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July 11, 2012

The battle for a beautiful lawn

By April Lehmbeck
C & G Staff Writer

Getting that lush green lawn is tough, but keeping it can be even tougher if disease and pests take over the yard.

The key to tackling any lawn issue, according to the experts, is to properly identify the problem. Many times, it isn’t actually lawn disease that’s vexing a homeowner.

“A lot of people take dryness for a disease,” said Sean Hughes of Alternative Landscaping in Roseville.

“Watering is very crucial right now,” he said, adding that fertilizing is key as well. Hughes also recommends mowing on a high setting so that the lawn isn’t cut too short.

He said his company does a lot of consulting and rehabbing of lawns.

When it comes to keeping the lawn green, there are additional experts who know a bit about the turf war — namely, the people who tend the golf courses.

The Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association posted an informational piece on its website by Michigan State University professor J.M. Vargas Jr. about forecasting turf disease.

“One of the keys for the development of foliar diseases like dollar spot, brown patch, Pythium blight and foliar anthracnose is high humidity,” Vargas states on the news and information portion of the association website. “The temperature requirements vary for these diseases, but regardless of the temperature, they will not occur when the humidity is low.”

He goes on to mention other lawn diseases and when they thrive, including ones that take place during or after heavy rainfall.

Michigan State University has a good deal of information on a website called www.msuturfdiseases.net, including an identification tool for homes or golf courses that allows property owners to click the symptoms they are experiencing on their lawns to help identify the exact problem.

Some of the possible lawn diseases homeowners might face are fairy ring, summer patch, yellow patch, molds and more.

Another common problem is grubs, which can create extensive damage to a homeowner’s lawn.

Bordine’s Nursery, with multiple locations including one in Rochester Hills, has several care sheets on its website, including one on grub control.

Grubs can create large, dead areas of grass, so homeowners would want to tackle the problem quickly when it’s spotted. The grubs kill the grass because they feed on the root system and cause dehydration, according to the care sheet.

There are products that can be used on the problem, including organic ones, some working faster than others.

“To be sure the damage is actually being caused by grubs, some investigation will be necessary,” Bordine’s care sheet states. “Go to the edge of the affected area where the grass is just beginning to die and turn over a shovel full of dirt. Grubs will be easy to spot.”

Grubs aren’t the only invasive pests attacking lawns in Michigan. According to the MSU Extension, webworm moths, chinch bugs and Japanese beetles have been noted as lawn invaders this summer.

For webworm moths, which can kill off spots of grass, the extension recommends pouring three gallon of water with one ounce of dish soap on the area; if ivory white caterpillars come to the surface, that would confirm webworm is the culprit.

Sometimes, it’s the chinch bug that’s actually causing the damage, the website states.

Ultimately, whether it’s disease or pests, there are options for getting a lawn back to the deep green color many homeowners are hoping to achieve every summer.

Some problems need chemical or even professional treatment, while others might benefit from a fertilizer application.

 

You can reach C & G Staff Writer April Lehmbeck at alehmbeck@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1043.