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How to Be Your Yard’s First Line of Defense Against Common ThreatsJanuary 16th, 2016 by
Who doesn’t appreciate a beautiful yard? A lush lawn graced by majestic trees and lovely shrubs is an inviting place for family and friends and a soothing sight for sore eyes after a long work day. A healthy, well-kept yard can even increase your property value.
But just like people and pets, the turf, trees, and shrubs in your yard can experience threats to their health and appearance from time to time. A little knowledge of common threats goes a long way toward early detection and effective treatment. Here are some of the common threats you should be on the lookout for.
Discoloration in Turf
Discolored spots in lawns are often a sign of a fungal disease or armyworm infestation. If you notice any unexplained discolorations, it’s a good idea to call in a reputable professional who can diagnose and treat lawn diseases, because some can spread very quickly.
- Brown Patch: Also known as large patch, this fungal disease usually shows up as brownish circular patches a few inches wide and can increase to a few feet. When left untreated, the center of the patch recovers, leaving a doughnut pattern in the turf.
- Dollar Spot: Another fungal disease, dollar spot is named for its silver dollar–sized patches. It can spread very quickly, so if you notice small, straw-colored spots, don’t ignore them.
- Pythium Blight: This fungal disease can be hard to spot when it first appears. It begins as small, sunken, circular patches that aren’t readily visible; the patches can grow to a foot in diameter. The telltale sign is an orange or gray discoloration with grass blades appearing greasy and matted. As the disease progresses, the blades shrivel and turn brown.
- Zoysia Patch: This fungal disease targets Zoysia when it’s coming out of winter dormancy. Initially appearing as tan-orange patches about the size of a dinner plate, the patches can quickly expand to 20 feet or more in diameter.
- Armyworms: These pests can affect any lawn, but an infestation is especially detrimental to Bermuda grass, doing major damage in just a few days. Whatever your turf type, be on the lookout for any of these three signs: rapidly expanding brown patches; the pest itself, which looks like a caterpillar; or birds flocking on your lawn—they are probably there feeding on the armyworms.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Accurate diagnosis is important. Different fungi require specific fungicides. Armyworms can typically be managed with the application of the correct pesticide. However, because some fungal diseases also present with brown discolorations, it’s best to get a reliable diagnosis before treating, especially if you don’t actually see armyworms.
Unwanted Vegetation in Lawns
From a lawn care perspective, a weed is anything growing where you don’t want it to, so one person’s weed might be another’s wildflower. Having said that, standard Atlanta lawn care treatments typically include weed control for vegetation that no one seems to want in their lawns, like dandelions. Two especially troublesome types of weeds deserve special mention:
- Moss: Moss can bring beauty and interest to a rock garden, but it’s a source of frustration when it grows where you don’t want it. It’s important to understand that an herbicide is not the solution, namely because the problem lies in the conditions that support moss growth—soil condition and moisture. A combination of compacted, heavy clay soil, poor surface drainage, and shade provides a perfect breeding ground for moss. Don’t waste time and money on chemicals—they’re better spent on correcting soil and moisture problems.
- Nutsedge: Aside from being unsightly, this weed, recognized by its triangular stem and star-like flower, can do some damage. It’s capable of fracturing concrete and forcing its way through asphalt. This one calls for an appropriate herbicide to prevent damage to walkways and driveways.
Threats to Trees and Shrubs
With woody plants like trees and shrubs, bugs are often the problem. Lawn care services that include ornamental tree and shrub programs typically treat for the most common threats depending on the type of tree or shrub and the season. If you don’t use a service or receive only lawn treatments, a watchful eye is your best defense.
Pay attention to damaged leaves, bark, and branches. In leaves, look for discolorations, holes, withering, or shedding (falling off when it’s not the right season). Inspect bark, stems, and leaves—both the tops and undersides—for bugs. If you see a lot of the same type of bug, you’ve likely found your culprit. Even if you don’t find bugs, you should not ignore the symptoms. You simply might be missing them, or the problem could be a fungus or other treatable condition.
Effective treatment depends on a correct identification of the problem, so it’s always best to contact a reputable provider of tree and shrub care who will make a diagnosis based on the pest or the symptoms. You can also test your knowledge about Atlanta lawn care with this quick quiz.
Your lawn, trees, and shrubs can’t tell you when something’s wrong. But knowing what to watch for can go a long way toward keeping them healthy and making your yard a place you’re proud to call home.
This article was crafted with the help of Arbor-Nomics Turf, an Atlanta expert in Lawn Treatment. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.