Lawn Disease – two words no one wants to hear…

When I’m lecturing and I turn to the topic of disease, I see looks of panic cross the faces of the audience. I guess there’s just something about our ‘perfect’ green carpets being imperfect that really niggles. Or maybe its just because it can be so visible! Well, let me try to reassure you with some relevant facts about lawn disease.

First of all, the presence of disease does not automatically mean that your lawn is sick. And, as any keen gardener knows, plant disease is as inevitable as the leaves falling from the trees in autumn. So, for many gardeners it means that a little bit of lawn disease is simply going to happen; that’s just life.

However, it’s quite possible you’re noticing disease more than you did in the past. This is because it is more able to survive throughout the year thanks to our milder autumns and winters. So if you come across some lawn advice that claims this or that disease will only occur in this or that season, take it with a pinch of salt. Red thread in winter is quite a common sight these days!

There’s also some unreliable advice kicking around about the relationship between lawn feeding and disease. Yes, it’s true that under or over feeding can influence disease, but it’s not going to give you a neat scientific solution to the problem. Take two of our most common diseases – red thread and fusarium. Feed your lawn to keep red thread at bay and you’ll also be creating holiday-camp conditions for the fusarium! You see, to some extent disease is simply another part of Nature’s complex plan, and we can’t always pick and choose the bits that we want in our garden!

So the solution, as with most things lawn-related, is to maintain a balanced year-round care programme – and to remain vigilant; expect the unexpected! Also get to know the common diseases so that you use your time and resources to attack the really nasty ones. Red thread, for example, will damage the leaf blades and look unsightly, but it rarely kills the plant; fusarium, on the other hand, can and will kill the grass. And it will spread quickly too.

And how do you attack lawn disease? Well, sticking with red thread and fusarium, both are treatable with fungicides; but they can also be brought to a halt naturally by a change in the weather conditions. If you’re thinking of using chemicals, always consider hiring a professional; they have the right equipment, the best treatments – and they know how to use them effectively.

With a view to the approaching autumn … if you have red thread, this should/may die back as the weather gets cooler. But at the same time as it does, you may find fusarium starting to take hold, and that means you should adjust your feed by reducing the nitrogen content. Using sulphate of iron can also help to keep fusarium at bay.

Otherwise it’s just a case of keeping you lawn as healthy as you can. Healthy grass really is one of the most resilient of plants, and if you can live with the

occasional unwelcome intrusion on your otherwise green carpet, a healthy lawn will usually keep it to a minimum without any major intervention.

So, my closing message of reassurance? Plan next year’s lawn care now, and get to know the common diseases so that you know how to spot them. My book, Modern Lawn Care, makes both of these tasks easy to do, so what are you waiting for?

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