What is this funky stuff in my grass? Well, it may be a lawn fungus or disease. After the snow melts away, the grass is supposed to start turning green. If you see brown instead of green, you may have one of the common lawn diseases found in Ohio cool season grasses. If any of these diseases describe what you see in your lawn, call in for a professional diagnosis just to be on the safe side.
Snow mold is one of the lawn diseases that primarily affects cool season grass, like the ones in Ohio. Snow mold is a cold weather fungus that forms from heavy snow piling on top of unfrozen soil. The combination of heavy snow and moisture are not good for the fate of your grass. There are two types of snow mold, pink snow mold and gray snow mold. Snow mold can usually only be detected in the spring after the frigid cold of winter passes and the snow starts to melt away. You may then notice the brown patches of grass that can range from a few inches to several feet in size. When the lawn is affected by snow mold, the grass will be matted down and tangled.
You can tell the type of fungus by the color. The gray snow mold will appear a grayish white and the pink snow mold will have a pinkish color. The pink snow mold is more severe than the gray fungus and can kill you grass down to its roots. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about snow mold in the spring. There are no fungicides that can treat it after it has already appeared. The best thing you can do is to use a rake to gently comb out the mats and tangles in the grass. In the case that the grass does not recover from the snow mold and dies out, repair or replace the area with new seeds. You can prevent snow mold by using a fungicide in the late fall around Thanksgiving before the first snow hits.
Another one of the ugly lawn fungi that can show its face in spring is red thread. Like snow mold, red thread likes to attack cool season grass like tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. This fungus likes humid weather and can appear in a range of air temperatures. Late April and June seem to be the times when red thread shows up. It can appear as pink or red patches in your lawn. With a closer look, you may see small tufts on the tops of the grasses. This is the tell tale sign of the red thread lawn disease. The tufts are really what distinguishes it from other lawn ailments like pink snow mold.
The good news is that red thread will not kill your lawn, as it does not affect the roots of your grass (only the grass blades). Red thread may be in your lawn because of low nitrogen levels. Fertilizer has nitrogen in it, so treating your lawn with fertilizer will replenish the nitrogen levels and also strengthen the grass to help kick the fungus out of your lawn. If fungicide is necessary, a licensed technician should apply this treatment.
Leaf spot is another one of the lawn diseases that is no stranger to Ohio lawns. Like the others, leaf spot enjoys cool season grasses. It really likes Kentucky bluegrass, which is very common in Ohio. You will be able to see the disease on your lawn when the outside temperatures reach around 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and there is plenty of rain and moisture in the air. At first, you can see small brown spots on the leaves of the grass. During the next development stage of leaf spot, the spot will expand and have a dark purplish red outside with a tan color in the inside of the spot. This will may make the grass just a little dried out and tired. There will be no severe damage to your lawn unless it goes to the melting out phase. When it begins the melting out stage, it will spread to the crown and roots of the grass, which leads to the grass dying.
This is all about prevention. When the melting out stage hits, application of fungicide will do very little improvement to the condition of your plant. The key to preventing leaf spot and other lawn diseases is a healthy happy lawn. Applying too much nitrogen fertilizer in the early spring is a big reason why leaf spot may creep up on your lawn. Watering your lawn the right amount so it does not dry out or get overwatered is important too. Water your lawn in the morning to make sure there is enough time for the water to be absorbed by the soil or evaporate.
Brown Patch Disease
I bet you can guess what brown patch disease looks like. It looks just like brown patches in your lawn! These large patches can range from a few inches to a few feet, and they can often be mistaken as just a dried out summer patch of grass. This fungus can be one of the most damaging lawn diseases mentioned. It will attack the roots and crown and kill your beloved grass! Brown patch disease loves the summer heat. It may start to grow when temperatures hit 65 degrees, but it really thrives in 80 to 85 degree weather with high humidity and nightly temperatures staying around 70 degrees.
If your grass is looking a little dry, it is best to get the patches inspected to see if it is a disease because diseases tend to spread rapidly through the yard. Once the disease has been diagnosed by a professional, a certified and licensed pesticide applicator should treat the spots with fungicide. Like I said before, a healthy and happy lawn is more likely to be disease resistant. We know weather is a factor in this disease, but unfortunately we cannot control the weather. Brown patch disease develops when there is poor drainage, over watering, over fertilizing, little air circulation, and under watering. Core aeration has a number of benefits, and it will help prevent brown patch disease by allowing for proper drainage and increased air circulation. Do not forget to keep up on proper watering techniques to be sure you are giving your lawn not too much and not too little water during the spring and summer.