Lawn Diseases: Caring for Warm Season Grasses Like Centipede Grass

Lawn disease solutions for warm season grasses

I recently attended the South Carolina Landscape and Turfgrass Association annual conference and tradeshow in Columbia, SC for the second year now. Since I’ve lived most of my life in northern Illinois, I always welcome the chance to learn more about warm-season grasses, and this show provides some appreciated insight.

Warm Season Lawn Disease: Centipede Decline

One of the presentations I attended was about warm-season grass disease. Centipede grass is grown in many home lawns throughout the South and requires less fertilizer than many other warm-season grasses—it’s also prone to two diseases: Large Patch and Centipede Decline. The speaker, Dr. Bruce Martin from Clemson University, explained that Centipede Decline is considered a man-made disease, often brought on by homeowners who seem to follow the “if a little is good, a lot is better” school of thought on centipede grass care. Too much water, improper mowing and too much fertilizer will often lead to this lawn disease. It is more of a condition brought on by too much outside stimulus.

When speaking with our franchise owners in the southern states, they’ve told us that several homeowners have contacted them for help after they have tried and failed at caring for their own Centipede grass lawn. At that point, it is an uphill battle to get the lawn back into shape. Fortunately, our owners have the experience and knowledge to help improve these warm season grass lawns.

Warm Season Lawn Disease: Large Patch

Large Patch disease (formerly known as Brown Patch) occurs in the cooler weather of fall through early spring on warm-season grasses. It can infect Centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda and Zoysia grasses. (Brown Patch, in contrast, occurs during the heat and humidity of summer and is often found on Tall Fescue lawns.) Large patch appears mostly in circular patches that are yellow to tan in color. They start off small—2 to 3 feet in diameter—but can quickly expand to 10 feet or more in diameter. The patches can grow together to form even larger patches, which is where it gets the name “Large Patch.”

To determine if Large Patch is happening on a lawn, you have to look for spots or lesions on the grass plants. It may be necessary to peel back the dead, older leaves to see the lesions. Disease-control materials are available to treat this lawn disease, but the treatments need to start in the fall when soil temperatures fall to about 70 degrees.

Not only were there sessions on warm-season grasses, but there were also sessions on tree care, such as caring for palm trees. South Carolina is known as the Palmetto State, named for the Sabal Palm that grows along the coast. The botanical name for the Sabal Palm is Sabal Palmetto, which is where it got its name. It is more commonly called the Cabbage Palm and can grow as high as 80 feet. One of the interesting things I learned about these trees is that the wood is soft and spongy, not dense like a regular deciduous tree. These trees were used to construct a fort during the Revolutionary War—the British became frustrated when their cannonballs would not penetrate the walls, but just bounced off… but I digress.

Spring-Green: Staying Up to Date on Lawn Care Research

Even though I have been working in lawn care for over 37 years, I always find that I can learn new information and enjoy attending these regional conferences. In addition to validating what I already know, I always learn new techniques and recommendations. There is a good deal of research on turfgrass being done at universities across the United States, and staying up to date on the latest information is a value to our franchise owners—especially in regards to the customers that they service.

Want to learn more about warm season grasses or other problems affecting your yard? Ask your local Spring-Green professional to come out for a free estimate!