Proper fertilization can help prevent many turf diseases

July 07, 1996

Why has my grass turned brown in patches?

Turf diseases are prevalent at this time of year. The most common ones include red thread, dollar spot, brown patch and various leaf spots. Most of the time, especially if you have a blend of grasses in your lawn, the brown patches will turn green again when cooler weather arrives.

Many lawn diseases can be prevented with proper fertilization. Maintaining proper mowing height is also an important step in keeping your grass healthy and less prone to diseases and insects.

After wet periods your grass may be quite tall. Avoid the temptation to remove too much at one time: Only remove the top third of the blades at first; then, after a couple of days, mow at the proper height. If you leave the grass clippings on the lawn in between mowing, they'll add nitrogen to your soil.

My 10-year-old pine tree has developed some browning of the needles and did not show much new growth this spring. What's wrong?

General decline has been noticed on several kinds of landscape trees this spring and early summer. The primary cause has been the drought of last summer and the extreme winter weather. Evergreens on shallow, poor soils were drought-stressed last season and became more prone to winter damage this past year. Heavy snow loads also contributed to branch cracking and browning of branch tips this past spring. The recent wet weather has promoted many leaf diseases, the most serious of which affects dogwood and causes leaf and lower branch browning.

Lately I've noticed a bright yellow mold growing on my mulched flower beds. What is it and what can be done about it?

The recent wet weather has encouraged fungal, moss and algae growth on decks, walkways, house siding and mulched garden beds. The yellow mold you see is most likely a slime mold.

Fungal growths on bark mulch, such as slime molds, stink horns and artillery fungi, can be scooped up and disposed of if objectionable. Replace the old mulch and cover up any remaining mulch with a layer of fresh bark mulch. Pine-bark mulch is probably the best all-round choice. Hardwood mulches, on the other hand, are a poor choice for acid-loving plants such as azaleas and rhododendrons since they can contribute to manganese toxicity in these plants. Avoid piling wood chips next to your home because they may attract termites.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these or other gardening questions, call the center's toll-free hot line at (800) 342-2507 and talk with a horticultural consultant or listen to tapes covering the most common garden problems.

Checklist

Mulch gardens to reduce weeds and prevent soil compaction.

Remove water sprouts (those spindly shoots that come up from the base or crotches of branches) from trees and shrubs such as apples, peaches, flowering cherry, dogwoods and roses.

Mow the tops of noxious, difficult weeds, such as Canada thistle, to prevent seed formation.

Remove dead and spent flowers from your perennials and annuals to encourage continued flowering.

Pub Date: 7/07/96

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