The summers here in South Carolina can be tough on our lawns. The intense heat, lack of rain, and heavy traffic can significantly weaken the immune system of our lawn. This leaves it open to a number of threats, including fall lawn fungus.
Knowing how to deal with grass fungal diseases in your lawn is important. Being able to identify, treat, and prevent lawn fungi from invading your lawn will keep your grass healthy and beautiful all year long.
How to Identify Common Lawn Fungal Diseases in South Carolina
The first step in lawn fungus management is identification. Brown patch, large patch, and dollar spot are three of the most common lawn fungal diseases affecting South Carolina lawns, and now is the time to be vigilant.
Brown patch affects all turfgrass species here in South Carolina, but tall fescue and perennial ryegrass are the most vulnerable. Identifying this fall lawn fungus is fairly easy as it is characterized by large patches of dry, brown grass. Brown patch disease thins out your turf, severely affecting the health and curb appeal of your property.
This lawn fungus is most common in the fall, when daytime temperatures are in the 80s while nighttime temperatures are in the 60s. This causes heavy dew which worsens fungal infections.Brown patch is at its worst after an especially wet summer.
Large patch is a lawn fungus that, until recently, was considered the same as brown patch. Differences in affected grass types, symptoms, timing, and treatment caused the name change. Watch for symptoms to arise in the late fall, when temperatures are cooler.
While brown patch affects all cool-season grasses, large patch is a lawn fungus that only affects warm-season grasses. Centipedegrass, seashore paspalum, zoysiagrass, and St. Augustinegrass are the most susceptible to large patch. Bermudagrass is the only warm-season grass with some resistance to the fungus.
Symptoms of large patch are similar to brown patch in that it typically consists of large patches of brown, thinning grass. These patches continue to grow over time. Often times, the center of the patch may heal, creating a donut-shaped patch. Upon close inspection of the grass blades, you’ll see rotted leaf sheaths close to the surface of the soil.
Dollar spot is another fall lawn fungus that affects all grass types here in South Carolina, with the exception of tall fescue. This damaging lawn fungus shows up as small straw-colored circles of grass. These spots are usually about the size of a silver dollar, hence the name “dollar spot”. If left untreated, dollar spot can expand into large lesions of dead grass.
How to Treat Lawn Fungus
Now that you’re familiar with identification of the most common lawn fungal diseases in South Carolina, we can start learning how to treat fungal diseases. Here are a few tips to help control brown patch, large patch, and dollar spot.
Reduce the Moisture
Lawn fungi rely heavily on excess moisture in your lawn. This means that anytime your lawn is too wet, it creates the perfect environment for a lawn fungus. One way to treat an existing lawn fungus is to change your watering habits. Make sure you’re watering your lawn before the hottest parts of the day. This allows any excess water on your lawn to dry up before the cooler temperatures of the night.
If water is allowed to sit on your lawn during a cool night, a lawn fungus will be far more likely to develop. Let your lawn dry out a bit; this will help keep any fungus from spreading. You should also make sure your irrigation system is operating correctly and is only active at the right times.
Aerate Your Lawn
Soil compaction and excess thatch causes a medley of issues for your lawn. The general decline of your lawn’s health leaves it vulnerable to fungal infections. It can also cause water to pool on your grass, making a starting point for a lawn fungus.
You can easily check how compacted your soil and how thick your thatch is by sticking a screwdriver into your lawn. If your thatch is more than a ½ inch or if it’s tough to push the screwdriver into the soil, then aeration is your best course of action.
Lawn Fertilization and Fungicide Treatment
The best way to combat a lawn fungus is by maintaining a healthy lawn. Lawn care and lawn fertilization programs keep your lawn healthy throughout the year and is the best way to keep it fungus-free. If it’s too late and your lawn is under attack from brown patch or other lawn fungi, then a fungus control program may be your best answer.
How to Prevent Lawn Fungus
Cultural practices are the easiest and best way to prevent lawn fungus in your grass. Set your lawn up for success by creating a foundation of health in your lawn.
The first thing in lawn fungus prevention to consider is irrigation techniques. A lawn fungus thrives when there is excess water or moisture on your grass. If you water your lawn properly, then you can avoid a lawn fungal infection altogether. Avoid overwatering your lawn, even during a drought, to ensure your grass isn’t too wet for too long.
Another great tip is to avoid frequent, light watering of your grass. Less frequent, deep watering, is the best way to go. Allow the water to penetrate 3 inches deep into the soil as this encourages strong root growth and, ultimately, a healthier lawn.
Timing matters too. Never water near the end of the day. Wet grass in the cool night is the perfect host for a developing lawn fungus. The best time to water your lawn is during the morning, before the day becomes too hot. This allows enough time for the excess water to evaporate off of your grass.
Proper Mowing Height
One big reason for a fungus like dollar spot to develop in your lawn is that you’re mowing your grass too short. This is called scalping your lawn and it can severely affect the health of your lawn, leaving it open to fungus, disease, and pests. Make sure you mow your lawn at 3 ½ inches or higher to ensure you’re grass is tall enough to stay healthy.
Mowing at a higher height helps with moisture retention during drought conditions and even keeps weeds at bay. It’s also not a bad idea to leave the grass clippings on your lawn. This gives essential nutrients back to your grass. Remember, never cut more than a third of the height of your grass.
Avoid Nitrogen Heavy Fertilizers
Lastly, avoid nitrogen heavy fertilizers. Lawn fungi love nitrogen so adding nitrogen to a lawn at risk for a fungal infection isn’t a great idea. You can avoid a lawn fungus explosion by using a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer during the spring and summer. This way your lawn gets the benefits of the fertilizer over a longer period of time and you avoid feeding the fungus.
Call in the Professionals
Don’t let a fungus take over your lawn, call the professionals at Coastal Turf. Here at Coastal Turf, we have premium lawn care, lawn fertilization, and fungus control programs to keep your lawn healthy and fungus-free all year.
Give us a call at (843) 875-5000 or request a free estimate here.