Guide to turf pests and diseases
There is nothing more annoying than insect pests ruining a pretty patch of land, grass, lawn or turf. Unfortunately, however, bugs are all too common. They easily find ways to infiltrate gardens, parks and campuses.
What is the most common damaging insect pest on turf?
There are different insect pests present in land that could be responsible for damaging your grass, but which one is the most common? The most common damaging insect pest of turf that you should be looking out for is white grubs.
White grub is the umbrella term that refers to the early stages of a plethora of species of scarab beetles, such as the may beetle, green june beetle and japanese beetle. Regardless of the variant of white grubs, they all look pretty similar, meaning they are easy to identify. They are small white larvae. Their size varies from an eighth of an inch to an inch and a half and they have thick white bodies that are usually curled up into a C-shape.
Usually, they can be found at roughly an inch below the soil surface. The thing that makes white grubs particularly problematic is the fact that they destroy the grass from the roots as they spend their time eating the roots, so the grass cannot grow and dies above the surface.
If you suspect that you might have an infestation of white grubs on your turf, it is recommended that you apply an insecticide to the specific affected area or contact a professional. The best time to administer your insecticide is during August. This will give you the best chance of controlling the situation.
What does lawn disease look like?
In addition to turf pests, your lawn and grass can also be affected by turf diseases. Although not uncommon, turf diseases are equally as inconvenient and damaging as grass and turf pests.
There are different types of diseases that can affect your turf and there are many contributing factors that can cause these diseases. In order to deal with the situation, you need to be aware of what exactly the problem is to accurately assess the control measures that you need to implement.
The most common contributors to lawn disease and dead areas of grass include things such as low quality turf, improper fertilization, lawn mowing issues, or general poor lawn management. However, all these things can be easily addressed to ensure your lawn returns to a healthy, lush green grass.
As there are a few different types of lawn disease, identifying what lawn disease looks like depends on the kind of disease your turf is plagued with. Some common indicators of lawn disease include brown patches, the presence of white powdery mildew atop the grass blades or red webbing on your grass.
Common lawn diseases in Canada
Although this sounds like the furthest thing from a disease, fairy ring is actually an extremely problematic issue for grass.
Fair rings can appear on almost any kind of grass, from bluegrass to bermuda grass. Fairy rings occur due to the presence of multiple fungi on the surface of your lawn. Multiple factors can contribute to the presence of this fungi, such as buried tree stumps, or excessive grass debris on the surface of the grass as the fungi thrives in areas of high organic matter.
It is relatively easy to identify fairy rings, especially mushroom fairy rings. The most common sign to look out for is the presence of mushrooms as they often form on the outer edge of these fairy rings. In addition, fair rings tend to present darker grass at the end of the ring than inside or outside of the ring. If you’re identifying these symptoms, you likely have a fairy ring problem.
Red thread is another disease that is not uncommon in Canada and is often present during spring or early summer as the conditions at that time of year allow the disease to thrive. As you’d likely expect, one of the main symptoms of red thread is the discoloration it causes the grass as it begins to take on a red hue as the disease takes hold of the grass. Another key symptom is that it may produce a thin red thread that binds the blades together.
Red thread can vary in size and can be found in grasses that are low in nitrogen. Size wise, red thread can present in patches anywhere as small as three inches to anywhere as large as ten inches. Although this is the most common size range, the affected patches can actually grow much bigger so it's important to deal with the issue as soon as you identify it.
Fusarium patch, which is often referred to as snow mold is another one of the most common turf diseases in Canada. Unfortunately, this disease can appear at any time of the year, although it most commonly appears after periods of snow after the snow has thawed. Its presence can be found in a multitude of different kinds of grasses, including meadow grass and fescues.
Symptoms of this disease will begin with small patches of grass that turn yellow and then brown as they die. Although they can be contained in these small patches and quickly rectified, if left untreated, these dying patches can increase to 12 inches in size. They can also develop fungal growth atop the grass which can often be confused with red thread.
If you suspect your lawn might be suffering from one of the above diseases or are seeing signs of similar problems, contact Forever Green to restore your lawn back to full health.
Common Canadian insect pests in lawns
In addition to the white grubs that have already been mentioned, there is also an array of other kinds of insect pests that can be found in lawns across Canada. Below is a list of some of the most common insect pests that can be found in Canadian lawns.
Chinch bugs are most active during the summer months so the damage that they cause is often misidentified as drought damage. Due to this, the problem is often identified later than desired, when the damage has already been done. It also means people treat the grass for drought damage as opposed to chinch bug damage so the root cause of the problem is not dealt with.
These bugs feed on your grass plants which removes all the nutrients from the grass itself. This subsequently causes the bugs to produce and release enzymes which turn your grass brown. This causes your grass to die.
Similarly to white grubs, leatherjackets are the larvae form of an adult insect. Leatherjackets are the younger versions of the European Crane Fly. They are most common in fall and spring as this is before they mature into their adult form, which do not actually pose a threat to your grass.
The signs of a leatherjacket infestation are extremely similar to a normal lawn disease as the grass turns brown and dies. However, in order to establish whether you have leatherjackets as opposed to a lawn disease you need to look under the surface of your lawn. If there are leatherjackets present, you will see a collection of long thick grey worm-like insects.
Another type of insect pest that is commonly found in lawns is the sod webworm. These pests are slightly similar to the previous two as they thrive on the surface of your grass as opposed to below the surface feeding on the roots.
Sod webworms most commonly strike in early spring as they feed on the grass blades. However, the damage caused by these pests is most notable during the summer months as the sun intensifies the damage caused to the affected plants as the webworms have already damaged the crown.
Cultural practices to reduce the probability of lawn disease
Unfortunately, the presence of pests and diseases is common across Canada. These are issues that affect lawns, parks and fields everywhere. They are undoubtedly an annoyance that requires time and money to rectify. However, you can get ahead of the game and implement cultural practices to prevent diseases from developing.
Water is one of the key contributing variants to a healthy grass. You need good watering techniques to ensure the health of your plants and grasses. If there is too much water in your soil, there will be no aeration and the roots won't grow. Equally, if the grass receives no water, it won’t be getting the nutrients it needs.
It is therefore important to assess the kind of grass you have and the water intake it requires. Once this is done, set up a system or routine that will allow you to provide the perfect conditions for your grass. Water management is one of the most integral things to get right to allow your grass to thrive and avoid disease.
Determining the type and amount of fertilization that your lawn needs is extremely important. Although most tufts require fertilizer to supplement its iron and nitrogen intake, too much any particular thing can jeopardize the health of your grass. Too much fertilizer could lead to the growth of fungi such as leaf spot, creating more problems for your plants.
A good rule of thumb is to apply 4-6 pounds of fertilizer per every 1,000 square feet of lawn once per year. For optimum results, apply your fertilizer when your grass is at the height of its growing stage.
How to fertilize your lawn to get the best results
It’s important that you mow your grass at the recommended mowing height as it will give you the best chance of avoiding disease. It ensures the grass is long enough to contain the nutrients needed to thrive.
Moreover, the frequency at which you mow your lawn should be considered. You never want to cut off more than a third of the blade length so observe how fast your grass grows and this will inform you as to how often you should cut it.
If your preventative measures have not succeeded, contact Forever Green to seek expert help.