Why is my lawn already turning brown?

macgawd(7)June 2, 2009

I live in southern Tennessee. This spring, I overseeded and fertilized, and by early May, my lawn looked spectacularly dense and green. Since then, we've had plenty of consistent rain, and only in the last couple of weeks has the temperature even been in the mid 80's. Yet already, my lawn is starting to turn brown all over, even with the rain.

Any ideas why it is already looking so bad?


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What kind of grass did you plant? What did you use to fertilize, how much and how large is your lawn?

Is it turning brown everywhere, or just where you seeded?

Did the fertilizer have a weed killer in it?

How often do you mow and at what height?

Have you done anything else to the lawn?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 7:35PM
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I planted Rebel Elite turf-type Tall Fescue, and fertilized with Fertilome New Lawn Starter. Like I said before, the lawn looked great for almost two months, but now it seems to be turning brown close to the soil, and is fairly uniform across the lawn, front and back. The size of my total lawn area is probably around 9-10,000 sq. feet. As far as mowing height, I keep the mower at the highest setting.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 8:08PM
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How often do you mow it and did it get really long at one point before you cut it? It sounds like you might developed a fungus. Recently in my area, we got a lot of steady rain and people didn't/couldn't mow their lawns and when they finally did, some of them went from dark green to orange.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 8:58PM
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Since it was a starter fertilizer, it wouldn't have had a weed killer, so that rules one thing out.

It's dry here, so I don't have much experience with fungus, but if you've had a lot of rain, that's one possibility.

Tall fescue is somewhat prone to shredding if the mower blade isn't sharp. But that should only affect the tips and if you're mowing high, it wouldn't be as noticeable.

Do any of your neighbors' lawns show similar signs of browning?

Can you post a picture of the lawn? Maybe one that shows a good section of it and another that is more of a closeup?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 9:11PM
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My mower blade is plenty sharp, but organicnoob hit on something. The grass was pretty tall the last couple of times I cut it, due to the large amount of rainfall we've been getting. Is it possible that with all the rain that I've got a fungus? I will take some pics tomorrow (it's dark outside now) and post them.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 9:37PM
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You might not have a fungus. It may just be the result of mowing after the grass has gotten too high. When the grass gets high, the top part of the blades are performing more of the photosynthesis since the lower blades are shaded. However, I would describe the color after mowing really tall grass as more of a yellowed-green color than brown. I would see what it looks like after a couple of "more frequent" mowings. But, a picture would definitely help.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 10:23PM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

macgawd - just a heads-up that might help you. I got an email from NC State Turf Sciences last Friday alerting me to condiions that might create fungal and insect problems for turf grasses in our area. Since you're not that far away I thought it might be of interest to you. I would have emailed it to you but you don't have your forum email set up.

DISEASE ALERT: Brown Patch on the Move
Lee Butler
May 29, 2009
Brown Patch
Department of Plant Pathology
North Carolina State University

Recent weather patterns have been favorable for brown patch to start showing up on cool-season turfgrasses across much of North Carolina. In particular, the past few nights have been relatively warm coupled with higher humidity and frequent rain showers. This provides ideal conditions for this fungus to take off. Preventative measures should be taken now before the average daily temperature gets too high for cool-season turfgrasses to recover.

For more information about brown patch and preventative fungicide programs, please visit the following link:
DISEASE ALERT: Dollar Spot Popping on All Turfgrasses
Lee Butler
May 27, 2009

Department of Plant Pathology
North Carolina State University

Adequate rainfall coupled with warm days and cooler nights this spring has lead to increased dollar spot activity on both cool and warm-season turfgrasses. Dollar spot activity will continue until daytime highs consistently exceed 90F. Turfgrasses that are deficient in nutrients, especially nitrogen, are more susceptible to dollar spot and will take longer to recover than well-fertilized turf.

For more information about fertility rates and application dates, please refer to the following site:


For more information about dollar spot and preventative fungicide programs, please visit the following link: http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/Diseases/Dollar_Spot.aspx

INSECT ALERT: Mole Cricket Alert
From the office of Rick Brandenburg
May 19, 2009

written by Dr. Sarah Thompson, BASF

For those of you located in the coastal areas, you have probably noticed some mole cricket damage. This damage is caused by last yearÂs mole crickets that are now adults. The large size, big appetite, and high mobility of these pests make this springtime damage extremely unsightly. Damage this time of the year appears as tunnels on the surface and large holes, which are calling chambers produced by the males. Calling chambers essentially act as megaphones to amplify the call of the males in order to attract females for mating.

Over the next few weeks, the female adults will participate in nightly flights in order to locate males, mate, and then lay eggs. Although spring adult mole cricket damage may be unacceptable for you, it is recommended that you wait to take any large-scale remedial action since the adults will experience natural mortality shortly after mating. If you do choose to treat at this time, any insecticide applications that you make now should only be focused on high priority areas, and should not be applied on a widespread basis. It is more appropriate to wait until the new generation of crickets has hatched from the eggs that the adults are now laying. Small, newly hatched nymphs are more easily controlled with insecticides and timing your control measures to coincide with the presence of small crickets minimizes your chances of having late season damage. Control of adults will also not be very effective at this time, so you can save yourself time and money by targeting the new generation in late June or early July.

