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Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

Posted by bigbfan 9 (My Page) on
Tue, Sep 2, 08 at 15:31

Its literally disappearing! The grass starts disappearing in patches. First the patch looses height as compared to the rest of the lawn, while still remaining green. Then in a week or so the grass just disappears and I see the bare ground. Its as if a colony of invisible pests fed on that grass to the root. I say root as the grass does not grow again on that patch. The sizes of the patches vary from as small as 1 sq. ft to even a 10x2 ft area. Interestingly it is in patches and it seems to lack continuity - that is two such patches could be separated by 3-4 ft, while at the same time few small patches could join to form a big patch.

Here are some pics showing the problem.

http://picasaweb.google.com/bigbfan/LawnProblem#5241507870107029218

I did have a lawn care guy come in and look at it (See other parts of the 'posting template' to see what they did).I however have started seeing signs of the problem showing signs of movement to other healthy parts of the lawn. I am writing in a panic mode and don't know if I can just trust them. Hence this message.

Here is the template I got from the posting rules.

------Background Information:

1. Where you live?

Ans: South Bay (Cupertino, CA)

2. What type of grass you have?

Ans: Not sure. It may be Fescue?

3. What products you have applied to your lawn, and how much? These include fertilizer, herbicide, fungicide, insecticide, etc.

Ans: I had a lawn service guy? (TruGreen) come in 2 weeks ago and treated the lawn. As per what he left behind, he :
(i) Fertilized (Says Nitrogen on his invoice with some other details on the product names)
(ii) and did Surface insect control (target pests - webworms, cutworms, fleas, ticks and ants)

They did not do subsurface treatment.

4. How often and how long you irrigate?

Ans: Every third day. 20 minutes.

5. Is the lawn established, or have you recently seeded/re-seeded or added sod? If so, when?

Ans: Established by me in summer of 2005.

6. At what height you mow and how often?

Ans: Like 3 times a month (I do not mow regularly every weekend. Height - I need to check. But I use the third (from the lowest) level on my Toro.

7. Results of soil test if applicable.
Ans: N/A

Specifically describe the problem being as descriptive as possible

Ans: The grass starts disappearing in patches. First the patch looses height as compared to the rest of the lawn, while still remaining green. Then in a week or so the grass just disappears and I see the bare ground. Its as if a colony of invisible pests fed on that grass to the root. I say root as the grass does not grow again on that patch. The sizes of the patches vary from as small as 1 sq. ft to even a 10x2 ft area. Interestingly it is in patches and it seems to lack continuity - that is two such patches could be separated by 3-4 ft, while at the same time few small patches could join to form a big patch.
I did have a lawn care guy come in and look at it (See other parts of this template to see what they did).I however have started seeing signs of the problem showing signs of movement to other healthy parts of the lawn. I am writing in a panic mode and don't know if I can just trust them. Hence this message.

8. Entire lawn is affected or a specific area(s)?

Ans: As mentioned above - starts as patches. But over last year a 25x15 sq. ft area has disappeared. There was a big patch 2007 spring-summer and now this year it seemed to have been more rampant.

9. If it is a specific area, what is different about this area? This can include: Shade, standing water, insects/pests, weeds, moss, rocks, heavy traffic, etc. Also, if the problem area is ring-shaped or spreading in any way.

Ans: I cannot see anything particular to this area. To the second questions - I can't say it spreads in rings. Its more rectangular if at all I could put a regular shape to it.

10. If your problem is with weeds, what type of weeds?

Ans: N/A

11. How long you have noticed this problem and it is recurring?

Ans: Spring-summer 2007 was when it started. This season (2008) t has continued to eat other parts of the lawn. Was more rampant this season I would say.

Solution:

12. Do you have a preference towards a synthetic or organic solution?
Ans: Any

13. Past efforts to remedy the problem.

Ans: Same as mentioned above. I had a lawn service guy? (TruGreen) come in 2 weeks ago and treated the lawn. As per what he left behind, he:
(i) Fertlized (Says Nitrogen on his invoice with some other details on the product names)
(ii) and did Surface insect control (target pests - webworms, cutworms, fleas, ticks and ants)

They did not do subsurface treatment.

14. Are any solutions not feasible? (hand pulling weeds for 2+ acres, daily watering, etc.)

Ans: N/A.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of the problem


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

When it intially starts losing height, does it look greasy or wet? Early in the A.M. do you notice any cotton-like fibrous material anywhere on the turf? Can sometimes take on the appearance of spider webs.


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RE: answer

I guess I should give a suggestion instead of just asking questions. I'm hoping (and you should be too), that it isn't Pythium Blight or Pythium Root Dysfunction. If it has been humid, and Nitrogen was recently applied by Tru-Green, it could be. Your description of the prior to disappearing symptoms do not sound as if you have noticed anything unusual. You should immediately locate and purchase a systemic fungicide with the active ingredient being (sp) chlorothalonil. Daconil is what I use, but can be hard to find. I think there is a homeowner marketed brand called Fungn-oyl or something similiar. Apply immediately as a foliar spray at a rate of 4 ounces per 1000 square feet. If it is Pythium, you will have difficulty finding a chemical. There are some online greenhouse supply places that will sell a homeowner Bayer Aliette, without a spray license, so you could look around. It's a little pricey though.


