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Please help, new lawn is dying

Posted by johnstone none (My Page) on
Sat, Nov 16, 13 at 11:09

Hello all,

I will try and keep this as brief as possible. I had new sod installed in my backyard this past May... for the first month or so it was really flourishing and doing great. I live in southwestern Ontario, Canada, and in June it basically did not stop raining for the entire month. This combined with drainage that in one area of my lawn is probably not very good, caused disease to spring up. I sent some pictures to a friend in the business who confirmed it was pythium, but that there is no treatment available at the retail level. So for the rest of the summer I'd been trying to battle it with water and a bit of hydrogen peroxide.

Once the fall came, it seemed like the Pythium had pretty much subsided, but definitely left its mark. More recently, over the past few weeks large areas of the lawn have turned brown (see pic) and pretty thin. Also may of the grass blades have a white substance on them.

I really think that I have been watering adequately on a weekly basis, but could be wrong I guess.

At this point, I need you guys to tell me what I should do before winter hits and if there is anything I can do to salvage what I have? Next year I could put some topsoil down in some places and seed for shade (very shady yard).

It was not cheap to put this sod in and I cannot afford to do it again.

Please help! I have more pics if desired...


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Please help, new lawn is dying

Do you know what types of grass were in the sod? Because if it was Kentucky bluegrass, then it would be expected to die in the shade. Also it will brown out after the first frost and go into dormancy until spring. If your sod had KBG in it, then this could be normal for winter.

RE: Please help, new lawn is dying

Thanks for the follow up.

In all honestly I'm not 100% sure, but I do suspect that it is KBG.

Hopefully it's normal like you say, and maybe I should overseed in the spring with something else...

BTW, concerning disease / fungus, do they regularly die in the winter under freezing conditions, or will that issue persist in the spring?

RE: Please help, new lawn is dying

Of course it was flourishing in the summer....IT WAS NEW.
Then your conditions took effect---and from what you write, encouraged such fungus to attack---damp, continued wet, or dewy with poor drainage prolonged the conditions.
You have to correct the conditions that make such fungus visit your lawn----and want to stay.

I would suggest you consult a lawn specialist who will diagnose the problem and its correcting.

Water is a friend of all plants--including lawns....when they are given correctly. You made a point of watering on a weekly basis....not because the lawn needed it....but because you put the lawn on a schedule of watering you considered necessary.


The adage "one inch of water---rain notwithstanding, per week"
is one that should be a guide to whether your lawn needs watering.
If a retailer of sod laid the turf on your ground, you can be sure it was undoubtedly a combination of Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass and Fescue that is common to most of eastern North America....unless you have conditions that warrant a change.

Such conditions do exist in your backyard. Shade---the enemy of most turf grasses.
Rain---and your continued watering with a hose, increases the chance that fungus , once it is invited, likes what it sees, and stays around.

One thing you might try to increase---sunshine---onto your grass. Cut the lower branches of trees--without doing them harm or ruining their appearance, to admit more sunlight.
The canopy above---if possible, can also be reduced to allow more sunlight to penetrate.
If not, entertain the thought of removing the barrier to sunlight by cutting down trees that prevent sunlight.
If this is not considered possible---and sunlight cannot be increased, then you have the perfect alibi for having such poor growth of grass and you had better get use to the idea.
Even shade loving grass type needs SOME grass can survive long in shade and with the conditions that you have ---shade, poor drainage, wet or continued dampness, including dew, you are creating the conditions that caused your turf to die and invite continued attack by fungus.
Pythium can be controlled by correcting the conditions that invite it.

RE: Please help, new lawn is dying

Thanks goren... that felt like a lecture! I'm going to have a couple more branches pruned off of the large tree in the yard, and hopefully that will help...

Any advice leading into the winter? or is it best to just leave things alone until spring?

RE: Please help, new lawn is dying

It is probably too late to do anything now. The time to winterize was right after the grass stopped growing and before the first frost. I'm thinking you're having a pretty good "frost" right now up there, because we are almost getting it in Texas.

Similarly, the time to seed was in the fall, not in the upcoming spring. If you try to seed in the spring, you will end up with a lot of crabgrass by July. I would watch it over the winter and check back with the current condition of the grass in early March.

There is something you can do now, which won't hurt anything and might help with your disease. Corn meal is an organic approach to disease control. One of the early decomposers of corn is a fungus called Trichoderma (try ko DER ma). Trichoderma is a predatory fungus which preys on other pythium. It is also a weak, but not insignificant, organic fertilizer. I used corn meal exclusively for many years when the cost was down around $3 for a 50-pound bag. It was only when the price went above $10 that I changed to alfalfa pellets. Invariably, though, I use some corn meal every year for my own fungal disease control. The application rate is 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet or (10 kilos per 100 square meters). You can use more and not hurt a thing. You can put it down now or wait until the snow melts.

I am also hearing more and more about using a simple soap as a non-chemical approach to fungal disease control. Yes I realize soap is a chemical but it not the deadly, harsh, fungicides you see on the market. I'm talking about baby shampoo or any other clear shampoo. These are very simple soaps without any antibacterial qualities. The application rate is 3 ounces per 1,000 square feet (roughly 3 ounces per 100 square meters). You can use 2x, 4x or more and it won't hurt a thing. This should be sprayed on the grass, not snow. The soap will also help with your drainage, because it allows water to penetrate deeper into the soil.

Now the question is what to do about the grass in the spring. There are a lot of magical, unexplainable things that happen to the soil and lawns in the cold of winter. If you have a blend of grasses, then there's a great chance the disease will be gone no matter what you do. Also there is a reasonable chance the grass will return by itself where it is brown now. Do not jump the gun on fertilizing. Spring grass will grow like gangbusters in the spring. The time to fertilize is after the grass stops the really fast growth. You and your lawn mower will know when that is. Usually it is in May to late May. Then, if you are using chemical fertilizers, you can fertilize. If you are using organic fertilizers, like alfalfa pellets, you can fertilize any time, but you still don't need to help it along early. For example if you don't do anything you'll likely have to mow every 5 days. If you fertilize with chemicals you'll likely have to mow every 2-3 days to keep it from getting too tall before mowing again. If you use an organic fertilizer, the growth won't be as spectacular as with chemicals, but you will likely notice a little extra boost.

Your watering regimen sounded good to me. Once per week is the max for the hottest part of summer. Of course Mother Nature helps out, too. With temps below 70 you should not water more frequently than once a month. When you do water apply a full inch. Use cat food or tuna cans to measure the time it takes your sprinklers to fill them up. That's your target. Mine takes 8 full hours to fill the cans. My neighbor's system takes 20 minutes. Every system is different. When the temps get into the 70s you can move to once every 3 weeks. Temps in the 80s you can water every other week. If you ever get temps in the 90s then go to every 7 days. Always apply the full inch unless you've had rain, and then just supply the rest of the inch you didn't get from rain. The reason for this deep and infrequent watering is to allow the surface of the soil to completely dry out before you water again. Weed seeds are on the surface and need continual moisture to germinate. If you deprive them of that, then you won't have weeds.

It also helps to keep the grass mowed up at least 3.5 inches. Tall grass needs less water than short grass. Tall grass grows deeper roots to get that deep water you're applying. Tall grass shades out any weed seedlings that might germinate and helps suppress them or shade them out altogether. Tall grass does not grow any faster than short grass.

I'm out of ideas...somehow that seems like the info was scattered all over the map, but that's all the more clear my brain is working right now. Hope that helps.

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