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Brown Patch Fungus In Charlotte NC

This is a turf disease that we see every year around the beginning of Summer. Every fescue lawn has it to a degree, the extent of damage to the turf depends on the specific conditions on your property. The fungus actually lays dormant at the soil level until conditions are right for it to infect the leaves of fescue turf. If the conditions are perfect it can really thrive and do some severe damage.

Conditions for Brown Patch: Typically the circular brown patches in the lawn will start to form when temperatures stay above 65 at night and get into the upper 80s and 90s during the day. When we reach this temperature range, a series of afternoon/evening thunderstorms that keep the grass wet overnite will really accelerate brown patch development. Fescue lawns that are fertilized too heavily with nitrogen, or cut too short will usually see rapid disease development. Areas that are shady in the afternoon or have poor drainage are also prime areas for brown patch.


Symptoms of Brown Patch: It starts out by forming small brown lesions bordered by a dark brown band on the individual turf blades (figure 1). If you look closely at your lawn you can pick out the infected grass plants. This quickly browns out the entire grass blade and creates circular brown spots in the lawn that can be anywhere from 6” to a couple feet in diameter.

Treatment of Brown Patch: A fungicide treatment is the strongest line of defense to prevent and control brown patch fungus.  However, there are a few limitations to relying on fungicides; the products are expensive, a treatment only has a 30 day residual, and the disease can build up a resistance if using the same product over and over again. This means that we have to switch up the products we use with a round 2 fungicide treatment to introduce a new ingredient to avoid resistance. Of course, if your on the Whitehouse Premium Lawn Care Program full disease protection is included in your plan. For those that pay extra for disease treatments, I have a strategy that will keep your costs down as much as possible. The first fungicide treatment will be a “wall-to-wall” application over the entire lawn to wipe out all of the existing fungus present in the lawn. After the 30 day residual is over, I will be monitoring your property and can spot spray any new fungus areas that come up later in the summer, hopefully for a much smaller cost. I think this is the best way to keep the fungus in check during the entire season while not hitting you hard with big charges on your invoice.

What YOU can do to minimize Brown Patch: Water management is the key to minimizing brown patch. We know that water sitting on the grass overnite activates the fungus, so you definitely do not want to water the lawn in late afternoon or night. Early to mid morning is the best watering time to allow the grass to dry quickly during the day. I can't stress enough the importance of auditing your irrigation system this time of year. We should be on the lookout for drainage problems in the yard and avoid over-watering. I will let you know if we see any areas that need improved drainage so we can come up with a solution.

On our side, we raise the mowing height on our mowers a little bit and keep the blades sharp every week. The lawn care treatment program and products I use are designed to provide the right amount of balanced nutrients to your lawn. I also make sure our spreaders and sprayers are calibrated to put out the right amount of product. We use premium grass seed when we overseed in the fall that has increased resistance to brown patch and mix in organic products to allow turf to recover quickly from any stress. Many lawn care companies will go with cheaper, quick release fertilizers to get a quick green up (especially the big national companies). They might get impressive short-term results but this always causes disease problems and stress on the lawn at some point.

I prefer to take into account the long-term impact of lawn treatments as well as getting results right away. I also do my best to keep prices as low as possible. Sometimes this means using premium products that last longer to prevent future costs.

Please let me know if you have any questions about lawn care. Coming up next month we will address Japanese Beetles and white grubs.


Fire Ants In Charlotte 

20 million people a year are stung by fire ants in the United States. Once they invade your landscape they usually take over with a vengeance, swarming over pets, kids, or anyone who disturbs their mound. Unsightly fire ant mounds can reach 15” wide, 15” high, and up to 5 feet deep in the ground. They like to anchor to something solid so you will usually see them along concrete curbs, driveways, mailboxes, lightposts, and benches.

Because of the warm winter we had we've started seeing mounds pop up much earlier than usuall so we need to be ready to treat this insect problem.

Full eradication of fire ants is very difficult; however, we do have a product that will keep them out of your landscape. Top Choice is a product that provides one full year of fire ant control and is the best product on the market I have seen. It is a granular material that is spread over the lawn and natural areas The active ingredient in Top Choice is the same thing used to make flea and tick collars for dogs so it is completely kid and pet safe; however, the FDA requires that it be purchased and applied by a licensed pesticide applicator (like me!).

The only catch is Top Choice comes with a fairly hefty price. But if you have had a history of fire ants and want to be rid of them for good, Top Choice is the way to go. Let me know if you want an estimate.

The other option is to treat each individual mound with an insecticide labeled for fire ants as they pop up. This method is less effective as the mound usually just relocates to a new spot.



