As the snowfall of winter transitions into the rainfall of spring, your lawn will become a focal point for you and your family. There are a number of things to check of your spring-cleaning list to ensure your lawn is ready to go.
Keep Your Lawn Healthy this Spring
Conditions will soon be right for the onset of Brown Patch disease (Rhizoctonia sp.), the most threatening disease for Tall Fescue grasses. Virginia Green monitors weather conditions and our technicians have a trained eye to spot the earliest signs of any fungal outbreak you may encounter. When evening temperatures exceed 60 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity readings surpassing 75% during the day, Brown Patch will become prevalent.
For our customers on the Estate Lawn Care program, we will soon begin the first of four fungicide applications specifically designed to prevent disease damage to your lawn.
Though the grass looks dead, it is still alive. Once air and the soil temperatures rise in late March to early April, the turf color will begin to change and start to grow again.
Spring Lawn Maintenance tips
Lawn care begins anew with the turning of the seasons, so here are some tips to make sure it’s beautiful and healthy throughout the spring months.
Soil Testing and pH Treatment
Virginia soils tend to be acidic, and lime may be needed to correct the pH imbalance in your lawn. Virginia Green offers customers a soil analysis to determine how much lime you will need and assist its way to optimum growth and color.
Let Virginia Green clean up your existing weed population with post-emergent weed control applications throughout the spring. From there, we will work to prevent new ones. Our timely pre-emergent applications will target summer annual weeds before they germinate.
For cool season grasses, seeding should be completed in the fall when there aren’t invasive weeds and possible soaring temperatures that make spring seeding a challenge.
If you have areas in the lawn that require attention, we recommend sodding. Sod consists of mature turf plants with a root system that once tacked, can withstand the stressors present in Virginia’s spring and summer seasons.
Now is the time to begin watering if you are not already doing so. Just like every living plant, turf grass requires a certain amount of water to thrive and achieve optimum growth and color. Aim for 1.5 inches of water per week. Watering 2-3 times per week to achieve 1.5 inches of water is suggested.
Watering between 4:00 and 7:00 A.M. is recommended because you lose very little moisture to evaporation. This means the water you are putting down is reaching the root zone of your turf. Conversely, watering at night can be a recipe for disaster. If the turf canopy (what you see) is allowed to stay damp during those overnight hours, you are opening your lawn up to a number of fungal issues that can claim large sections of the lawn within a few days. Watering during the day can also be problematic due to the rate of evaporation—it makes it difficult for all of the water to reach the root zone.
Lawn Mower Maintenance/Mowing
Now is also a good time for mower maintenance. Make sure you have a sharp blade, balanced mowing decks, and be sure to raise the deck to the highest setting. The taller you leave the turf following a mowing, the more effective it is at shading out and ridding competing weeds.
Additionally, a tall stand of turf helps to shade that pre-emergent barrier, thus increasing the longevity of that barrier. Leaving 3.5-4 inches of turf ensures you have optimum root growth to fight through periods of heat and drought stress.
Avoid mowing during periods of high heat/drought. This increases the possibility of seeing stressed turf and increases the risk of possible damage.
Avoid bagging clippings and keep them on the lawn as this allows for nutrients stored in the grass blades to be recycled into existing turf while adding a minute amount of organic material to your soil profile.
At this time of the year, leaves are rarely an issue for our lawns. However, if leaves remain an issue, it is vital that you remove them immediately. Anything that prevents sunlight from reaching your turf has the potential to cause damage. This is not limited to leaves. We love to see your kids and four-legged friends are playing on the lawn, but keep in mind—if toys are left in one place for too long, turf damage will occur.
About Brown Patch (Rhizoctonia sp.)
Brown Patch is a pathogen that exists in the soil full time, so all it needs is a host (good stand of turf) and the proper conditions (heat and humidity) for development. Infections become easily identifiable as small, smoky rings that can range in size from three inches to as large as three feet. Many times, these rings will coalesce, causing the lawn to take on its namesake—brown patches.
The fungus can infect grass either through wounds in the leaves, such as those that result from mowing, or through its pores. Lawns in full sun with poor drainage, pH issues, and/or heavy clay soils that retain water are most susceptible since these conditions tend to stress the turf the most.
Cultural Practices to Help Prevent the Spread of Rhizoctonia
The better care you provide your lawn, the stronger the disease resistance. With that being said, some cultural practices that can mitigate the risk of disease:
- Keep your turf tall. The taller you maintain your turf, the healthier the root system and the sturdier the plant. With this, disease is more avoidable.
- Mow with sharp blades. This helps prevent the spread of the disease. A sharp blade provides a nice, clean cut as opposed to dull blades leaving turf chewed up. A ragged cut increases the likelihood of infection significantly, similar to a surgical procedure completed with a dull scalpel.
- Water between 4:00 and 7:00 AM. Water your lawn in the early morning and use deep, infrequent watering cycles. Watering overnight or too often prevents the turf canopy from drying out and increasing the chances of disease.
In our climate, even a properly mowed and watered lawn will likely experience a form of disease activity. However, it’s all about reducing every possible risk. If you have done all of the above and still notice spreading brown patches on your lawn, call Virginia Green at 804.285.6200.