During the month of February I received several calls from customers who were concerned about their lawns. In a matter of
fact, I do not remember ever getting so many calls about lawn problems.
So, I decided to go out and look at several properties. I was thinking that most of the problems that I was going to find was caused by brown patch.
Brown patch usually starts as a small spot. In many case several small spots begin to form throughout the lawn and quickly begin to spread outwards in a circular or horseshoe pattern. As they spread they can become very wide. Many times these circles will grow together looking like one big circle of dead or dying grass.
With early detection and regular treatment the inside of the circle may recover, leaving the brown outside of the ring to look like a smoke-ring. If you think that you have won the battle just because you see some green grass growing back, you are wrong. Way Wrong!!
Do not quit treating the lawn until the whole area has returned to its green color.
I found that I was wrong to assume that all the problems that I was about to find were caused by one disease.
The very first lawn I went to, on a street called Sprucewood in North Dallas, was more the 20 percent damaged. I knocked on the customer’s door and together we walked over to the problem area.
“Do you know what chinch bugs are,” I asked?
“Yes, that is what I had in my lawn last summer.”
“If you knew that you had chinch bugs, why did you not do something about it?”
In lawns that are infested by chinch bugs the areas slowly loose there color. The effected areas first turn dull as the chinch bugs feed from the sap in the grass. With time the patches turn yellow and eventually brown. BROWN like in dead. To make matters worse many times the damaged areas can be circular.
Yep, just like Brown Patch.
Chinch Bug damage occurs near concrete, in water-stressed areas along the edges of the lawn or where the grass is growing in full sunlight. This particular lawn had chinch bugs invade from his neighbor’s lawn. His neighbor had a circular driveway that, in my opinion caused the problem. The driveway of course became very hot in the summer, drying the soil around the edges. The neighbor was trying to be water conscious because of the drought and was watering when he thought the lawn needed moisture.
For that I applaud him. He learned an expensive lesson, one that I try to emphasize on each newsletter.Take time to walk the lawn and the garden. And OBSERVE!
Now the customer who called me up does not have a sprinkler system, which made his lawn even drier then the first effected lawn. Even though the neighbor’s lawn was the host, you can see that as soon as the chinch bugs invaded my customers property the damage was much more extensive.
I am not saying that if he would have watered more frequently his lawn may have been healthier, but if he would have applied one inch of water a week, he may not have had as much damage.
I left Sprucewood and went to another nearby lawn on Meadowcreek. This lawn is at the bottom of a hill near a creek. The creek’s name is White Rock. The lawn is growing on a very thin layer of soil on top of…?
If you guessed white rock, you got it. This area of the lawn was in full sun and also had been attacked by Chinch bugs. The St. Augustine grass growing underneath the shade of the trees by the creek was not affected. Strange, but true.
I went to one more lawn that day. This one did not have any foliage growing on the runner.heir grass. The soil was clay and hard as a rock. A nearby tree had died and in 2005 and no longer provides shade for the lawn. The homeowner had not watered in over a year, feeling that there was no reason to, since the city had water restrictions that caused him hardship. It was hard for him to remember what days he was supposed to water.
“I noticed you have a sprinkler system, I know some one who can fix it for you.”
“Oh, it works I just did not want to change the settings on the timer.”
He had about 1000 square feet of lawn that had died to neglect.
“Why are you replacing the lawn now? Are you putting the house on the market?”
“No, my homeowners association is forcing me to maintain my lawn in a way that does not devalue the surrounding properties.”
A few days passed and I received another call. This customer also had lawn damage last year, but knew that grub worms caused the damage.
“How do you know.”
“We live in an area where everybody leaves bright lights on all night and I can regularly see June Bugs courting around the lights. I was planting a tree the other day and found about 16 grubs in the area where I was digging a hole for a 5 gallon tree.”
“Yep, there is a good chance that you have grub damage. What are you going to do about it?”
There was a slight hesitation on the phone. “Well I wanted to know if the grubs would harm my tree and if I decide to take advantage of the damaged lawn to re-landscape, will the grubs damage the new plants?”
A smile crossed my lips. Finally, someone who is thinking outside the box. Out with the old in with the new. “The grubs normally damage turf areas and cause very little if any damage to other plants. I think you are on the right track. Do you know what you are going to do with the landscape?”
“Well, my neighbor has a beautiful landscape and I was thinking that I could do something that would tie in to what they already have?”
Another smile. “You are going to borrow your neighbors landscape. I wish more people would do that to complement their sating rather then compete with the neighbors landscape.”
“Well my neighbor did use a lot of perennials mixed in with a few ornamental trees and evergreens. His landscape butts up to my property line and was not affected like the grass was. His landscape always has flowers or berries and is visited by butterflies, hummingbirds and all kinds of wildlife.” As he spoke I noticed the excitement in his voice. He was almost singing with enthusiasm.”
“I would go ahead and apply Beneficial Nematodes to the entire landscape and sod area. This will help control insects that are in the soil as well as any that might come in later on.”
“Do you have nematodes now?”
“Yes we do.”
If I bring photographs of my neighbors landscape, can some one at Rohde’s help me pick plants to complement what is there?”
“Sure, just remember to bring dimensions of the bed that you want to create. And know which way is North?”
