While here in Ohio, we're no stranger to snow, sleet, salt and the detrimental effects these things have on our cars and trucks, you may be puzzled to find powdery rust in your lawn or on your shoes when you're out doing yard work. But don't be alarmed - lawn rust is the result of fungi, and while unsightly, does not typically kill turf grass, though it can reduce its vigor.
Rust fungus appears as a powder, and can be yellow, orange, red or brown. You may find the powder on your lawn, your shoes, your lawn equipment, your pets. All these things can transfer fungus spores to new locations, causing the rust powder to spread over whole lawns. Bluegrasses, ryegrasses, zoysia grass and tall fescues are all susceptible to rust, although some Kentucky bluegrasses and tall fescues have grown resistant to it.
Where Did it Come From?
Lawn rust is a usually a sign of a stressed lawn that is growing slowly. Poor or slowed growth during the Summer is often due to a things like improper watering, soil compaction, low nitrogen levels and heat stress. The fungus appears on lawns at the end of Summer or the beginning of Fall when the days are warm but the evenings are significantly cooler, causing lots of condensation and dew to linger on lawns.
Treatment and Prevention
The best way to treat lawn rust and prevent it from reoccurring is to encourage your lawn's health and vitality. When grass grows too slowly, the fungus has too much time to develop on the grass blades. To keep your lawn growing vigorously, fertilize it with nitrogen and water the grass in the morning, which will give it sufficient drying time. Avoid light, frequent irrigation and instead water the lawn deeply and every other day.
Another way to encourage a healthy lawn is with aeration. A core aeration pulls thousands of tiny little plugs out of your lawn creating areas for nutrients and water to hit your turf's root system. The newly created areas allow the roots to begin to grow downward again, and will result in a thick, lush lawn that will be rust resistant.
Bagging and collecting your grass clippings will remove some fungal spores and can help prevent the spread of rust fungus. Mowing regularly can also help to remove some lawn rust in the grass, as can removing thatch buildup with a gentle raking.
Lawn Rust isn't the only tricky situation our lawns face as Summer winds down and we approach Autumn. Click below for a FREE, DOWNLOADABLE GUIDE to Fall Lawn and Landscape Care.