Central Florida homeowners often spend a great deal of time and energy keeping their lawns lush and green all year long. While lawn problems can crop up at any time of year, the wet and humid summer months can create the perfect conditions for pests and diseases. Recognizing problems before they get out of control is key to keeping your yard healthy and beautiful.
There are things you can do to prevent lawn problems this summer. Stressed lawn grass is more susceptible to pests and diseases than healthy grass. Many homeowners apply excessive amounts of fertilizer, water too often or cut grass too short, all of which create the kind of stress that invites trouble.
If your yard shows signs of damage, it is important to identify the problem before attempting to treat it. Examine the damaged area of the grass early in the morning to determine if insects are present. Take a minute to look at the roots, which are often damaged by chinch bugs, a common Florida pest. Large patches of brown, orange or yellow grass are an indication that disease is present. Once you have identified the problem, you can take the appropriate steps to treat it.
Take-all root rot is a common problem on warm-season turf grass, such as St.Augustine. It is most often seen during the summer months, when rainfall is high and usually on stressed grass. Take-all root rot is a fungal disease, affecting the roots of grass but not the leaves.
The early symptoms of this disease are areas of grass that are discolored, most often yellow or light green. These patches can range from a few inches in diameter to several feet across. The roots of grass with take-all root rot appear white, thin and have necrotic black lesions. As time goes on, these roots will turn completely black and rot and affected areas of grass are completely bare.
Gray leaf spot is another disease seen from late spring through the summer. The primary causes of this disease are excessive applications of nitrogen-rich fertilizer, over-watering, high humidity and prolonged bouts of heavy rain. Gray leaf spot causes tiny, greenish-brown spots to appear on grass leaves. As gray leaf spot progresses, the leaves develop larger spots that often have a velvety feel when touched.
Insects are also a problem during the summer here in central Florida. There are some things you can do to reduce your chances of infestations. Weed management is one of the most important aspects of insect control. Experts recommend pulling weeds by hand if possible to avoid contaminating the environment.
It is also essential to monitor your lawn grass weekly throughout the summer for signs of insects. Some pests are more common in our area than others. Southern chinch bugs are one of the most damaging pests of St.Augustinegrass. Sucking plant juices from infested grass, these pests injure your lawn and cause yellow or brown patches to appear. Typically, most chinch bug damage occurs along driveways and sidewalks but can sometimes be found in open sunny areas of the lawn.
Chinch bugs can cause extensive damage on your lawn if infestations are heavy, so it is often necessary to seek professional help to eliminate them. Mole crickets and white grubs are also common Florida grass pests this time of year, so watch for them as well.
You can reduce your chances of insect infestation by mowing frequently, using fertilizers sparingly and watering to avoid drought stress. In the summer, it is usually best to leave your grass a bit higher. Raise the mowing height to at least three inches to enhance the deep rooting process. When summer rains are frequent, you may need to change your watering schedule to keep the grass from becoming overly saturated.
Hopefully these tips will help you recognize any potential problems in your lawn before they become hard to control. Using proper cultural control methods will help you greatly reduce the likelihood of pests and diseases, keeping your lawn healthy for you to enjoy all summer long.