There are other insects and diseases that effect turf area but most can be controlled through proper management. SAD or St. Augustine Decline, however is a virus that takes a little more care if you are going to try to control it. Some St. Augustine is resistant to SAD. Raleigh is the most available and all grass companies now sell it, I hope sooner then latter SAD will be a thing of the past. But, one disease goes away and another arrives. Dr. Phil Colbaugh, Experiment Station plant pathologist at Texas A&M Dallas. "Roots of these affected plants are usually short, blackened and rotted, and the stolons (runners) can easily be lifted from the soil due to the poor root system. As the disease progresses, the yellow leaf blades will eventually turn brown."
Colbaugh said Take-All Root Rot can often be mistaken for Brown patch. These two diseases can be distinguished by pulling on the leaf blades of the yellow to brown leaves. Leaves of Take-All Root Rot plants are still firmly attached to the stolons, while leaves with Brown patch can easily be pulled away from the stolons. Also, Brown patch rarely causes the roots to turn black.
Once a lawn becomes infested with insects and or damaged by disease weeds follow.
Weeds will be able to germinate or get established easily in areas of exposed soil. Certain seeds may be in position, ready for conditions to change that will allow them to take over your lawn.
So now what?
Rohde’s maintains over 80 lawns on a weekly basis and most of these have been under organic care for more the 13 years. These homes may not have the greenest lawns, but they are healthy and the turf is thick, therefore not allowing weeds to take over or certain diseases to take hold. They may also have natural controls in place to ward off infestations of insects and diseases.
What have we done to these lawns to make them pest and disease free?
I can honestly say that one of the things that we have done is to save our customers money. Now that it is becoming quite obvious that drought, insects and disease are effecting lawns surrounding those that we maintain, while ours are healthy.
On a quarterly basis we fertilize lawns using only organic fertilizers. Of course we use Green Sense Fertilizers, applying the product at a rate of 20 pounds per thousand square feet. When we take on a new yard, depending on customers budget, we always apply microbes.
Microbes improve the health of the soil by microbial activity, which breaks down organic matter into humus, then humic acid, and then basic elements. This is a process known as mineralization. One tablespoon of healthy soil contains 50 billion microbes. This helps create a balance of physics, chemistry, and biology necessary to all life.
Clay soils can hold water for a long time, but as you know when clay dries it becomes hard as rock. Tight clay soils do not allow air, water and roots to move through the soil allowing diseases to occur. Roots cannot grow quickly, soil life can die.
Sometimes microbes are not all the soil needs to alleviate compaction for these lawns we aerate with a core extractor to remove plugs from the soil. By removing soil cores water drains from the surface quickly, air enters easily and roots can grow faster.
At the time of aeration it is always beneficial to apply organic matter in the form of compost or fertilizer. Lava sand, molasses, humate or any other organic product that will help add life to the soil can be applied after aeration.
Doing research for this article I found information from 20 colleges, 20 ag extensions and hundreds of companies on the web. Most agree on several issues to maintain a healthily lawn or to get a lawn back in to shape.
- If the lawn has brown patch or other fungal disease discontinue use of high nitrogen fertilizers.
- Aerate the lawn.
- Add organic matter to keep the lawn from compacting again.
- Mow in different patterns to avoid compaction.
- Know the mowing height for your specific lawn to avoid stress. Never remove more then ½ inch of grass to avoid sunburn of freshly mowed grass.
- Learn proper watering techniques. When and how much? Learn to avoid runoff. Inspect your sprinkler system. Make sure that heads are spraying properly and in the right direction.
From experience I know that rich, loose soils manage plants health. Tight, depleted soils lead to plant stress, disease
and susceptibility to insect infestations.
Certain disease such as brown patch can be controlled easily when detected early on. When you hear Howard Garrett talk about the use of Corn Meal he sometimes forgets suggest repeated applications until symptoms are no longer visible and then continue with several more treatments.
Humate. I really like using Humate, unfortunately some people give more importance to molasses. Molasses is a pure carbohydrate, which is a good thing for the soil.
I received information on humate, which I copied on to this newsletter.
Menefee Mineral™ Plant Nutrition Products
Unique Characteristics and Benefits
- Highly available long chain carbon material.
This is a basic element for all life forms. The carbon matrix available in Menefee Mineral™ Products provides an excellent source of long chain carbons for enhanced soil microbial activity. This aids in the formation of balanced soil structure for proper plant development. It also aids in the decomposition of residual plant material such as thatch. Through its natural decomposition it can provide a needed source of nitrogen to the soil media. Menefee Mineral™ Products provide a very concentrated source of organic matter in a highly decomposed stage for plant development and growth when applied directly to the root zone area.
- Full spectrum of organic acids.
Menefee Mineral™ Products provide a broad spectrum of the valuable organic acids basic to plant development. Specifically, these organic acids include both humic acid and fulvic acid. These acids act as organic chelators that significantly enhance the uptake and utilization of vital plant nutrient materials contained in both organic and conventional chemical fertilizers. Due to their negative ionic characteristics, these organic acids also increase cation exchange capacity of the soil, which enhances the transfer of nutrients through cell membranes of root material. This action results in enhanced root zone development and improved germination success rate.
- RESULT – Enhanced plant performance!
Due to these excellent benefits, the effects of incorporating Menefee Mineral™ Products are overall enhanced plant appearance and performance. This creates healthier plants that are more resistant to stress conditions.
Now that you have read this newsletter you should be able to walk your property and inspect the lawn to determine what may
be causing your lawn to not look as good as it should.
Aerate the lawn as soon as we get past the last freeze date. Apply compost, humate, fertilizer or whatever organic ingredient you can find to fill in the holes created by the aerator.