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Dealing With Grass Brown Spots picture

Dealing With Grass Brown Spots

Dealing With Grass Brown Spots

Brown spots (a.k.a. brown patch) are areas that occur in lawns due to any number of reasons and are an excruciating problem to deal with. Many people react to brown spot with various attempted treatments, only to find that the brown spots are still apparent. The hassle of trying to figure out how and why the spots occurred  can be difficult to say the least as there are multiple reasons as to why the grass can have brown spots, such as unstable soil conditions for grass to grow, human interference, insects, and lawn diseases. 

Human Interference

One of the greatest impacts on grass is humans. Anything meant to help grass can also harm it if improperly used. Chemicals like fertilizer and pesticides can cause brown/dead spots on grass if spilled or used incorrectly, burning or poisoning the grass blades. Additionally, dull mower blades can rip grass blades instead of cutting them smoothly. This can damage to the grass blades and make them susceptible to infection. Another mowing-based cause for brown spots can be from mowing grass too short, potentially ripping the grass from the soil if the blade comes in contact with the soil in high-spot on the lawn. This is more common on uneven lawns and when ride-on mowers are used that attempt to traverse very uneven ground.

Unstable Growing Conditions

The state of a lawn starts at the soil. It stands to reason, one of the major threats would be the growth of the lawn itself. If the conditions are not ideal, grass will die turning brown. Poor soil quality is the first item to look for. Poor soil can differ from part of a lawn to another and can transpire in areas on the lawn creating unsightly grass. Erosion caused by water from rain or even a hose can take grass seeds of the grass and leave it bare. Any bushes located near grass will pull the nutrients from the lawn via root. Any item left on the lawn will leave a brown spot on the grass. The lawn may just be dormant and will need to be replenished during its inactive season. With poor soil quality, the damage typically looks different than with what is commonly referred to as "brown spots" caused by lawn disease. Instead, with poo soil conditions, the damage is generally spread across a larger area that doesn't resemble isolated spots, similar to Large Patch Fungus, but with actual areas of grass missing instead of the blackened roots typical of fungus infections.

Lawn Diseases

Excessive moisture from over-watering or other sources like frequent/heavy rains are a common source of brown spot / brown patch on lawns that result from the growth of funguses. This is probably one of the most difficult causes of brown patch to deal with as the fungus must be destroyed to promote good, future grass growth. Grass infected with a fungus typically turns yellow and then reddish brown, brown, or straw colored as the leaves start to die. The areas my start small as spots, but then expand to patches several feet in diameter. Often you can see clumps of apparently healthy grass within the brown patches. The grass at the outer area of the patches will often appear brown/black and wilted. If you examine the base of the grass blades you will often find the bases to be black and have a rotting odor.

Other types of fungus, such as dollar spot fungus, are similar in that they thrive in conditions where the grass blades are wet, particularly for long periods of time, but the soil is dry, preventing strong root growth. Fertilization, aeration, and proper, deep watering are keys to preventing funguses.

Beyond funguses, grubs can be a problem for good grass growth. A common insect to come across in the late summer, grubs can be easily noticed by taking out and inspecting some sod. Grubs can be rid of with pesticides like most insects.

Another common insect are Chinch Bugs. They are usually in dry patches near a driveway or sidewalk. Caterpillars are also found in lawns and are highly noticeable as they can be seen eating grass blades. After grass blades die it can become a part of thatch. Thatch is numerous grass blades that have died conglomerated into a mass. If the thatch is too thick new grass will not be able to grow. Thatch should be removed if it is over half an inch thick as it often inhibits water and even oxygen properly reaching grass roots to promote strong grass growth.

General Lawn Care Tips

Attempting to rid your lawn of the causes of brown spots is often much more difficult than just preventing the problems to begin with. Some tips on preventing the lawn disease and other conditions that cause these problems include:

  • Proper Mowing: Frequent mowing with a sharp blade will go a long way to ensuring proper grass care. This includes mowing the grass to the correct height that promote proper water and sun absorption for your grass type in your area. Also be sure not to mow a lawn with a blade that has been used on grass infected with a fungus or other diseases.
  • Proper Watering: Ideally grass should be watered thoroughly, but infrequently, particularly in times where fungus would be more prevalent. You also need to take into account the affects of natural rain and dew as it can leave your lawn exposed to wet conditions that promote disease and is somewhat beyond your general control.
  • Proper Fertilization Schedule: Nitrogen-based fertilizers should be applied in the late spring to jump start grass growth and help it fend off funguses.
  • Proper Aeration: Lawns overburdened with thatch and poor soil conditions can benefit significantly if oxygen and water can penetrate the soil for more effective root growth on lawns.


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