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The other day while I mowed the lawn, I noticed a few brown spots around my yard. My first inclination was the grass needed water. Sure, it’s been a never-ending monsoon season here in Michigan, but it’s also been ridiculously hot and this part of my backyard gets a ton of sun.
But before I went crazy watering my lawn in hopes of reviving it, I decided to do a little research and figure out what’s really going on. I learned that the brown spots were a rather common lawn disease that occurs because of too much moisture and rain.
So the lesson here is: don’t start freaking out if you suddenly start to see your grass turning funky colors and assume it just needs some water. It could be one of these common lawn diseases.
Brown Spots or Patches
This type of lawn disease is caused by the Rhizoctonia fungus and is the plague for most lawns. It spreads fast and causes the most damage of the diseases listed here. It may just look like a patch of brown, water-deprived grass, but if you look closer you may see a dark ring around it. Seeing this is the indication you have a bigger problem on your hands.
Poor soil drainage, compacted soil from too much rain and high nitrogen levels can all contribute to brown spots. Lawn care professionals say that moderation of water and fertilizer can help prevent this disease. However, it’s when you overdo it and fertilize and water like crazy, that’s when you run into issues. Remember, moderation is key.
It may look like the flour you’d use for baking that’s covering your grass, but it’s actually powdery mildew. Grass that isn’t shade tolerant is susceptible, as well as grass that’s in areas that don’t have decent airflow.
Luckily, powdery mildew can be prevented with some with trimming of trees and bushes near the area that’s infected, which will allow for more sunlight and airflow. Also avoid watering or cutting it until the mildew goes away so it doesn’t spread any further. Planting shade-tolerant grass can help keep the problem from coming back again.
Smaller brown patches about the size of a silver dollar in diameter means you probably have dollar spots. In the late spring and early fall, the high levels of humidity during the day meet cool nights causing moisture to blanket the grass. This moist environment makes it the perfect breeding ground for the dollar spot fungus. Excessive watering and lack of fertilization can also cause this problem.
Dollar spots are pretty easy to prevent. Make sure not to cut your grass lower than about 3 inches in length, as taller grass allows deeper roots to get moisture, and aerating the soil prior to watering also helps.
Redish-brown, thread-like grass spots generally means that your lawn might have Red Thread disease. It’s a minor fungal disease that appears when the blades of the grass are moist but the roots remain dry. Low nitrogen levels and humid conditions can also breed this disease.
To get rid of Red Thread, aerate the soil and fertilize with nitrogen. Water the grass during the coolest part of the day, but avoid watering daily. Over watering will prevent a quick recovery. Feel the grass with your hand. If the soil feels dry, gently water it.
Tiny white or gray spots on the grass blades suggest it might be infected with snow mold. This happens during the spring, when melting snow and leaves you never raked in the fall blanket the grass.
Gray snow mold will more than likely go away in a few weeks once the weather warms up. Pink snow mold, on the other hand, may need a bit more attention. Raking the infected areas to encourage air circulation will dry out the mold and speed up recovery.
Preventing snow mold is pretty easy. Remember to rake the fall leaves and fertilize the grass lightly prior to the first winter snowfall.
Just a few last thoughts before we part ways. To prevent diseases from spreading, mow these areas separately, bag the clippings, dispose of the clippings in lawn bags and wash out the mower bag before moving on to the rest of the lawn.
Most common lawn diseases can be easily spotted and treated without fungicides. However, if the problems persist, call a lawn or landscaping professional to help you diagnose the problem.
Have you ever experienced any of these lawn diseases? How did you deal with them? We’d love you to share your experiences in the comments section below!