I cannot figure out my lawn

adam34996July 2, 2014

Please help!

I do everything by the book with my lawn yet my grass in the front yard is browning and grass in the back it perfectly green. The front yard is full sun and back yard is part sun... not sure if that is the reason.

Quick lawn history...

I live near Cleveland - zone 6 where temps in the summer are between 77-89 with high humidity. My lawn company put down one fertilizer application in the spring and nothing else because I told them to hold off on crabgrass/weed stuff due to all the spring seeding I did.

I mulch mow clippings and leaves in the fall.
Mow on the highest setting and do it later in the day when its cool out.
Never cut more than 1/3rd of the blade.
Water deeply and infrequently.
Just had blades sharpened a month ago.
Aerate in the fall

As you can see from the pic the grass is green in the back yard and brown in the front except for small patches of green in places which I suspect is from my 20lb Boston Terrier peeing?

I ruled out dull blades because they have been sharp for a month... Now all I can think is the grass is going dormant during the heat (though I thought watering would stop that). OR I am in need of a feeding (but I thought summer feedings were a no no).

Please help me correct this because I have plenty of nice green lawns on my block.

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Back yard

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:00PM
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Back yard

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:12PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Dormancy sounds good to me. There is an amazingly distinct line between very green and very brown to the upper right of your first picture. It looks like a jigsaw puzzle piece. What's up with that?

Are you sure you're getting even coverage with your sprinklers? Eat a lot of tuna and put the empty cans out on the yard on either side of that jigsaw line. Turn on the sprinklers for your normal time and see how much water you get in the cans.

Summer feeding with chemical fertilizer is a no-no. Summer feeding with organic fertilizer is a secret weapon. You can use that stuff every day of the year if you want to with no fear of burning or stressing the grass. Milorganite is a popular one that goes through any spreader. I like using simple alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow), but I don't have a great spreader for that. I guess it flows through a broadcast but not through a drop spreader. The application rate for most organics is 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. I believe the rate for Milorganite is more like 15 to 18 pounds per 1,000.

If you post any more pictures can you take one showing both sides of the sidewalk and a another close up at 3 inches away from the brown grass? And wait for an overhead cloud. Your lighting is perfect on those above.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:13PM
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That puzzle looking thing to the right is where I killed off some grass last fall and reseeded in the spring. So thats new grass which is why it is greener then the old grass.

What about the dark green patches, could that be nitrogen from my dog?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:20PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

That puzzle piece is the opposite of what I would expect to see. Spring grass should be suffering about now while the mature grass should be fine.

Still need the water in the can test. Looks under watered out there.

I would fertilize with an organic fertilizer now. I don't see spots that look small enough for a 20-pound dog, but I do see spots. There are several reasons for that which usually all clear up with a consistently applied fertilizer. Organic is the only one you can apply this time of year. I like alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow) at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Others like Milorganite at the bag rate. Organic will be slow in showing results. It takes 3 weeks, but at least it is a weapon you have and can use.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:33PM
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That is not dormancy.
First inclination is grubs, second is disease.

I'll find something on grubs and post a link.

Here is a link that might be useful: Got disease?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:41PM
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Here ya go:

Here is a link that might be useful: Got grubs?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:43PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I wish those university gurus would date their posts. Usually grub damage does not show up until late July or August.

Grubs are simple to check for. Take a trowel to the affected area, dig up a square foot, and count the grubs you find. If you find more than a dozen, get concerned. If not, put it all back and do something else.

Why would grubs run right to the old grass and not affect the new grass?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:56PM
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Even your back yard seems...off...somehow, but it might be the camera used to take the shot. Suffiie to say there's something I don't like about the patterning and color.

Can you get us a closeup of the dead grass in the patch out front, as well as the border between dead and green? Offhand it doesn't look like summer patch or brown patch, but we'd need more data to make sure.

Do you happen to have a recent soil test? It's OK if not, as soil chemistry won't usually cause edges and patches like that, but I'm curious.

Is that a southern or southwestern exposure in that front photo? Those two tend to be the driest and most blasted in summer, and I have trouble with one section that tilts southwest myself.

In the dry patches, try the Screwdriver Test--take a flat-headed screwdriver and drive it into the soil. See how far it can go before it gives very high resistance to pushing. Try that in the green areas and see if there's a difference. Sample around.

I have one thing you can easily and cheaply try if you already have a sprayer. Put any really incredibly cheap shampoo (I like Suave, apple scent) in the sprayer, and spray it on the lawn at 1 tablespoon per gallon. The standard 16 oz Suave container should go about 4,000 square feet, but don't worry if it goes more or less. It's hard to overdo shampoo on the lawn and gardens.

Then water regularly. The shampoo will loosen the soil, encourage water to soak in instead of running off or running through,

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 11:18PM
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I totally agree dchall, but that pattern is so very indicative of grub damage (and life cycle patterns can vary) that I couldn't discount it. Plus as you say, it is very easy to check for and eliminate as a possibility. Humor me :)

Billbugs are another possibility.

If not insect, it is disease. But it is not just dormancy.

Here is a link that might be useful: Billbugs

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 11:23PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Oh absolutely! Dig it up and look for grubs.

I agree with morph, too. Take some close ups.

I also agree with the shampoo idea. I sprayed mine back in 2012 and it's still soft and absorbent. I had to spray twice at 2-week intervals. Apparently some people need to spray even more often.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 11:40PM
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I guess it could be grubs, but it seems rather restrictive in terms of scope, and for Cleveland and the northern tier this isn't heavy grub season (that was May/early June and again in late August).

I'd still look, you never know. Particularly if the OP notices the turf "floats" without roots at times. Mine did that a number of years ago.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 1:02AM
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It is kinda frustrating to read conclusions without the reasoning behind them (ahem, e.g. calcium deficiencies ;)) So, allow me to explain my reasoning. Without going into unnecessary detail, I have relatives in the Cleveland area and I watch the weather there daily. Although temperatures have pushed the high 80s the last week and a half, there has been plenty of regular precipitation and occasionally uncharacteristic sporadic cool nights prior (makes me discount purely heat and water dormancy unless the turf is growing over concrete). The OP's turf appears to have been pretty thick (makes me tend to discount hydrophobia). The shape of the affected area suggests a growing disease or insect infestation. Personally, I've witnessed that shape as a result of grubs. Mature beetles should be emerging this time of year, that means they may have been feeding April/May. If so, the damage they did then may only be revealing itself now that temps have spiked throwing the weakened grass into distress. Alternately, the grub cycle may be off and grubs are currently still feeding.
The other possibility is that the NE Ohio area has shown some fungal problems (dollar spot and leaf spot) recently.
Based on that, I really doubt this is simple dormancy or hydrophobia.

But, meh, I could be wrong, it happens.

This post was edited by yardtractor1 on Thu, Jul 3, 14 at 8:12

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 1:46AM
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I think the lighter green grass is a different grass type. Hard to tell from this pic. but maybe bentgrass. Can the OP post a close up of an area of the light green grass and the dark green grass?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 5:43PM
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