New Bermudagrass Lawn Dying!

mwk208October 28, 2012

I live in Bonita Springs, Florida and I seeded bermuda grass (Sahara) at the beginning of September. I had low expectations because of all the challenges South Florida presents to establishing a lawn from seed. I was surprised to see that the lawn came in very quickly and created a beautiful lawn in only a month and a half. I have been mowing to a height of 1.5" twice a week and watering thoroughly. I made the mistake of watering in the evening and now I have what appears to be fungus covering my lawn. I applied F-Stop fungicide 12 days ago and the brown spots continued to spread. I applied Spectracide Immunox 5 days ago and the problem still worsened. After closer inspection, I noticed there are dark brown spots on the blades of grass which further convince me it is fungus. I am no expert though so it could be something else. I have inspected the roots and the roots look healthy so I do not believe it is nematodes. I have also seen no evidence of insects. I now have areas of lawn that are completely dead and don't know what else to do. If anyone knows of another product I should try or any other solution, I would greatly appreciate it.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

How often do you water and for how long?

Do you know how long it takes to fill up a tuna or cat food can with your sprinkler?

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 10:32PM
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mwk208

Our rainy season in Florida just ended so now I water about twice a week for roughly an hour. That is usually good for about 1/2"-3/4" in my rain gauge. I've heard that it is better to deep water once a week but I don't have an irrigation system so it can be difficult to have 2 hours at home in the morning so I can turn the sprinklers on and off. Although this could be the problem, the damage looks different than lack of water. Usually when it wilts from lack of water, it turns a dark grey color before turning brown. I suppose this could be the problem though because the roots are probably not that deep yet and soil is so sandy. It just seems odd because at the beginning of this month it rained quite a bit and there were still some patchy brown areas that did not seem to respond to the extra water. The rest of the lawn was extremely healthy and green. I am watering thoroughly as I type so hopefully there will be some improvement when I get home from work this afternoon.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 6:30AM
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texas-weed(7A)

Usually when it wilts from lack of water, it turns a dark grey color before turning brown.

Your drowning your grass. Water only when the grass tells you it is thirsty. You can tel from the color shift when you see the first signs of wilt. There will be that one spot in your yard where the it dries out first and you notice the sign. When you see it, time to water and not before then.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 11:59AM
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mwk208

Texas-weed, I thought that might be the case so I had cut back on the watering over the past week. I did not water for a week and there was only one rain shower of about 1/4" last Thursday. The problem still got worse after so I eliminated that possibility. I should have mention that in my second post. I was watering twice weekly only until last Sunday. Because I thought that might be the problem, I stopped only to see the problem get worse. So, per dchall's suggestion, I watered about an inch this morning.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 12:20PM
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mwk208

After watering 1 inch this morning, I see no improvement.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 6:18PM
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texas-weed(7A)

I will say it again you are drowning your grass and killing it with kindness.

The fungal problem is not going to go away in a week or two. Apply either Azoxystrobin or Propiconazole to affected area only.

Keep the grass mowed short and back off on the water, and water only when needed. When you do water, do so early in the morning so the grass dries out before it gets dark and cool. Never water late in the day or at night.

In the mean time pray for a frost and the problem is solved.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 10:41PM
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mwk208

Thanks, texas-weed. Fungus is the only thing that makes sense. I'm just surprised that the two fungicides I applied had no affect. I will stop by the local lawn care place today and see if they have either of the products you suggested. Frosts are relatively rare and they don't happen most winters. I don't know that I should pray for a frost because it would damage or kill my newly planted royal palms and coconut palm. We just had our first "cold" front and it is 58 degrees as I type. The highs will be in the 70s most days this week. This is a significant change from lows in the mid 70s and highs in the low 90s that we experienced all summer. Do you think the cooler weather will slow the spread of the fungus? If it doesn't I might not have a lawn in 2 weeks.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 6:40AM
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texas-weed(7A)

Well don't take this wrong, but you did this to yourself.

First problem is a very late planting. You should have done this in spring after day time temps hit the 90's. Perfect conditions to have fungal problems is when day time highs are in the 80's, nighttime lows are near 60. fertilizer applied, and wet conditions. Amy of that sound familiar?

