So bummed out, my lawn is dying, please help

GrowSomeGrassJuly 3, 2014

All, I really could use your help. My lawn is dying. Brown spots everywhere. I'm pretty sure it's a fungus but I dont know what to do about it. It keeps getting worse every year. Around about mid-June the lawn starts to wear, and by the first week in July, its pretty nuked. Its been like this for 3 years now and this year is the worst. When it dies, it doesnt come back. Leaves large holes in my lawn etc.

What fungus is this? How do I fight it? How come my neighbor (grass on the left) has perfectly fine grass (you can see the line dividing our lawns)? Am I over fertilizing? I've read fungus likes healthy well fed lawns. Am I not watering enough? (I feel like when it gets really hot the grass starts to die). It gets beaten in the sun during the summer (kentucky blue grass). It looks great in the spring but by August, it turns brown (goes dormant?). By July, large parts of the lawn die like this.

Please help. Thank you so much.

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This is a pic of my back lawn (tall fine fescue). The TFF does better in the heat vs the KBG, and is less susceptible to fungus, but nevertheless still takes damage through the hot months. I can see the same sort of dryness in the back now (see the ring), which means this will probably be dead too in a week or two. Guys what the heck do I do?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 7:27PM
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How do I identify the fungus and what can I buy to combat this!? TY.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 7:30PM
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Here is the front lawn again from another angle. You can see how it's taking over my lawn. SOS! TY all.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 7:39PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

What is your watering regimen? How often and how long do you water?

Does it seem to look normal in the spring?

How much of the yellow area does that tree shade cover? Is it covering more of the grass every year? Does the yellow area spread out further into the full sun?

When were the last two times you fertilized and what did you use?

Used any herbicides, insecticides or fungicides this year?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 10:11PM
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I hardly water the lawn. We live in a very wet area and I've only watered the lawn a handful of times this year (the back is fine). However, the front lawn takes a beating in the sun and dries out very quickly. I dont think there is much room for error. When temps spike, 2-3 days later the lawn gets really stressed. I'm normally behind the curve. The front lawn needs to be watered twice a week because of the sun and because its KBG. The back lawn doesnt need much water (TFF). I water randomly when we dont get much rain.

Lawn always looks fantastic in the spring. Its the summer heat that kills it.

No shade on my front lawn where those dead patches are.

I fertilize 3 times a year, Scotts Halts + TB, Summerguard and winterguard. I had fertilized maybe 2 weeks before these dead patches showed up. But I think it's more related to the summer. I put a 5k bag on the grass in the Sping and Fall, and never have over fertilization issues. But the summerguard app coincides with big dead patches.

I suspected lack of water in the front + the timing of the fertilizer (high nitrogen) + intense heat = stresses the lawn and invites a fungus.

Guys please look at the pics. Is this a fungus? What do I do? Thanks all.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 1:06PM
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Doesn't look like fungus. I see the shadows of a tree. The proximity and shape make me think you may need to deep water that area. If the sun dries out the top and the tree is sucking water down below, the area near the larger tree roots will struggle to get enough water. So a slow soaking to get water down to all the grass roots and encourage them to grow deeper so they don't dry out so fast. That will also take some water down to the tree if you water deep enough and help your tree be happy and less stressed. Repeat as needed to eliminate the browning.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 1:10PM
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That tree is actually on the neighbors lawn, and the sun moves throughout the day and my front patch hardly gets any shade. The neighbors lawn is perfect, so its not the tree.

If its not a fungus, do you think it's grubs?

I had mushrooms on my front lawn. Thats why Im convinced this is a fungus.

This post was edited by GrowSomeGrass on Mon, Jul 14, 14 at 13:57

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 1:54PM
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Could it be pythium blight?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 4:44PM
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In all the pictures shown the turf looks like it is wilting from drought stress. First thing you have to do is determine if the area is dry or not. Cut into the turf with a knife or shovel. Does the thatch and or soil look and feel wet? Compare the problem area with a nice green area. If the turf is wet then you can move on to identifying a disease problem. It's to early for grub damage in your area.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 8:49PM
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First question, does the browning appear in the same spot every year? That might be a key. If it's roughly the same spot every year it could be a fungus, maybe.

