Summary: Lawn fungus identification and treatment causes many homeowners to look for lawn fungus controls and cures for possible lawn diseases using chemicals which may not help because of an incorrect grass fungus diagnosis.
Question: We think our yard has a lawn fungus and not sure exactly what we should do.
Can you tell us the best lawn fungus treatment and broad-spectrum chemical fungicide we can use to help with lawn fungus control?
Someone recommended neem oil sprays as a fungus cure, but know nothing of it. Please help! Angie, Shelby, NC
Answer: Angie, lawn fungus identification, and treatment can be a confusing and often the homeowner gets carried away looking for treatment and cure for what they “think” is a lawn fungus. It may not be a fungus but caused by lawn grubs or chinch bugs.
They assume many times applying a nitrogen fertilizer will solve a lawn problem. They also believe a broad-spectrum fungicide will control any and all lawn disease and fungus.
I remember years ago reading a quote by plant disease expert Dr. Cynthia Westcott. She said,
“In my experience, gardeners and insects, to say nothing of dogs, are more harmful than fungi to the average lawn.”
Not to say lawns never get a fungus, but the possibility of a grass fungus disease “wiping out” your beautiful lawn is slim.
By planting a mixture of grasses, the possibility is practically remote. Most turf grass diseases attack a distinct grass species as their victim.
This makes it difficult for a host of fungal diseases to all hit a lawn at once and spread rapidly like wildfire through a yard made up of many different grass types.
The only individuals who should be concerned about a turf or grass disease are the professionals – the golf course ground and greens-keepers.
The reason is that most putting greens are planted with one type of grass, while the average home is made up of several grass types in their yard, reducing the potential of lawn fungus diseases for the homeowner.
Please do not assume I am telling you that your lawn is not under a fungus attack. There are times when the weather conditions are just right, and a fungus disease does take hold causing severe damage.
Before assuming a fungus disease exist you should first learn something about lawn fungus and lawn diseases:
- How to identify their symptoms
- How to control or eradicate them
Above all else learn how to prevent them from becoming established in the first place.
It May Be Lawn Fungi
However, the cause of most common lawn diseases begins with a fungus (singular for fungi). In fact, fungi are tiny plants which cannot produce their food supply and depend on a host for their food.
When a fungal disease finds its home in a lawn, the “fungi” stick their microscopic feeder tubes into the leaf blades of grass.
If the conditions and food supply are right, more fungi are produced at an explosive rate, and in no time at all they will suck the life out of the grass, killing it.
A fungus which attacks St Augustine grass specifically goes by a weird name called “Take-All Root Rot.”
However, the most common lawn fungus is a disease commonly called “brown patch.” There are two main types of “brown patch” fungus that attack lawns – large brown patch and dollar spot. Other fungal diseases come with names like gray snow mold, pink snow mold, fairy ring, take-all patch, summer patch and others.
You will most likely find either one or both of these fungus types strike during the spring and summer during exceptionally rainy periods. Depending on the severity of the fungus attack, there may be only a few brown patches or a necrotic ring spot in the lawn.
However, if it progresses and you detect more brown patches, protecting the grass is the best defense. The best protection is accomplished by spraying the entire lawn with a lawn fungicide.
Ask your local garden center for the best solution (usually chemical) for the grass types in your area to remedy the problem.
Follow the label on the container. Fungicides are poisonous, and all of them, if used in excessive amounts or dosages, will harm the grass as well as kill the fungi.
For this reason, alone, it is imperative to follow labeled instructions exactly as stated on the container when using any fungicide.
Normal growth of the grass should resume after treating with a fungicide, and the fungus parasites are eliminated. We will look at Neem oil for plant fungus at another time.
Preventing Lawn Fungus Conditions
The best way to prevent lawn fungus is to eliminate or minimize the turf disease conditions that make them happy to actively thrive and multiply. The conditions fungus finds favorable are the opposite for ideal grass growth.
Fungus thrives with moisture. Moisture makes fungus fruit body grow and multiply at rapid rates. When grass is more or less consistently dry, a fungus has a much more difficult time establishing itself.
Now, you cannot control when and how much it will rain, but you can control when your sprinkler system comes on.
When you need to water, you can reduce fungus conditions in your lawn by running your sprinklers during the morning or early afternoon.
This watering practice will allow the grass the opportunity to dry off before nighttime – which is when fungus multiplies fastest. Lots of homeowners water after the sun has gone down using the argument of “less water evaporation” as the reasoning. Watering this way may be true for saving water, but it creates more favorable conditions for fungus growth.
Mowing the grass at a higher mower setting helps as well. When grass is mowed very low and “scalped” the new growth is very tender. The tender, juicy new growth is a perfect setting and host for fungi, compared to the older, tougher and seasoned grass blades.
When you follow the guidelines of proper, routine lawn care, you and your lawn should have little fear of a fungus in grass or other turf grass diseases. A lawn full of thick, beautiful, healthy grass makes for a healthy lawn able to resist lawn fungus and other diseases very well.
Image: Kris Lord