View Full Version : Any idea whats wrong with this lawn?

"Ground Control"
07-10-2007, 11:39 PM
One of my customers is upset about their lawn getting these brown spots. She said they started appearing about 2 years ago and have been gettting worse and worse. She asked me if i thought we should tear the old grass out and re-sod the whole yard and I told her I would see if i could find out what it was before we went that far. Any ideas on what this could be? Thanks for any info.

Focal Point Landscapes
07-11-2007, 12:04 AM
You have a fungus - dollar spot or fairy ring or summer patch or something like that . You can treat with fungicide to kill the infection , but the real fix is corrective cultural practice . The lawn is probably being overwatered , may have a thatch issue , probably needs core aeration and might have too much or too little nitrogen ( both can cause a fungus outbreak ) and might be mowed too short. Unless you are familiar with this type of problem , you should get a licensed fert / squirt guy to help you on this - there are fungi in all lawns , some are even beneficial - but you cannot avoid bad fungus unless you educate the homeowner on cultural variables that are the key to control . Really bad around here this year , in all types of grasses.

07-11-2007, 12:26 AM
can you get a closer pic. cant tell untill you get some closer pics. definitely a fungus what one ??

fungus can be prevented by good culture practices. but when those don't work, because your customer has to water because it makes them feel good, you can use preventitive fungicides or have them applied by a licensed co.

02-03-2008, 05:00 PM
The areas are already brown and dry. No one can tell you what it was with out being able to dig up a small area and examine it closely while it is yellowing before it dies.
* I would first do a soil test. For the Future fertilization and care needs.
* For now I would try to locate an area that is yellowing at the edge of the browning areas that hasn't completely died yet. dig up a very small area that can be closely examined. If you see munches out of the base of the leaves before the root area then you have an insect. But some times it can be punctures. If you see a web of sticky stringy spiderwebb like stuff it could be sod web worms or cut worms.
* If you tug on a fist full of the turf near the area that is browned and the whold chunk comes up like a piece of sod was laid down then you prob have gurb problems.
* If she has a dog it may be amonia spotting from dog urine.
* If you find yellowing areas at the perimiter of the brown areas and you can see mold like white grey brown, or an ashy appearance it is probably a fungus.
Either way all are easy to work with you just have to know how to diagnose it.
If you are in business you need to educate yourself on turfgrasses and their common problems. Good luck to you


Organic a go go
02-03-2008, 05:16 PM
It's probably dollar spot or brown patch. Fairy ring looks very different.

02-03-2008, 08:54 PM
jHow wet is the coustomer keeping the lawn/ My first thought is a fungus problem. I would definitly have a soil test done. I would also consider dethatching the lawn. Contrary to pop belief this does not need to be done every year but alot of pople never do it. the reasons I suspect fungus are the type of spots the pictures are showning. the fact that the fence has tail tail signs of continuos watering and the fact that it has been progressively getting worse over several years. I would believe if it was a insect issue it would happen faster. However that is always a possibility. As far as ripping the sod out that is a drastic measure and problems will reacure if they are not addessed.

02-03-2008, 10:38 PM
My first guess in these cases is always heat or possibly fertilizer stress, mostly because when troubleshooting an unknown problem, always start by fixing the easiest and cheapest thing then work from there.

So since they have a nice lawn it stands to reason they have a sprinkler system, I would be for checking or having someone check this out. It's easy to DIY simply run the system and watch what it's doing, and if anything isn't working the way it should that would be the first thing I would address. Replace any busted or stupid acting risers, more so for the turf-based ones.

Also whoever is cutting the lawn, this issue might disappear if blades are raised to 4" from Jun-Sep, either way a higher cut height in the heat of summer never hurts. And no, don't cut it more frequently, just remember to bring it back down early October in time for core aeration, at this point in time one extra cut will likely be required.

The second thing I would do is check who is treating this lawn, and when this problem started. If the person who is doing it now started treating this lawn about 2 years ago then it's quite possibly a sporadic fertilizer overdose or something of that nature. Either way the best solution is to consult with the person doing these treatments, also that would be the person they should have asked anyhow, if it is you then you have to know how much fertilizer you applied and if it is possible too much went down in spots or if this would even be the case, I don't know.

It's probably dollar spot or brown patch.

That would be the next thing on the list, but I'm not familiar with the treatment for it.

02-04-2008, 12:02 AM
I wish I was there. When were these shots taken?

02-04-2008, 12:09 AM
Runner, it looks like this is a post from back in July of last year....

02-05-2008, 03:20 AM
Runner, it looks like this is a post from back in July of last year....

LOL I didn't even see that, I was wondering why in middle of winter this...

Heat stress it most likely is then, got cut too often, too short, or a combination.
The next possibility is it got over watered in response.

