Don’t let turf disease ruin your summer (or your lawn)

July 9, 2020
Dave Wyman

Don’t let turf disease ruin your summer (or your lawn)

 It’s a warm summer day. Your family has decided to barbecue and play some yard games. You have a great time and think that this is the way summer should be spent – until you spot a brown patch of grass in your yard. The realization that your grass has turf disease turns your perfect summer of fun into a summer of stress. Don’t let turf disease put a hamper on your summer fun. Paradise Lawns will help you identify the problem and get your lawn back on track. Let’s look at the top five common turf diseases in the Midwest and what you can do to keep your lawn healthy, green and lush.  

Turf Disease #1 – Leaf Blight (Asochyta)

What to look for

  •   Straw colored patches
  •   Leaves are dead and straw like for the top 1/3 of the blade.  
  •   The lower part of the blade, past the dead zone, remains untouched and green.

Grass types

  •   Kentucky Bluegrass (most common)
  •   Perennial Ryegrass
  •   Tall Fescue

 At first glance, this patch of brown is often mistaken for a dead spot. It may actually be the fungal disease known as Leaf Blight. A quick inspection of the grass blades can confirm it. Look to see if only the top of the grass blades are straw colored for confirmation. This is good news because you know the grass is not dead. Caused mainly by over watering and poor irrigation, some little changes can prevent it from returning. Because the lower part of the grass blade is still green, the brown patch should disappear after approximately two weeks with a regular mowing schedule.

For more information on Leaf Blight, read Lawns Hit Hard by Ascochyta Leaf Blight by the UNL Extension Office or contact Paradise Lawns. We are here to help you with both confirmation, treatment, and prevention.


Turf Disease #2 – Brown Patch (Rhizoctonia solani)

What to look for

  •   scattered dead grass blades forming a circle up to 2 feet in diameter or a semi-circular pattern in the lawn.
  •   leaves show long, irregular leaf spots that are light tan or whitish in color.
  •   The edge of the spots may appear dark brown to purplish-black.

Grass types

  •   Bluegrass
  •   Perennial Ryegrass
  •   Tall Fescue
  •   Zoysia Grass

A common sight each year in Nebraska, Brown Patch is caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani. With a diameter of up to 2 feet, it is easy to spot. Weather and moisture conditions are what support fungal spores.  Just like Leaf Blight, it is important to avoid poor irrigation and over watering. The UNL Extension office warns  that using a dull mower blade will also increase the turf’s susceptibility to infection, because the dull blade shreds the end of the grass blades and creates large wounded areas for fungal spores to enter. So, make sure your mower blades are new or sharpened and call Paradise Lawns if you need confirmation or have questions about Brown Patch.


Turf Disease #3 – Necrotic Ring aka “Frog Eye” (Fusarium blight)

What to look for

  •   forms a circular patch up to 3 feet with elongated streaks or crescents
  •   patch color goes from light green to reddish brown to straw colored
  •   healthy grass appears in the center giving a “frog-eye” look.

Grass types

  •   Bluegrass
  •   Bentgrass
  •   Tall Fescue

 Necrotic Ring is commonly referred to as “Frog Eye” because of the circular shape and green grass that remains in the middle. The cause is from a parasite that has been formed in fungi, which in turn feeds off of the grass to draw the nutrients from it. Unlike Leaf Blight, Necrotic Ring will spread through your lawn if not treated properly. If you spot the telltale signs of Frog Eye, reduce your watering and call Paradise Lawns right away to take care of it before it becomes widespread.


Turf Disease #4 – Pythium Blight (Pythium aphanidermatum)

What to look for

  •   Starts as small purple or black spots at onset
  •   Leaves in affected area are matted, orange or dark gray
  •   Gray, cottony mycelium may be present in wet or humid conditions
  •   Often has a greasy appearance and feel

Grass types

  •   Perennial Ryegrass
  •   Creeping Bentgrass
  •   Tall Fescue

 Pythium Blight appears during warm, humid weather when turfgrass is wet for at least 12 hours. Temperature plays a factor too with most growth happening once the daily high is over 82 F with night lows below 68 F. Members of the genus Pythium belong to a group of organisms known as oomycetes. Although appearing similar to fungi, Pythium spp. and other oomycete pathogens behave quite differently from fungi and often require distinct methods of management. Many a golf course or athletic field has had to battle with Pythium Blight.

It can be difficult for a homeowner to eliminate it without professional assistance. If you suspect that you have Pythium Blight, call Paradise Lawns to set up a plan of action.


Turf Disease #5 – Summer Patch (Magnaporthe poae)

What to look for

  •   Patches vary from 6 inches to 3 feet in diameter
  •   Tan to brown circular patches
  •   Black rotted roots
  •   Outer edges of the patch are orange/bronze during disease development

Grass types

  •   Kentucky Bluegrass
  •   Creeping Bentgrass (pH greater than 7)

 Much like Necrotic Ring, Summer Patch can be challenging to treat once it develops. It is difficult to detect and treat early because the disease forms in the late spring to early summer, but symptoms are not expressed until the turf is under stress later in the summer. If untreated, it will reappear annually with increased patch sizes. As with the other spotlighted turf diseases, over watering will make the situation worse with Summer Patch.

Your lawn’s pH level is important too and should be kept below 7 to help the grass resist the disease. To learn more about the importance of maintaining the proper pH level in your lawn, visit our past blog, Balance Your Soil. Change Your Lawn. Unfortunately, you cannot mow Summer Patch away, so if you suspect you have an infestation, call Paradise Lawns so you will not have to deal with it next year as well.


Important Tips all Turf Disease

If you suspect turf disease, we highly recommend reaching out to us as soon as possible to determine the problem and help you come up with an effective solution. There are some things you can do as well to prevent turf disease or discourage it from developing. The best approach is using good cultural practices. Here are some things to add to your lawn care routine:

  •       Mow with sharp blades
  •       Never water in the evening
  •       Water only in the morning
  •       Do not water your lawn too often
  •       Ensure proper fertilization (leave the fertilization to us but be sure to schedule it)


Paradise Lawns Is Here to Help

Paradise Lawns are the professionals you want when turf disease strikes. We offer both chemical and organic fertilization programs. Although we have found that organic programs show far less signs of turf disease (as well as other lawn issues) than chemically treated lawns. So whenever possible, we try to avoid using fungicides. In fact, we have had clients with lawn diseases that have only known and used the traditional chemical/synthetic programs previously. After transitioning over to an organic program, turf disease was greatly reduced and sometimes completely eliminated. Instead of worrying about turf disease flaring up with the warm weather each year,  after the client switched to organic, their lawn saw major improvements within a season.

 As your Omaha area lawn care specialist, we are here to help you with turf disease and more. We will work with you to make sure your pH soil levels are where they should be and create a comprehensive, custom plan to give you a lawn that not only looks great but is healthy year round. Call us today at 402-612-1527 or contact us online at because summer is too short to battle turf disease.

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