. Sorry to be so lengthy I'm just trying to cover everything. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

No problem posting a complete question. If you had not then we would be asking those questions.

Looks like you had your camera in upside down landscape position.

In the more distant brown spot there is a green spot in the middle. Then extending from the center of the green spot to the left is a green stripe. That stripe goes out and seems to join another green stripe that cuts across sideways. Did you recently have a sprinkler installed and would those be the pipelines? If not, why do you think those stripes are green?

Have you watched your sprinkler in action? Is there any possibility that they don't cover evenly?

Are those two areas higher or lower than the surrounding lawn? Do you get standing water right on those spots?

It would seem you are watering far too often. As I love to tell people, I have only just started watering my lawn at the edge of the Texas desert. I started 2 weeks ago and only covered about 10% of the yard. The rest looked pretty good. Then yesterday we got 1/2-inch of rain, so I should be good for several more weeks depending on the humidity. The point is, it's almost July and most of my yard has not been water YET! You're watering too much.

Put out some tuna or cat food cans and time how long it takes to fill them with your sprinkler. That is how long you should water when you water. The idea is to provide water deep down in the soil so the grass roots will grow down there to get it. Then you can let the surface of the soil dry out completely before you have to water again. Let the grass tell you when to water, but the general guideline is to water once per week with normal high temps in the 90s. Water once every 2 weeks with high temps in the 80s. Once every 3 weeks in the 70s. Then once a month the rest of the year. There are other factors to consider including soil structure, soil type, grass type, mowing height, shade, clouds, humidity, wind and some others; but what it boils down to is those guidelines. You're in Maine. Do you even get temps in the 90s?

But I don't suspect you're watering is the issue with your grass unless the sprinkler is not hitting right in those two spots. I think the spot in the foreground is different from the one farther back. This one up front does not have a green spot in the middle.

Here's something else to try. First, have you seen many (or any) Japanese beetles or June bugs around your porch lights this past few weeks? If you had an ungodly number of those things, they might cause that much damage this early. Normally you would see the damage in late July. Try digging up a square foot of grass in the dead spots looking for little grubs. If you see more than 12 in one square foot of digging, then you have a problem. A normal lawn can handle a certain amount without showing any damage. If you see more than a dozen, please write back before you do anything about them. And don't tell your lawn care company because they will go ahead and spray. You should try to avoid broadcast insecticides because microscopic insects make up a very important fraction of your soil microbiology. There are organic ways to deal with the grubs.

Also try sticking a screwdriver into the ground in your brown spots and in the green spots. Try it in the really green spots, too. It could be something is killing the beneficial fungi in your soil in those spots.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 7:06PM
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Mr Hall thanks for the quick response. I don't have a sprinkler system just a good old fashion garden hose and an Oscillating sprinkler. I use the same one for the back yard and front yard. The front looks great no issues yet. (Knock in wood) I'm actually from Massachusetts so there are days and we have and I few so far In the high 80's and low 90's. I do have a rain gauge and when I water for 30 min I usually collect I/4 inch of water in the gauge. The stripes going from top of the photo to the bottom are the lines from my mower which I'm on the highest setting, I believe its 2.75in. The dark line going out from the center of the bigger patch I'm not sure what it's from. Maybe like you said un even sprinkler coverage. But it's not like that it the front. I just went out with a screw driver and stuck it in the ground in random spots it went in smoothly up to the handle (which is 3 inches) it went it fine in the larger brown spot to I tried in several spot within the brown spot and went in fine. however the smaller brown circle it only went in about half an inch so that is definitely not cool. There are quite a few Japanese beetles but I don't think enough to cause that. But you are the expert. So I will lay off watering so much, should I look into a diffrent sprinkler other than the oscillating sprinkler? I did notice on the smaller brown circle patch the water did pool a bit when I sprayed it with the hose vs the other patch so to me the soil is to packed there, but why would it be in just that spot? I haven't tried digging up that spot yet it's to dark out right now. Again thanks for your help and information Mr. Hall.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 8:52PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

A turbo oscillator on a good hose is by far the best sprinkler you can have. Coverage is very even so no dry spots develop. I have seven of them (two houses and one has a big yard).

