The emerald green carpet of lawn that frames your house should be in its prime right now, but maybe you've noticed some spots of yellow or dying grass.
Lots of people have brought me samples of their "dying" grass this year. They usually want to know what they can spray to improve the problem areas. Unfortunately, it is usually not as simple as just finding a magical product and spraying away the yellow.
Lawn diseases are pretty common in Georgia. When I say disease, I don't want you to get too freaked out. Most of these diseases live in our soil all the time, even when our grass is healthy. Typically these disease pathogens in the soil do not infect our lawns, but if you give them just the right environmental conditions...Wham! Your lawn begins to develop "spots" or "patches." So in order to cure a lawn disease, the most important practices are the ones that require you to change the environment of your lawn.
What do I mean by that? It means changing your habits in caring for your lawn by:
1. Soil testing and following the recommendations for an established lawn for lime and fertilization.
2. Increasing the height of cut during times of disease or stress on your lawn.
3. Increasing the air circulation and minimizing the amount of shade on your lawn—this may mean removing or limbing up trees. Grass does NOT grow under trees. Last time I hiked through the forest, I did not see a lush carpet of grass under the trees—it's just too shady and the grass can't compete.
4. Irrigating deeply and infrequently—1 inch of water per week all at once, preferably in the early morning. Irrigation is not required and drying out will reduce the ability of diseases to spread. READ: There is such a thing as TOO MUCH WATER.
5. Improving the drainage of the turf—Core Aerification can improve drainage and reduce root compaction.
With all of that said, you can spray your lawn if you have a disease present, but you must do it at the right time of year for it to make any difference and right now is not the right time. Lawn diseases infect grasses in the fall and early spring. Applying a fungicide in September or October, if you have noticed a lawn disease this year, will help prevent re-infection of the turf as it goes in to dormancy and reduce the overwintering disease. Another application in March/April will also help prevent re-infection during spring green up. These are the times when disease is most active—when nighttime temperatures are mildly cool and adequate moisture if naturally available. Remember that a fungicide is a pesticide. If you choose to use one, read and follow the label instructions carefully. The label is the law.
For more information on your lawn and gardening questions, contact Paulding County UGA Cooperative Extension at 770-443-7616 or look for us online at www.ugaextension.com/paulding.