How Rust Lawn Disease Develops and Ways to Prevent It

rust lawn disease

If you have ever walked across your lawn in the late summer and notice that your shoes have taken on an orange hue, there is a good chance that your lawn is suffering from a common turf disease called Rust. The lawn disease appears as orange or yellowish-orange powder on grass blades, usually in the late summer to early fall, although I have seen in develop in the spring.

How Does Rust Develops On Lawns?

The disease can develop on turf that is not growing normally due to several stress factors including drought stress or low fertility. It can also develop during periods of heavy rain fall. Cool nights with heavy dew is another environmental condition that can favor its development. On the other hand, warm, cloudy and humid weather followed by hot, sunny weather can also lead to its development. In other words, just about any type of weather we can get in August can benefit the development of Rust.

The grass species that are most prone to develop Rust include Perennial Ryegrass, Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Zoysia Grass and St. Augustine Grass. Not all cultivars of these grasses are prone to Rust, which is a good idea to check for the cultivars that are less susceptible by searching the NTEP or National Turfgrass Evaluation Program by going to www.ntep.org. Some of the data may seem too technical, but if you scroll through the various reports, you will find a list of the species and cultivars that were tested, where they were tested and the quality ratings of each cultivar.

Rust starts off as small. Yellow flecks on the grass blades and stems. Over time, these flecks grow and expand into raised pustules that are also orange or yellow in color. Once the pustules reach maturity, they will rupture and spread a powdery mass of spores across the turf along with your shoes, pants, lawn mower, dog, etc. In heavily infected areas, the turf can thin out and clouds of rust spores will rise as the turf is disturbed. Once all the spores are released, the pustules will turn black. The spores that are left behind are present to re-infect the turf once the optimal environmental conditions return.

Preventing Rust On Your Lawn

You can reduce the likelihood of the disease developing again by following good cultural practices for proper mowing, watering and fertilizing for the type of turf that is in your lawn.

Proper watering is one of the more critical cultural practices to help prevent outbreaks of Rust. Water deeply, but infrequently to encourage roots to grow deep. Allow the turf to dry out between watering and avoid watering in the evening hours.

There are disease control materials that can be applied as a preventative, but once the pustules form, it is too late to control the disease as it is at the end of its life cycle. Often, an application of fertilizer with nitrogen will stimulate new growth and help the lawn recover from the effects of the disease.

If you see that your shoes are turning orange after walking on your lawn, contact your local lawn care professional at Spring-Green to have your lawn checked for Rust. Spring-Green will develop a program that combat the effects of Rust.

The Basics of Lawn Care: Aerating, Overseeding, and Fertilizing

On Page Seeding

Like many people across the country, Mr. Roy wondered how to reclaim his thin, bare lawn after an especially harsh winter, so he sought the advice of Spring-Green’s authority on lawn care, Harold Enger. Read below to see how you, too, can thicken up your grass and get your lawn back.

Question:

“My lawn is very thin and has some bare spots after this hard winter. What do I do to thicken up my lawn and fill in the bare spots?”

Mr. Roy, thank you for sending in your question. I would not be doing my job if I didn’t tell you that you should contact Spring-Green and request a lawn evaluation. You can visit our website at www.spring-green.com or call (815) 436-8350. If you prefer to attempt to do the work yourself, here’s what I suggest:

Step 1: Core Aerate

Rent a core aeration machine from your local hardware store or rental center. This machine travels across the lawn, removing plugs of soil and thatch and leaving them on the lawn. This opens up the lawn to allow more air, water and nutrients to penetrate the soil, and it also helps to build the root system. The cores or plugs that are left will dissolve back into the lawn with rain or normal irrigation.

Step 2: Plant Grass Seed

Following core aeration, you’ll have a good site for seed germination. I usually recommend seeding cool season grasses in late August to early September, but if your lawn is thin, then you may want to consider seeding this spring. There are a few considerations that you have to keep in mind. First, you cannot apply a crabgrass preventer as this product will keep your grass seed from germinating as well. Second, you cannot apply a broadleaf weed control for dandelions, clover or other broadleaf weeds until the new seed has germinated and has been mowed three or four times. Light, frequent watering is the best for new seed. If you plan to seed your entire lawn, you may be disappointed with the results if it cannot be watered. I recommend a blend of 70% Perennial Ryegrass to 30% Bluegrass. Most hardware stores carry seed, and this is one area where you don’t want to look for the cheapest price. Buy good, quality seed.

Step 3: Fertilize Your Lawn

Applying fertilizer will help thicken up the lawn by stimulating new growth. As with grass seed, get a good quality fertilizer. Although there are regulations in Illinois that prohibit the use of fertilizer that contains phosphorus (the middle number on the fertilizer analysis) you are allowed to use it after seeding. If possible, use a fertilizer with an analysis of 14-14-14. Read the label that comes with the bag to ensure you are not over-applying the product.

Conclusion

In addition to following the above order, you want to follow good cultural practices, too. Mow at 2.5 – 3 inches in length, leave the clippings on the lawn after mowing and do your best to supply 1 inch of water to your lawn at least once every other week. In my experience, I usually try to talk customers out of seeding in the spring so that the weeds can be kept in check throughout the spring and summer, then, it makes sense to aerate and overseed in the fall. The fertilizer you apply now and throughout the summer will help to thicken the lawn and get it in better shape for the fall. Or, as I said earlier, contact Spring-Green and let us do the work for you!