Grassy Lawn Weeds in Charlotte NC

Now that the usual spring weeds (like clover, chickweed, etc) have been controlled by all of the great lawn care herbicide products available on the market, we are left with lush and thriving fescue lawns. BUT WAIT! We still see some areas of "different" grasses growing in our deep green fescue lawn.

Unfortunately, we still have grassy weeds that cannot be controlled by a selective herbicide that won't also kill the good fescue grass. Here is a list of the most common we are seeing right now.

Poa trivialisPoa trivialis is a perennial weed that will come back each year. It stands out in fescue lawns as a lighter shade of green and grows a bit faster/taller than fescue. It favors shady and moist areas. Seed from this weed can lay dormant for years and germinate when conditions become favorable and there is low competition. The best treatment for these patches of weed is to apply Round Up to the plant and replace with new fescue sod. 

 Annual ryegrass

Annual ryegrass usually is the result of using hay straw during the fall season when mulching a newly renovated turf area. This weed is a light shade of green and quickly grows taller than fescue a day or two after mowing. Annual ryegrass will die off as we get into hot temperatures in May/June. Its best control is to mow it frequently so it does not produce new seed heads and let it die off on its own.



Spring- green grass and weeds!

Some very important lawn care treatments will take place over the next month. We will put out the first pre-emergent treatment the first week of March. Right now soil temps are in the low 50's, crabgrass can germinate when soil temps get around 60 degrees. This year we will be using Barricade pre-emergent for crabgrass control, its known as the strongest (and most expensive) pre-emergent product. I will also be spraying lawns to get rid of any broadleaf weeds (like chickweed and henbit- see pics below) out there. You will get a lawn sign notifying you that this was done, for liquid applications you want to keep kids and pets off the lawn at least until its dry.

There are a lot of factors (mostly weather) that can reduce or increase the effectiveness of any pre-emergent or weed control we use. For those of you that did have weed breakthroughs last year, I’ll be making adjustments to application rates, timing, and products to try to increase the effectiveness of the treatments.

The Spring green-up of the grass also signals the time for weeds to break through. Broadleaf weeds like chickweed and henbit are easy enough to control (we hit em hard with herbicide) but sometimes we see the nastier ones like poa annua that are not so easy to control. Here is a description of some of the common weeds we are seeing now.

Poa Annua

(aka annual bluegrass) is one of the most difficult weeds to control. On the west coast you will find Poa on beautiful golf course greens. Here in the Carolinas, it is a nasty invasive weed in our lawns.

Poa germinates in the Fall, around the same time we are renovating lawns, and starts appearing in early Spring. It produces massive seed heads in April/May and then completely dies out when it warms up in May/June. Poa seeds can lay dormant in the soil for 10-15 years and then suddenly pop up as soon as an opportunity arises (thin areas of turf or not yet established new grass). I’ve seen it every year especially in the lawns that were heavily renovated for Bermuda. In these cases we worked the soil over so much with our aerators that any dormant seeds were brought to the surface and germinated the same time our new grass was coming in.

Once it starts growing it produces dense seed heads and is unsightly in the yard. There are some options to take to control Poa. If you want to get rid of your Poa Annua RIGHT NOW, we need to remove the weed areas and lay new sod. Unfortunately this is also the most costly option. The second option is to wait it out until the Poa dies off on its own in May/June. Then we can apply an extra pre-emergent treatment in August to prevent the Poa from germinating in the Fall. Also, a newer herbicide called ProGrass can be applied in the fall but perfect timimg is crucial for this to work. I can see improvement on the lawns that got this treatment last year; however, this does not give 100% control right away. It takes several years of this process, as well as promoting healthy turf,  to eliminate poa annua.





Upcoming Lawn Care Treatments

Here are the treatments going on this month:

Liquid Fertilizer and Broadleaf weed control– Premium Program. All of the broadleaf weeds that run rampant in the springtime have already germinated and are lying low in the grass. If you look closely, you will see chickweed, henbit, and other cool season broadleaf weeds at their beginning stage. This treatment will knock out these weeds before they start to really grow, bloom, and produce seeds as the weather warms up over the next few months. Those in the Premium Program will also have an excellent fertilizer product mixed in to maintain some color now help your lawn green up quickly as the growing season begins. 

Liquid Broadleaf Weed Control– Basic program will get the liquid weed control described above without the extra fertilizer. We will also follow up during the spring with spot weed control spraying for any areas where weeds pop up for both Basic and Premium Programs.

Pre-emergent crabgrass control– Premium and Basic Program. I will be using a combination of pre-emergent products this year. We will start out in late Feb/early March (timing depends on soil temps) with a premium pre-emergent called Barricade that provides 6 months of crabgrass control. This will be followed up with an application of Dimension pre-emergent that also provides post-emergent control in case there is any weed break-through.

If you are on the Basic Lawn Care Program and want to receive any of the extra treatments, please contact me to discuss.