Mushrooms in your lawn don't indicate a lawn disease per se. I don't know for sure, but could be a fungus called Summer Patch which affects KBG. Your sunny yard is making soil temps rise as we move deeper into summer. Summer patch really gets going when soil temps hit 78-80 I believe. If it is Summer patch , it will come back every year, it's a root based fungus and it's in the soil and pretty much impossible to get rid of it. It is tough to diagnose though and the disease does look like drought stress too. You have to try to prevent it by starting in April/May by using biofungicides/chemical fungicides. Companion(bio fungicide)And heritage(chemical fungicide)are your best bet, but they can get quite expensive. If it's summer patch it might be tough to do anything this year.

Again, I don't know for sure if it is Summer Patch, but it might be. I think the only true way to know is to send a sample to turf lab so they can identify it. But it could be other things too. I have Tall fescue which doesn't get summer patch, so I don't have first hand knowledge, but have seen other lawns and other people talk about it in detail.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 10:37PM
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Question: I've seen a lot of people in this forum having great success controlling fungus by applying cornmeal. Is Summer Patch resistant to the predator fungus that cornmeal introduces? I did read on one website that cornmeal is better as a preventative rather than a cure for existing brown patches, but on the other hand people in the forum still seem to have great results even after the brown patches have taken over.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 10:55PM
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Corn meal can be used as a curative, but it tends to be kind of patchy (pardon the pun). It's certainly superior as a preventative.

Try it. You don't need to make it look like a corn meal snowfall, 10 pounds per thousand square feet is sufficient (20, in this case, might be better). Water it in during the evening to get the fungus moving, but try to make sure the grass is dry by nightfall (while the soil is still damp). There's no sense asking for trouble.

You can repeat that every week if you want to unless and until it starts to stink from the decay. Once per month is entirely sufficient to maintain the fungal shield at high levels.

Next year, hit it in May before problems arise--with any luck, they never will arise, or will at least be much more limited.

If this doesn't work, I know of a wide-spectrum fungicide I guarantee you have in your home--baking soda--but it's going to seriously damage all the soil fungi so I prefer not to use it.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:07PM
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WOW, to the guy that mentioned pythium blight. I think this is exactly what it is. I went to Google Images, and it looks really similar. It also sort of occurs in the same area every year which as OP mentioned, it's probably a fungus.

AND, I think I know what's triggering it. Its my June Summerguard fertlization. I think the high nitrogen is causing it. Because my neighbors lawn is perfect and she does not fertilize in the summer. Read below.

WOW if this is what it is, I am so grateful to you guys.

Cultural practices can be used to promote an environment where infection by Pythium species is limited. Irrigation is an important cultural practice to monitor. Watering early in the day will allow grass blades to dry and thus decrease the probability of leaves remaining wet overnight. Irrigation also has an impact on the relative humidity within the foliar canopy of turfgrasses. This is the major reason that late afternoon and evening watering should be avoided on warm days. Providing for good surface and subsurface drainage when establishing new turfgrass sites, and renovating areas where water can pool in established turfgrass areas is another important step in Pythium blight management. Removing thatch can improve drainage, reduce drought and nutrient stress on turf and remove sources of Pythium inoculum. Thatch should be removed if it is greater than 0.6-1.2 cm (0.25-0.5 in.) in depth, depending on height of cut. Thatch is removed by vertical mowing and topdressing with sand or soil. A balanced system of turfgrass nutrition is also a key to controlling Pythium blight. Excessive fertility during hot months, particularly nitrogen, can exacerbate disease pressure. Levels of nitrogen applied to turf should be monitored, and monthly applications of less than 25 kg of nitrogen per ha (0.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet) during periods of hot weather are recommended. When applying nitrogen-based fertilizers use slow-release sources or "spoon-feed" turf with light foliar applications of fertilizer during spring or summer when occurrence of Pythium blight is most likely. Avoid calcium deficiency and maintain a slightly acidic soil pH. Promote good air flow across golf greens and other areas of turf by pruning trees and shrubs to promote light penetration and increase air movement to dry. When mowing, avoid areas of wet turf when the temperature is > 21ðC (70ðF), as this will help minimize the spread of the pathogen. Wash mowing equipment before entering unaffected areas. Also, alleviate soil compaction, in order to improve turfgrass root growth. When overseeding with cool-season turfgrass species, delay the process until late summer or early fall when the nighttime temperatures have cooled to

