By Kate Wall
What are some of the most common lawn diseases?
Fungal diseases in lawns include Dollar Spot, Spring Dead Spot, Fairy Rings, Brown Patch, Fusarium, and Pythium. Some of these begin as small yellow patches, others can be large dying patches of lawn. The various fungal diseases attack the roots causing them to rot. In the case of fairy rings, the mycelium (underground white threads of the fungus) cause the soil to be compacted, water repellent and lacking in oxygen which prevents root growth.
To determine if fungal diseases may be the cause of a dying lawn (as opposed to curl grubs or caterpillars), examine the dying grass for signs of dampness, mushy stems and roots or fine white threads in the soil.
In very extreme cases fungal diseases can require complete removal and replacement not just of the turf but also the underlying soil. Early treatment with appropriate lawn fungicides can be effective but lawn care practices will also be critical in prevention, treatment of and recovery from fungal diseases. Ensure sufficient sunlight by trimming overhanging branches. Regular mowing will ensure thatch is not allowed to build up as damp thatch can harbour fungal diseases. Over watering must be avoided - allow the lawn to dry out a little between regular deep watering; and reduce humidity by watering in the mornings.
Various different weeds can become problems in lawns at different times. Most can be controlled through the use of a broad leaf weedicide and regular mowing to prevent weeds seeding. A thick healthy lawn will be able to out-compete weeds in most cases. When using herbicides to control weeds in lawns, always check the instructions to ensure it is safe to use on your lawn type as some are not suitable for use on buffalo lawns.
Grass species other than the turf variety can also become weeds in a lawn and need some care in controlling as broad leaf weed killer will not affect them but grass specific weed killers may damage your lawn – always read the label to be sure the product you select is safe for use on the turf variety you have. Kikuyu in particular is a very aggressive grass variety which can be very problematic if it invades other turf varieties. You can find more information about controlling Kikuyu in lawns here.
Bulbous weeds such as Nut Grass and Onion Weed can also be very difficult to control as most herbicides will cause the leaves to die off but will not kill the bulbs. A herbicide with the active constituent Halosulfuron-Methyl is most effective against nut grass and is safe to use on lawns and gardens where no bulbous plants may be growing.
A healthy lawn will have a much greater ability to withstand attack by pests and diseases. Maintaining an appropriate mowing, watering and fertilising regime will ensure optimum growing conditions for the lawn. Over or under fertilising or watering will create conditions favourable to pests and diseases. Thatch build up through irregular mowing can also provide an environment perfect for hiding pests and fungal diseases. Even healthy lawns can sometimes suffer attack from pests and diseases, so early detection and treatment will make a big difference in saving your lawn.
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