The summers here in Maryland can be brutal on our lawns. The intense heat combined with a lack of rain can significantly weaken our grass, leaving it open to a number of threats. One of the biggest threats to our lawns this summer is lawn fungus.
It’s important to know how to deal with grass fungal diseases in your lawn. Being able to identify, treat, and prevent fungus from taking root in your lawn will help keep your turf healthy and beautiful into the fall.
How to Identify Common Lawn Fungal Diseases in Maryland
The first step to managing lawn fungus is to be able to identify which one is affecting your grass. Dollar spot, summer patch, and brown patch are three of the most common lawn fungal diseases affecting Maryland lawns this summer.
Summer patch is a lawn fungus that affects cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and fine leaf fescue. The fungus that causes summer patch, Magnaporthe poae, can cause extensive damage to the root system of your grass.
Symptoms of summer patch start with small spots of straw-colored grass. These patches get bigger over time and sometimes leave a small circle of healthy green grass in the middle called “frog-eyes”. Summer patch causes blades of grass to turn brown from the tip down.
Dollar spot is a lawn fungus that affects all types of grass here in Maryland except tall fescue. This destructive fungus appears as small circles of straw-colored grass. These brown spots are typically about the size of a silver dollar, hence the name “dollar spot”.
Brown patch affects all turfgrass species here in Maryland, with tall fescue and perennial ryegrass being the most vulnerable. This fungal disease is exactly as it sounds, large patches of brown grass. Brown patch disease causes significant thinning to your turf, severely affecting the curb appeal of your home. This turf disease is most common when temperatures are in the high 80s during the day and high 60s at night. Wet summers are the worst for brown patch.
How to Treat a Lawn Fungal Disease
Now that you know how to identify the most common summer lawn fungal diseases in Maryland, it’s time to learn how to treat these fungal diseases. These tips will help you control dollar spot, brown patch, and summer patch.
Aerate Your Lawn
Soil compaction can cause the health of your lawn to decline, leaving it vulnerable to fungal infections. You can easily check how thick your thatch is and how compacted your soil is by driving a screwdriver into your lawn. If your thatch is more than a ½ inch or if it’s difficult to drive the screwdriver into your soil then it’s time to aerate.
Reduce the Moisture
Lawn fungi rely heavily on excess water in your lawn. Make sure you water your lawn before the hottest parts of the day to allow any excess water to dry up before night. If water is allowed to sit on your lawn during a cool night, you’re far more likely to see a lawn fungus. Letting your lawn dry out a bit will help keep the fungus from spreading. Check your irrigation system to make sure it’s operating correctly and at the right times.
Lawn Fertilization and Fungicide Treatment
If you have a healthy lawn, then the likelihood of developing a lawn fungus is greatly reduced. Lawn care programs that include fertilization will help keep your lawn healthy and fungus-free. Make sure you follow the fertilization schedule. If all else fails and you’re looking for a way to get rid of the fungus quickly, then applying a fungicide may be your best bet. Preventative fungicides are a great option too.
How to Prevent Lawn Fungal Diseases
When it comes to keeping your lawn free of fungal diseases, best cultural practices are the way to go. Setting a strong and healthy foundation for your grass will help prevent root rot and other issues caused by lawn fungus.
One of the big reasons that your lawn may be suffering from a lawn fungus like dollar spot is if you mow your lawn too short. This is called scalping your lawn and it leaves it wide open to fungus, disease, and pest infestations. During the summer, mow your lawn at 3 ½ inches or higher.
Mowing at a higher height during the summer will help your lawn retain moisture during drought conditions and will keep weeds at bay. It’s also a good idea to leave the grass clippings on your lawn to give nutrients back to your lawn. Remember to never cut more than ⅓ the height of your grass at a time.
Lawn fungi love excess water. If you aren’t watering your lawn properly, then you may be setting your grass up for a fungal disease. During a drought, you may believe you’re helping your lawn by overwatering. You’re not.
When irrigating your lawn, avoid frequent, light watering. Water your lawn long enough to allow it to reach 3 inches deep. This encourages strong root growth and a healthier lawn. Never water at the end of the day. Wet grass at night can quickly develop a lawn fungus. The best time to water your lawn is in the morning, before the hottest part of the day. This allows enough time for any excess water to evaporate away.
Avoid Nitrogen Heavy Fertilizers
Avoiding nitrogen heavy fertilizers is another good way to prevent lawn fungi from taking root in your lawn. It’s best to use a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer during the spring and summer. This will give you the benefits over a longer period of time, without feeding the fungus.
Call in the Professionals
Don’t let lawn fungus ruin your grass, call the professionals at On The Green, Inc. Here at On The Green, Inc., we have premium lawn care programs and irrigation services that will keep your lawn healthy all year.