Turf diseases can be serious when weather and/or lawn management favor disease development. Plant diseases, including the common lawn diseases described in this publication, develop when several conditions occur simultaneously and persist. Fungi, the most common cause of lawn diseases, are microscopic, thread-like organisms that spread by means of air- or water-borne spores. The spores function like seeds, producing new infections whenever the environment is favorable for a period of time and the host is susceptible. Disease develops when the pathogen (fungus) is present on a susceptible host (bluegrass) in a favorable environment (temperature, moisture/water, light, nutrients, and stress factors).
Lawn diseases are not always easy to diagnose. Some key factors and symptoms to help recognize disease include: size and shape of dead and dying plants, specific spots on leaves, quality of root system, leaf color and growth characteristics, time of year, and temperature when disease developed. When diagnosing a lawn disease it is helpful to have a record of treatments such as fertilizer, herbicides, mowing height and frequency, watering frequency and amounts.
Grass disease can ruin a lawn's appearance. However, good turf management practices usually are adequate to prevent serious damage. Integrated cultural practices for turf management and pest control will limit the need for fungicides. Disease development often is associated with the lack of proper application of these turf management practices: 1) selection and planting of an adapted grass variety, 2) sufficient water at the correct time, 3) timely fertilization with the right amounts and balanced nutrients, 4) regular mowing at the recommended height, 5) provision for adequate sunlight and air movement, 6) maintenance of good soil aeration and drainage, and 7) thatch management.
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Insects and Your Lawn Go Hand-in-hand
Insects have gotten a bad rap over the years and it seems like whenever we see one of the little crawly things we run for a can of bug spray and kill everything that moves in the lawn. True, some insects can do some substantial damage to the lawn, but unless you see that type of problem, it is better to let Mother Nature run the show. Often, in our attempt to eradicate the little critters we also remove all the beneficial insects that do more good than the insects we're trying to remove.
Of course, if you really have a bad infestation of say fleas and ticks, or perhaps grubs are turning your lawn into Swiss cheese, go ahead and treat. But don't just treat a lawn with insecticides just to be on the safe side. When problems occur, take care of them then.
If you apply treatments yourself, be sure to read and UNDERSTAND directions packaged with the product. Many insecticides can be harmful to humans, deadly to pets and wildlife. So please, read the directions carefully BEFORE applying any chemical to your lawn or landscape.
A professional lawn care provider should be able to treat your lawn for most common lawn pests, safe and effectively. Ask them about their pest control applications. Using a pro for this makes a lot of sense. You don't have to buy or store those nasty chemicals, but you don't even have to try and read all those label warnings and cautions in printing so small that you need a magnifying glass to read. Not only do the professionals know which chemicals take care of which bugs, but they also know what those labels are saying.