What you have is Brown Patch which is usually a Spring time problem. But can happen again in fall. You brought all the right elements together of perfect temps, fertilizer, and lots of water. Typical treatment for Brown patch is warm weather, cut back fertilizer and water, and frequent mowing. Then the grass will fix itself and grow out of it. Hopefully you will get cool enough temps to make the grass go dormant and problem is solved. If it is too cool for the grass to grow, it is too cold for the fungus to survive.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 7:28PM
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mwk208

Thanks for the help. I take no offense. I know I did it myself. The planting time was somewhat out of my control as we did not move into the house until August and it was literally all weeds. I did not want to go the whole winter with such an ugly yard so we worked as fast as we could to dig up all the weeds and plant the grass. Both products you suggested are over $70 and since I have already tried two other products that didn't work, I am hesitant to spend the money. The two products I have tried are Fertilome F-Stop (granular) and Spectricide Immunox (spray). Would I be wasting my money to try another $15 spray on fungicide? It wouldn't be worth it to spend too much more money especially if there is no guarantee it will work. At some point, I would be better off buying another $30 bag of seed and trying again in the spring.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 8:32PM
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texas-weed(7A)

The F-Stop should work. Did you by chance of water it in too much and washed it away? Try again but this time lay off the so much water.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 9:23PM
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mwk208

I will try the f-stop again. I don't think I watered it in too much. It was a pretty light watering. Definitely not an inch.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 9:50PM
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mwk208

I doubt it will get cool enough for it to go dormant but it is now our dry season when it rarely rains. Could I let the grass go dormant by not watering until it turns brown or would that just do more damage and allow the fungus to take over?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 11:31AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

The good news is you have bermuda, so it will eventually come back.

This is the time of year to back way off on watering. I mean WAAAAAAAAAY off. About six weeks ago I was watering every week for my hot spots and never on my shady areas. Then it rained about 3 inches. Since then I have not watered my St Augustine lawn at all. No rain, either. Most of it looks excellent but there are a few hot spots that I will need to water this week.

Do you have the Bermuda Bible? Google it, download it, and memorize it.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 12:19AM
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mwk208

Well, I applied more F-Stop which has to be watered in but hopefully I will start to see some improvement soon. Right now, it looks really bad; quite a bit worse than the above picture.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 6:49PM
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texas-weed(7A)

If you want to try something really cheap go buy 10 to 50 pound bag of corn meal at a coop and apply it heavily on the infested area and just lightly apply a little water to get it wet one time. Corm meal is a fungicide and mild fertilizer.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 1:01PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I would have mentioned corn meal except he has already applied chemical fungicide. The reason corn meal works is that a predatory fungus is attracted to other fungi that decompose the corn meal. If there is a fungicide present, the natural predatory fungus will not sweep in.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 8:58PM
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mwk208

The remaining green grass is now wilting from a lack of water. Is it okay to let it turn brown or should I water it?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 1:38PM
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texas-weed(7A)

Water when needed.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 1:56PM
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mwk208

About 80% of the grass is now affected by the fungus and 50% is completely brown. I don't want to put any more effort or money into trying to control the fungus since I have already done a lot and it is still getting worse. The only question I have is will it recover this spring or will I have to start over?

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 5:58PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Assuming you stick to monthly watering between now and April, you have a shot at the lawn recovering without continued fungal issues. Winter's cooler temperatures work some magic in the soil.

If you have sprayed fungus killers, I would suggest top dressing with 1/4 inch of compost (1/4 inch = 1 cubic yard per 1,000 cubic feet). You don't have to be too particular about applying it but you do need to be sure you sweep it all down into the surface of the grass. If you can look at it from the angle of the picture above and see any compost when you are done sweeping, then you are not done sweeping. I use a push broom to do that. You can use the back of a rake or anything that is not a stiff rake. Leaf rake is okay.

The purpose of the compost is to replace and restore the population of microbes in your soil/sand. The fungicide did a number on your soil and will leave it unbalanced in a biological sense. In this state it is more susceptible to other diseases. Even a little bit of compost fixes that. And if you can find ordinary corn meal, you can apply that at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet as often as you want to or can afford to. That helps to restore the population of organic disease fighting microbes.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 6:53PM
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mwk208

Thanks Dchall. Should I apply the layer now? I was thinking about over seeding with bermuda in the spring to help fill in the dead spots. Should I wait until then so it would also serve the purpose of aiding in germination? Should I do it now and in the spring when I apply new seed?

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 7:48PM
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texas-weed(7A)

Where are you at to still have green Bermuda this time of year?

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 11:49PM
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mwk208

Bonita Springs, Florida (Southwest Florida). Zone 10. Bermuda rarely goes dormant this far south, especially this close to the coast. Our average high this time of year is 80 and the average low is 60.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 6:22AM
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