‘Lawn’ and ‘disease’ are two words no one likes hearing together, evoking images of scarred and patchy lawns and large repair bills! And with our milder autumns and winters, we’re seeing a lot more disease than we did in the past. In fact, what used to be regarded as a seasonal problem can occur
at unusual times of the year. However, I want to reassure you that disease is not the end of the world, and that you can do a lot to reduce its impact on your lawn.
First of all, let’s get this into perspective. The word ‘disease’ really applies to a natural phenomenon that happens in all gardens. Any gardener knows that plant diseases are as inevitable as the autumn leaves falling from the trees. It happens, and it happens to lawns too. I think the word itself is half of the problem, suggesting something terrible and fatal rather than what can often be a temporary nuisance at worst.
However, it’s true to say that we’re noticing lawn disease more due to the changing climate. Harsh winters are good for eradicating disease but we don’t seem to have many of those these days. So as a result you’re quite likely to see problems like red thread in the middle of the winter – something that would rarely have happened a few decades ago.
Now, I’m not suggesting you should just shrug your shoulders and give in! Disease may be natural and to some extent inevitable, but it still indicates a lawn that’s not quite as strong and healthy as it could be. And that’s why people, correctly associate lawn diseases such as red thread with poor nutrition. However, there’s a problem about this too…
Jack Sprat could eat no fat; his wife could eat no lean…
And you know how the rest of it goes. The same thing happens in lawns. What’s good for sorting out an attack of one disease can simply encourage another! And this certainly goes for feed-related cures. Feed your lawn as part of your attack on red thread in autumn and you can then find fusarium starts to thrive!
So, while feeding is essential in keeping your lawn healthy, it won’t always by itself put right disease problems. The solution is to keep doing all the other essential lawn care jobs as well. By maintaining a balanced year-round care programme, including soil aeration and thatch scarification, you will have a much healthier environment for strong grass growth.
There are some useful things you can be doing right now to keep your grass strong and disease-resistant.
Make sure you regularly clear any fallen leaves and twigs. And as your grass will still be growing, make sure your mower blade is good and sharp – torn grass is vulnerable grass.
You will be planning an autumn feed anyway – so always try and use a low Nitrogen feed that has some sulphate of iron; it’s great for keeping check on active red thread.
Know your diseases
This sounds obvious, but it pays to learn about them; some really shouldn’t give you too many sleepless nights, while others should be a reason to call your local lawn operative (who will have licensed access to effective chemical treatments).
For example, red thread damages the leaf blades and certainly looks unsightly to the eagle-eyed; but it rarely actually kills the grass. By contrast, fusarium can and will kill grass. And it will spread quickly too.
So, my closing message of reassurance? Plan next year’s lawn care now, and get to know the common diseases so that you can spot them early on. My book, Modern Lawn Care, makes both of these tasks easy to do, so what are you waiting for?