INSECT ALERT: Fire Ants are Here to Stay
Rick Brandenburg
May 19, 2009
2008 Imported Fire Ant Quarantine Area
Fire Ant
Fire Ant Mound

Rick Brandenburg
Wm. Neal Reynolds Professor
Co-Director Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education
ItÂs 2009 and the fire ants continue to take over North Carolina. While this isnÂt true, it does seem like it in many areas, especially in central North Carolina. The increase in fire ants in this part of the state, especially in metropolitan areas has been impressive. DonÂt expect them to slow down any time soon. We have a number of excellent products for fire ant control available in North Carolina, but I want you to listen very carefully to the following statement. YOU CANNOT AND WILL NOT ERADICATE FIRE ANTS. YOU MUST LEARN TO LIVE WITH THEM.

The level of control you are able to obtain in a turf area will be dependent, for the most part, on the amount of time and money you are willing to spend. However, do not expect that even the most effective product is going to eradicate fire ants. If you do not believe this, take a trip to south Alabama or Mississippi or Georgia, or Louisiana, or Texas, or Florida, or South Carolina and notice all the fire ant mounds. People have learned to live with them, control them in high risk and high traffic areas and moved on with their lives. This is nature in action. DonÂt call us claiming someone at NC State needs to figure out a way to eradicate fire ants. Millions have been spent on research concerning this pest and we can manage it fairly effectively, but not eliminate it.

Below are some websites that provide additional information on fire ants. I encourage you to view these and upgrade your knowledge about this challenging pest.
You have received this email because you have signed up for either: TurfFiles Turf Alerts, TIMS, or belong to a turf, educational, or extension membership that has requested you receive this information. To be removed from this list, please reply to this email with the word unsubscribe in the subject line.

Thank you,
Jenifer Jordan Reynolds
Web Applications Engineer & Marketing Specialist
The Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education (CENTERE)

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 5:56AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Fungus is the first thing I would suspect. I use ordinary corn meal every spring because a couple spots in my lawn get brown patch. It takes three weeks for the grass to return. The application rate is 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Do the entire yard because corn meal is also an organic fertilizer.

This topic is not about fire ants but as long as someone got it going, the link to the Texas site is not correct. Click here for the right one. Also here is an article on the parasite phorid fly that searches for fire ants and kills them.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 9:51AM
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Well, I took a couple of pictures of my lawn to show the browning areas, but I don't know how to attach them here. Anyone know how to do that?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 12:29PM
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Here is a link to a good explanation of how to do that.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 12:40PM
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Ok. The first picture is a wide shot of part of my lawn. At first glance, the damage doesn't look that bad:


The second shot is a close up in the same area. This browning of the grass is pretty uniform throughout the lawn:


Any thoughts or suggestions?


    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 1:29PM
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Sorry--the second link is the same as the first! Here's the correct link to the close up photo:


    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 1:33PM
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Hey, macgawd, here are your pictures:

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 1:38PM
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Anyone have any ideas why my lawn looks like this already?


    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 3:55PM
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Yeah. It's summer!
First year grass will look like crap through summer. With each year that goes by it will look better. Encourage deep roots and keep the grass on the higher side.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 5:42PM
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iforgotitsonevermind writes,

"Yeah. It's summer!
First year grass will look like crap through summer. With each year that goes by it will look better. Encourage deep roots and keep the grass on the higher side."

No, it isn't summer. In fact, the last few weeks have been the first weeks in which we've had temps above 80ºF, but my lawn started turning brown long before that, so it can't be heat stress. We've had a lot of consistent rain, too, so it isn't stressed from lack of water, either. I also have my mower set on the highest setting. Of course, all of this has already been explained in the earlier posts. Looking for someone to tell me something I don't know.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 8:05PM
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Most likely is Brown Patch, the most comon disease on Tall Fescue. We have our share here due to the lack of rain, however, those infected are usually 100% Tall Fescue lawns. You should incorporate some Kentucky bluegrass in the Fall and try to mow your lawn shorter during periods of high rainfall. The taller grass harbors more disease and insects than shorter grass. Yo should be mowing around 2.5 inches and no more than 1/3 of the blade; which means at that height, mowing every 4 to 5 days.

High nitrogen fertilization can also aid in the development of the disease due to tender new growth.

It is very difficult to tell if you have Brown Patch or not by looking at the pictures you posted, a close up of a few grass blades can help. It is important to note that if the affected grass blades are still standing it's most likely Brown Patch.

Click on the link below for more info.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 11:03PM
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I was thinking it was brown patch too. If you zoom into the photo there are some blades that appear to have yellow marks with a dark ring around them.

The tips of some of the blades appear to be affected as well so make sure your mower blade is sharp enough.

I don't know much about lawn diseases but I've been looking at tons of photos trying to figure out what I have in one area and how to deal with it.

If anyone wants to have a look, please visit this thread to help me figure out what it is.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 8:00PM
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jimtnc(7b Raleigh tttf)

Well, if I still thought I had a problem (can't tell from pics-my grass looks similar but I have several different kinds of grass blends that will do that like Rye) I'd buy (see link) in the hose end applicator and apply it. I have a little over 12k' so it took 2 of these, but my grass made a rebound and is looking good now. At any rate, applying a fungicide when the conditions are right for it and signs are showing, whether you are certain or not would be a preventative measure in my mind...and it may help also.

BTW, did you even read any of the links I posted above? That should have spelled out a lot of things for you that you may be experiencing.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 6:10AM
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If that started before the heat and it's been getting water then that definitely does sound like a fungus then I take it back. Time for some fungicide

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 9:02AM
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