In continuation with our discussion this month of lawn diseases, today we are taking a closer look at Lawn Rust. Rust is a fungal disease that occurs on turf grasses when their growth is slowed. This usually happens in late summer or early fall, during periods of dry hot weather or when the grass is low on nitrogen. Lawn Rust can weaken the strength and heartiness of the grass and open it up to secondary diseases and lawn problems.
Rust appears as an orange or yellowish-orange powder (spores) on grass leaf blades. If you pick a blade of grass in an infected area you will notice the spores wipe right off in your hand. These spores can be tracked by your shoes, lawn mower or other means to other areas of the lawn and cause spread of the disease. Low nitrogen and low water availability slow down turf growth, allowing Rust to develop. Seasons with excess rain may have Rust outbreaks due to depletion of available nitrogen. Cool nights with heavy dew and light, frequent rainfall add to the ideal conditions for rust to develop.
Pro-Tech Lawn Care recommends good turf management for healthy grass as well as prevention of lawn diseases that tend to impact our region. We recommend our treatment programs as well as the following suggestions for care:
- Choose quality grass seed blends.
- Water early in the morning to allow for grass to dry.
- Manage thatch in the lawn.
- Check soil levels regularly.
- Aerate annually to allow for good oxygen and nutrients to reach the grassroots.
Does your lawn not look as green and lush as you had hoped or have experienced in past growing seasons? Upon close inspection of your lawn, do you find small irregular patches of brown/yellowing grass? Possibly you see tiny red needles or pink fluffy mycelium. Are these small patches joining together to form large brown areas? You may have the lawn disease known as Red Thread.
Red Thread gets its name because from a distance the lawn casts a red or pinkish coloring. This disease is usually restricted to the leaves, leaf sheaths, and stems, but in severe cases may kill the entire plant. In the early stages of infection, symptoms appear as small blighted areas on leaves that enlarge rapidly to cover most of the leaf. Affected leaves dry out and fade to a bleached straw color. During moist weather, the leaves may become covered with the pink gelatinous growth of the causal fungi.
Conditions that favor Red Thread include:
- Low levels of nitrogen
- Temperatures between 68˚ and 75˚ (many notice this disease during May and June but it can be present throughout the entire growing season.
- High humidity
- Cool season grasses such as red fescue, ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and bentgrass are most susceptible.
Treatment and control of this lawn disease includes: proper identification, cultural controls such as monitoring the adequate level of nitrogen in the lawn, and potentially chemical control with fungicide treatments. Pro-Tech Lawn Care can maintain your lawn and keep it healthy throughout the entire growing season no matter what lawn disease you are facing.
Folklore has it that if a ring of mushrooms or off colored grass, (a Fairy Ring), appears in your lawn that it is a sign of good fortune or that luck is in your favor. This piece of history was handed down through stories rich with fairies and leprechauns from Western Europe from centuries ago. While the stories of fairies dancing in circles and sitting on toadstool mushrooms may persist in our society today, the good feelings that come with discovering a Fairy Ring have faded. Most homeowners now recognize Fairy Rings for what they are – a lawn disease.
Fair Rings are indicative of a problem with a species of fungus that has developed under the grass, specifically in the soil. While many lawns have occasional mushrooms especially during a moist spell or especially humid time, mushrooms in a circle ranging from a few feet in diameter to more than 20 can be a sign that your lawn has a Fairy Ring. Fungus caused by decaying tree stumps or roots can be part of the cause for this particular lawn disease.
Homeowners usually first notice a circle of grass that is either browning or possibly darker green than the rest of the lawn. Mushrooms will also appear in a circle as a dead giveaway that a Fairy Ring is present. Once they have been identified, treatment is in order to stop the spread and bring the lawn back to a healthy state. Pro-Tech Lawn Care has a treatment program that may include fertilizing, core aeration, treatment or possibly removal of the turf if the fungus is difficult to treat. Call Pro-Tech Lawn Care today if you notice a Fairy Ring growing in your yard.
As we discussed in our last blog, Gypsy Moths are not only a nuisance but can be extremely damaging to foliage in our local and regional area. Thousands of acres of trees have been defoliated year-after-year causing permanent damage to them, in some cases killing off many. To add insult to injury, once Gypsy Moths have defoliated and weakened trees, secondary pests find it easier to invade thus compounding the problem.
Along with defoliating and damaging tree growth these caterpillars are a problem in a few other ways as well. For many in affected areas, the hairs on a Gypsy Moths body can cause an itchy rash, which is treatable with an over-the-counter anti-itch cream. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that this is what is giving them a rash. In addition, the dropping of these “constantly munching” insects can create not only a gross mess but also a slipping hazard around homes and businesses.
In order to prevent these insidious creatures from damaging the beautiful trees around properties, many homeowners are trying some fairly “do-it-yourself” techniques to prevent the outbreak. These include:
- Keep trees and plantings healthy through regular maintenance, watering, pruning and mulching.
- Contact a licensed arborists to spray chemicals on your trees and home to keep them at bay.
- Use a power washer to clean off your siding and walkways of these pests.
- Use burlap or other home techniques to keep the caterpillars from climbing up the trees.
- Keep your yard as clean as possible. Remove discarded items, dead branches, stumps, etc., where the adult female moth is likely to lay egg masses. Destroy any egg masses that are found.
- Consider Gypsy Moth traps.
- Talk to the experts at Pro-Tech Lawn Care about what might be right for your home.
It is hard to believe that an insect less than three inches in length can be so destructive but Gypsy Moths can defoliate entire neighborhoods of trees in weeks. In 2016 Massachusetts suffered more than 350,000 acres of defoliation from the dreaded Gypsy Moth caterpillars. This was the biggest outbreak since the early 1980s and has alarmed agriculturalists around the region. This year promises to be just as harmful an infestation according to the University of Massachusetts Agriculture Extension School.
The outbreak of these invasive, plant munching species is not new to the New England area. We have had numerous years where the defoliation was intense especially during the 80s and 90s. Gypsy Moths are not hard to spot as they are hairy caterpillars with blue and red spots varied on their bodies. They grow to be about three inches long and seem to be everywhere during an outbreak. You may notice them crawling on your car, trees, sidewalks and anywhere outside.
According to Boston.com these insects became a problem when they were introduced to Massachusetts in the late 1860s by E. Leopold Trouvelot, who brought them to Medford from France to study the caterpillars for silk production. Since then New England has experienced numerous outbreaks. Until 1989, New England would typically get a “population explosion” of gypsy moths, followed by a collapse. But at the end of the 1980s, a Japanese fungus introduced to North America in the early 1900s called entomophaga maimaiga started killing the caterpillars. Since then, the fungus has played a large role in keeping the gypsy moth population low, along with other diseases and natural predators.
Visit us again next week when we discuss the damage caused by these invasive pests and what you can do about them.