Summer Lawn Care: KSU Horticulture Specialist Warns of Brown Patch Risk in Tall Fescue Lawns Amid Rising Temperatures and Humidity

By Trish Svoboda

As summer approaches, bringing with it warmer nights and increased humidity, many areas of Kansas and the Midwest may need to rethink their watering strategies for tall fescue lawns.

Cynthia Domenghini, a horticulture specialist from Kansas State University, explains that the weather patterns typical of summer often result in grass blades remaining damp for extended periods. This makes them more prone to contracting the disease known as brown patch.

Brown patch is a fungal disease that is common in turfgrass. Domenghini said, “With a severe outbreak, the fungus can spread down into the crown and cause plant death.”

The signs of brown patch can often be mistaken for drought symptoms. However, upon closer inspection of the grass plants, particularly around the edge of the affected area, the presence of tan spots with a dark halo typically indicates a brown patch infection.

Domenghini further explains that brown patch is a soil-borne disease. While it cannot be completely eradicated from a lawn, it does not spread from one lawn to another.

She offered these tips to reduce the chances of your lawn getting brown patch:

· Opt for watering in the early morning instead of the evening, and do so only when necessary. This reduces the duration for which the grass blades remain damp.

· Follow the fertilization guidelines specific to your lawn. Refrain from fertilizing when brown patch is active.

· When seeding, follow recommended rates.

· Grass situated under trees tends to retain moisture for longer periods. To mitigate this, consider using a mulch ring around trees to prevent grass growth under the tree canopy.

“Fungicides can be effective to prevent brown patch, though the most commonly used products are expensive and typically only available in large quantities,”

Domenghini said. “Preventative fungicides are recommended if you want a blemish-free lawn, beginning in mid-June through August, but this does get expensive.

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