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RE: Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

Thanks !

I have not been looking for early morning observations that you mention. I will.

Since I paid Tru-Green earlier I would like to leverage them. Is there anything specific I should be asking them to look into ?


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RE: Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

I suppose you could inquire as to the amount of actual Nitrogen they applied, and when was the last time they applied it prior to this most recent one. Excess or "free" Nitrogen combined with moist or humid evenings can lead to a vaiety of disease. I'm sure they have some sort of systemic and curative sprays on board. They may be able to stop the problem for you. It could also be insects, but it's a little late in the summer IMO. Next year, if you can afford it, start putting down fungicide every 14 days starting in June, since you have a history of this. It will not re-appear if treated early.


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RE: Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

..but the problem has been going on for a while and the chemicals were just sprayed 2 weeks ago. In anycase are you suggesting that the probelm is due to excess moisture ? If this was fungus caused (due to excessive moisture) would I not see other symptoms like mushrooms ? I have never seen those. Do the symptoms I have described what one would see due to fungus infestation ?


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RE: Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

Actually the more I read on Pythium the more seems like my problem. Sme more here on it in detail:

http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0594/

Now I am worried that the Nitrogen fertilization may have made ot worse...

Calling TruChem ASAP !

thanks


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RE: Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

The term "fungus" can be misleading. This is more of a catch-all term for disease. Mushrooms are not indicative of turf disease per-se. When I said moisture, I was referring more to overnight damp conditions, heavy dew, humid nights etc. These things combined with free Nitrogen and poor draining root-zones can lead to many diseases. The only way to absoluteley prevent these diseases is applying a foliar spray of systemic fungicide containing chlorothalonil. I'm sorry to say this is labor-intensive and pricey. These disease controls like Daconil must be applied every 14 days from the beginning of June through October without exception. Add Pythium into the mix and you really have a problem. Since you state it is a re-occurring problem, I will assume that it re-occurrs in the same areas every summer. If this is the case, it may be Pythium Root Dysfunction which is a by-product of un-checked Pythium Blight. Again, I'm not sure if Tru-Green or Chem-Lawn can even spray for Pythium. If they do, it's probably going to be prohibatively expensive.
There is no "green-friendly" solution to these problems, so don't waste your time with Ed Begley Jr. type solutions. If you do not want this problem next season, Core Aerify your turf soon. Rake the plugs off of the turf and fill the holes (by topdressing) with sand. Start applying Daconil every 14 days at 4 ounces per 1000 sq. feet. Wait one week and get on a 14 day schedule with Bayer Aliette for the Pythium. (also 4ounces). It won't cure the Pythium you have (if that's what it is) but it will prevent it from spreading. In the spring your turf will recover, but you must start the spray program in June. Alot of work and alot of money I know, but if you truly want a perfect lawn.......


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RE: Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

Hi There,

Can't thank you enough for the insight. I had a couple of follow-up questions.

(1) When you say "it won't cure the Pythium you have..."... So is that part of the ground "dead"for ever ? If I re-seed or get more sod just for that portion (after tilling and all that) is the Pythium still going to be potent enough to infest even the new lawn ? I guess I am trying to figure my options for the 'spolied' part of the lawn.

(2) You also said, "In the spring your turf will recover, but you must start the spray program in June".. you meant I should start containing the spread now (as per instructions above) and my turf will recover in spring AND I should get back to regular schedule in June ?

thanks!


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RE: Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

The spots that you have now will not return to normal immediately when dosed with Aliette. However, in the spring they will be fine and covered with new growth. The Blight or Root Dysfunction will not survive the spraying of Aliette so it will not return next year. Therefore, your soil is not harboring the disease, IF YOU SPRAY. If you don't get on the fungicide program, the roots of the affected plants do hold Pythium Root Dysfunction so the problem will return every summer in the same spots and spread to more areas. So yes, start spraying both Daconil and Aliette now until November or so, to stop the problem you already have from spreading, and start the spray program up again on June 1st to prevent it from happening next year. Also, I forgot to mention that Pythium is a nematode. Meaning it can be spread by contact. Avoid running your mower wheels through the blighted areas, because it will cause "tracks" of new affected turf.
It has been my pleasure trying to assist you. Pythium is a disaster that you don't see too often and can be almost immpossible to cure without the right information.


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RE: Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

Thanks a lot ! Pls send me your personal email id. I would like to repay you in some form when this problem is behind me :-)


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RE: Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

You having a better lawn than your neighbors is payback enough. You'll be amazed at what other problems chlorothalonil will prevent!


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RE: Disappearing Lawn !! Please help !

bigbfan, I find it strange that the professional service did not apply a fungicide. It is usually an expensive application but they will do it if it is in the contract or seek the add-on service if it is not. Irrigating for twenty minutes every third day appears to be excessive and can make most fungus problems worse. Pythium spores 'swim' and if you do have the fungus and it spreads like you say, then watering appears to be the practice that needs to be cut back- urgently.


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