02-05-2008, 10:11 AM
Fairy ring is a circular area of dark green grass with often during moist times mushrooms growing through it in the same circular pattern. Most believe Fairy ring is caused by a dead stump in the ground decaying and releasing nitrogen slowly into the soil and as it rises it appears in a circle at the soil level. So its prob not Fairy ring.

Someone posted maybe over fert earlier in the past and that deffinately seems possible. Can anyone tell me how heat stress kills grass. I have heard a similar statement when someone says hot spots. I have found a chinch bug infestation one time when someone had diagnosed a lawn with hot spots hahaha.

Are hot spots and heat stress real? Or is it dehydration because of lack of watering? We all know a lawn is not one plant but it is made up of thousands if not more small plants. Each plant as a need for water and light and food, and not to be eaten by bugs or fungus or even viruses. But is heat stress real? Are hot spots real? Or is it dehydration?

Please someone clear this up for me because it may be that I am confused.


02-05-2008, 11:54 AM
even if the grass is watered adequately the grass can still become stressed and burn do to high heat. This happens in Texas alot.especially on open playing fields. I do not think this would be as much of a problem with this yard in the photo because it seems like the person is located in a coole climate. Also stess from heat typically does not present itself in small round areas of dead grass. Besides this seems to be an ongoing problem that has taken a couple of years to manifest Also on this lawn you can tell it has had water put to it.

02-05-2008, 11:59 AM
Who pulled this thread out from july?

02-05-2008, 07:43 PM
It's funny...In the last pic, it looks almost like there are tufts of dead grass laying on top - as if they have been pulled out like with a rake or something. A few telltale signs...if you look closely,...everything is nice and green (leaves on the trees haven't turned or anything), but yet there are dried leaves on the ground here and there ..indicating heat stress to the trees - which tells us that yes..it WAS hot and dry at this time. I just don't like the splotchiness look of it though - almost comprised of small circles. Like I say, between chinch bugs, or a host of other things, it could be anything without being able to see it up close. I would certainly lean toward leaf spot, though. Anyway, I guess it's all rhetorical, now. :rolleyes:

02-05-2008, 09:02 PM
Are hot spots and heat stress real? Or is it dehydration because of lack of watering? We all know a lawn is not one plant but it is made up of thousands if not more small plants. Each plant as a need for water and light and food, and not to be eaten by bugs or fungus or even viruses. But is heat stress real? Are hot spots real? Or is it dehydration?

I wonder about the same thing with brown spot thou there is an actual fungus I also find a lot of lawns are misdiagnosed with brown spot when in reality it's just heat stress. But as for heat stress, dehydration would be one cause of heat stress because it's not just dehydration that causes it. To answer your question, in a rough sense yes heat sense is caused by dehydration but that's not the only thing.

As mentioned lawn is but a plant, or thousands of it, fine, and all of this needs water and the correct amount of water so too much is no good either. Now in the summer it gets hot, and in the heat plants suffer for one, the water evaporates much faster for another, and all of this results in dehydration yes but I call it heat stress because the mere lack of water is not the entire problem.

A lawn could be perfectly healthy and get absolutely no water, whereas another that is watered regularly is suffering from heat stress, so what causes this? A number of factors do, but most all of them but one are beyond our control in our position as Lco's, the only factor we can and do control is cut height and cut frequency but it's the heat of the sun that does it, too.

So, lawns usually don't do this until the heat gets over 80 degrees outside, you can almost cut a lawn daily in the milder 60-70 degree days of early to mid spring and it won't hurt it like this, but later on it sure will, later in the season a weekly cut frequency will easily and in most cases do it, too.

I try and warn the guys to slow down as things heat up, I know for myself I am all excited that part of the year and just run-run-run and dang if I don't brown a few lawns every year, but the key to it is pay attention and as soon as you see it happening back OFF! Nowadays I usually only yellow up a few spots before I back off, so practice and experience helps, my first year I'm pretty sure I killed a couple but I've seen Lco's kill their entire customer base before, too, so.

When we cut a lawn, we literally chop or break or cut each blade in two, and this cut takes real time to heal, I would say a day or two on average. In that time the plant loses a TON of water and nutrients, the cut of a lawn mower blade is the rough equivalent of someone cutting off your arm, I believe the plant loses something like 50% of its water and nutrients every time the grass gets cut. So the loss of nutrients and water through the wound is part of what causes it, the lawn turns brown as a result, first in patches then if the Lco fails to respond to the early clues it spreads and fast, one or two more cuts like that and the entire lawn turns brown.