So if you collect 1/4-inch in 30 minutes, then your target would be 2 hours to get an inch. Still, I would verify that if you have some small, straight sided cans. Lots of them. My oscillators take 8 hours to fill, but everyone's hose, sprinkler and water pressure are different.

Highest setting is good on the mower. Hopefully it is more like 3.75 inches.

Low spots can hold water for days at a time. When that happens it shuts off air to the soil killing the beneficial fungi which normally soften the soil. Once they die then the soil gets hard, not packed. In order to get packed or compacted, you would need to saturate the soil and hammer it with livestock or a football game. Normal people almost never have truly compacted soil. Livestock producers get it after every drenching rain unless they are on their toes and get the animal moved.

I would still dig up a square foot of ground in the far spot. The close up one looks different enough to me, along with the screwdriver test, that I would bet they have different causes.

For the close up spot, I would treat that with baby shampoo to try and soften the soil. The idea is to allow the water to soak in better. Soap is a surfactant that should allow the water to penetrate more deeply and completely. Once the soil gets hard like that, it is harder to get moisture in. Since the beneficial fungi need constant moisture and temperature, the shampoo is used to accommodate that. Apply 3 ounces of baby shampoo (or any clear shampoo) per 1,000 square feet. Then water a full inch. Then a week later, water a full inch again. A week after that repeat the shampoo and water. That worked for me, but as pointed out by Andy on another thread, sometimes it takes more than 2 apps of shampoo. I get a lot of feedback that twice was all they needed, so that's why I go with two apps. I know Andy and he has applied a LOT of shampoo to his yard. He had a tree limb break off and sink 27 inches into his lawn, so the shampoo works.

For your other spot, if you don't find any grubs there, then I would be inclined to apply corn meal in case of fungal disease. Corn meal is a weak organic fertilizer but it is a reasonably good solution to fungal issues. Corn attracts a beneficial fungus called trichoderma (try koh DER mah). That fungus is predatory on other fungi and should wipe out most of the really common diseases (with the exceptions of red thread and rust). It takes 3 full weeks to see the benefit of corn either as a fertilizer or as a fungus control. It goes to work right away, but it is a biological process that takes time. If you think it might be a fungus, again, don't tell your lawn company. They will spray a non selective chemical fungicide which will lead to other problems with your soil. Corn meal is the only thing that has ever worked for me and it has worked every year since 2002. Oh the application rate for corn meal is 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. I throw it by hand. If the corn seems to clear it up, you might consider reapplying monthly to ensure it does not come back next year. If you do that you won't need your lawn service for the rest of the year.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 9:38PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

watering is an idea...

but i would go out there. and dig a hole in the middle of both.. and find out what the soil is like ...

this would not be uncommon if a tree was removed.. and the grindings left behind.. as an e.g. ...

if its not the water.. its the soil below ... dont you all think???

grinding have too much wood.. and as it rots.. it binds water.. and kills grass ... and the rotting of the woods uses all available nitro ...

any chance i guessed right???

regardless.. dig a hole and FIND OUT ...


ps: i agree.. it would have to be one big frickin dog .. lol.. clifford sized ... think dinner plate sized at best for dog ... no way they could be that artistic with urine ...

Here is a link that might be useful: relevant link .. lol

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 9:45PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

ken has a great point. Any chance of trees once being dug out of there? Wood chips underground cause those issues, too.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 9:48PM
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Thanks for all the information and responses everyone. There was never a tree in my back yard (that is what the picture is of) I still haven't gotten around to digging up a section of soil yet. The think that has me scratching my head is the front yard is fine. And both the back and front were leveled and hydro seed at the same time, and the front is looking good. The back does get a little more sun then the front but it really feel like that's not the cause. So hopefully this weekend I can get around to digging up some soil and look at it. I'll report my finding with a photo because in new at this and besides seeing a bunch of grubs (hope not) I don't know what I'm look for or at. Also last question. If it's some type of fungi could I ttansfer it with my mower to the front yard? Thanks again folks for all your help. It's really appreciated.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 5:43PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

And both the back and front were leveled

==>>> leveled with what...

unfinished compost??? ... which can be wood chips... will do the same ...

dig the hole.. let us know .. crikey.. i am rhyming ...


    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 7:35AM
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