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 10:28AM
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BTW - I'm also going to seed some TFF in the front next fall. I cant do it now because of a POA problem, but I will do it next year. I find the TFF is much hardier than the KBG (less fungus, doesnt go dormant etc). The KBG is a pain to manage. TY.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 10:35AM
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>> Its my June Summerguard fertlization.

Yep. Apply synthetics no later than Memorial Day. And no earlier than May 15th. :-) One spring feeding is sufficient for most lawns, particularly if you winterized when top growth stopped.

>>I find the TFF is much hardier than the KBG (less fungus, doesnt go dormant etc). The KBG is a pain to manage.

I have a 100% elite KBG lawn with no fungal issues--withholding summer nitrogen is the key there, as well as appropriate soil chemistry to deter the development of the fungus.

Most fescues don't go dormant because they can't go dormant. They have good drought resistance, but terrible drought tolerance. Left to go dry for longer periods, they simply die.

KBG has good drought tolerance but bad drought resistance. They brown out faster, but go dormant and return once conditions improve.

Both can be managed; I've enhanced drought resistance on my KBG by balancing soil chemistry to improve that, increasing organic matter to hold more water, and training the roots to go deeper.

>>pythium blight

Skip the corn meal (although you can use it as a secondary backup, which will also help decrease soil compaction a bit over time and shift the surface pH toward the acidic while it decays).

Head for your local big box store and find a fungicide labeled for Pythium. Use it, and go wider than you think you should by at least six feet.

Next summer, just as warmer weather hits...use it again to get initial control over the situation. After that, try corn meal to handle it a little more organically and without doing a number on all the soil fungi (which are trying to aerate your soil for you).

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 1:21PM
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The weather conditions conducive for the development of pythium blight are a stretch at best, if growsomegrass is in the Boston area. Only a quarter inch of rain in the previous 10 days prior to the initial post with an average high of 83 and low of 63. With those temps, very little rain, growsomegrass's comment that he rarely waters, the turf surrounding the browned out area is wilting, and an application of .5#'s of urea per thousand two weeks before any stress was detected. I am going to stick with the turf was dry and the two streaks running through the wilted area are from his mower tires driving over an area under extreme drought stress. Of course I could be wrong and GrowSomeGrass is no where near Boston and the temps where in the upper 90's with thunderstorms every afternoon for three days.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 10:07PM
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OK guys, so the grass has started to heal. Take a look at the pic. Still some damage, but not remotely as bad as before. What the heck is going on???? I thought a fungus would wipe it out for the year like previous years. This year it looks like the grass has started to come back. Not that I'm complaining. But being new to all this I just wanted to understand what's going on.

Thanks for the tips everyone.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 9:54PM
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Guys any thoughts?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 11:08AM
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The fungus never got far enough along to kill the crown or, if it did, the root was still healthy enough to sprout a new crown.

If you catch it early enough, or if conditions aren't good enough for the fungus to go nuts, the grass can repair itself given some time.

My front is repairing itself from a touch of damage now, actually, as we're finally getting a (short) dry period.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 11:56AM
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Or the grass was dry and you got some rain and cooler temps and it bounced right back. If that area had been hit with pythium the grass would be gone and there would be nothing there except a black crust until fall as the KBG slowly filled in the area. If the area had summer patch it would wilt every afternoon even with adequate irrigation or rain fall and get progressively worse over the summer. You usually don't get much recovery from those two diseases until the fall with the help of fertilizer and cooler night time temps.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:19AM
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