Yes, a lawn mower can easily kill an entire lawn in one or two maybe three cuts, after the temperatures reach 80 to 85 or so I highly recommend keeping an eye on this yellowing and browning and if it starts I further recommend immediately lengthening the interval between cuts, also raising the blade height helps some more. One way I do this, is when I pull up to cut it, if I see that crap going on right then and there I usually postpone the cut for 3-4 days or so, unless the whole thing is pretty tall I let it go and instantly that lawn has just been put on a longer cut time interval.

If it is cut too low or too short, the plant no longer provides as much shade to itself as it did before it got cut, this alone results in more natural evaporation because there is more heat builds up on the surface of the soil, and this is another part that causes dehydration, or heat stress.

So I'd say it is more accurate to label the entire issue as heat stress, but to make the connection work in your mind yes it is the lack of water and nutrients (and the heat) that causes it, cutting too frequently or too low, also how the terrain slopes can affect it, then there may be some other factors, I don't know.

02-05-2008, 10:32 PM
dollar spot. no questions

02-05-2008, 10:56 PM
Man what a great conversation. I cut fescue at 4" starting in Spring to reduce the amout of water the plant looses through respiration. Fescue stores almost all of its water in the leaves so you are very right that if you scalp it which I beleive is defined as taking 20% or more of the leaf surface off of a plant you will cause the plant to be stressed during periods of higher temperatures and like you said the shorter you mow the higher the ground temperature and overall stress the plant will go through trying to repair it self from mowings. I just know that when I compare clients that water during periods of high temperatures the plants stay more hydrated and because of that live through it. Bad mowing is a no no. I was believing that other factors such as mowing highth were being done right for the type of grass because the other areas look kinda ok. Someone mentioned dollar spot. I bet a fungus could easily be to blame here because if you look at how much dried grass came out of the spots where it was pulled up you can see it was plenty, so it seems dense with grass. Maybe decaying thatch has picked up a fungus. I have a client that has me mow at 5" and he doesn't get heat stress unless he doesn't water. Blade length is great, plenty of shade under the leaves. You guys are great, this is a great resource for newbs to hear the jargon for sure.


02-06-2008, 03:02 AM
Man what a great conversation. I cut fescue at 4" starting in Spring to reduce the amout of water the plant looses through respiration.

Last year was the first year I started to raise the cut height and I waited too long, I'm going to start that mess this year almost right off the bat don't even play around with it, because it helps in more ways than one.

For many years I thought guys like you were crazy, but that stuff about raising the cut height was nothing short of revolutionary, once I went round and round enough times to learn about all of this via observation I found it fixed more problems than just heat stress, it really is the answer to a lot of headaches and a solid win-win all around.

02-06-2008, 10:03 AM
I hope someone does this. A few years a go I went to Barns and Noble and bought a $5 book on turfgrasses and wow what a difference. That little book took me a week to read off and on when I had a minute or two. When I was finished I felt like I was now armed with information that would revolutionize my business. I can easily say that it did now a full 10 years later. I hope someone does this.


02-08-2008, 11:46 AM
Do they have a dog? My parents house has those same spots in one specific area where the dog always pees...

02-08-2008, 02:45 PM
Is this new sod? My vote goes to necrotic ring spot.

But dollarspot is not out of the question.

02-08-2008, 02:58 PM
Do they have a dog? My parents house has those same spots in one specific area where the dog always pees...

Yes, but as a rule only un-neutered female dogs do this, not sure why but something in the urine, males don't spot it nearly as bad (then again maybe it's because males use the fire hydrant lol I don't know). So if this were suspect the first question to ask would be to see if the dog in question was (or is) an un-neutered female... Now I am not 100% sure but I'd be willing to bet that to be the case with your parent's dog, the dog is a she and they never had her fixed, more yet that is likely because she's purebred.

And yes, fixing the dog should fix the lawn problem but I'm also not 100% sure on that, I think it does thou.

But in the case of a ***** (word meaning female canine) it's a yellow circle, maybe a lot of yellow circles but this particular case the problem is too light in color for that and not concentric enough for it to be a dog, at least I don't think this is the case here.

02-08-2008, 06:06 PM
Here is the explanation of the dog urine thing. It used to always be a belief that females urine held more acid than males, but this is not true. I found this out a few years ago, AND found out the explanation to this strange "phenomenon". What happens is, when a female urinates, she squats in place to do so - applying the urine in a tighter, more concentrated spot. When a male urinates, he lifts his leg, and the urine is dispersed over a wider area and sort of "shook" around (I don't think they write their names, though).
Incidentally, while we are sort of on this subject, there is some info on here on the supplements that are sold for the dog urine spots. I have recommended these to many customers, and they do work. It used to be available exclusively through the vets offices, but are now available OTC through pet supply stores. It comes in additives for water, and comes in cookie form (dogs love them).

02-26-2008, 06:35 PM
Looks like a fungus problem.