Is Your Lawn Mower Turning Orange? You May Have Lawn Rust Problems

Orange color on shoes from lawn rust disease

My lawn was doing great. We enjoyed a wetter-than-normal summer and the temperatures have been warm, but not blazing hot. About three weeks ago, that all changed and we shifted into a normal hot and dry summer. If you live in the Midwest and your lawn has perennial ryegrass in it, you may have noticed your lawn mower turning orange after you mow your lawn. Your shoes also seem to have taken on an orange-ish sheen. This is all happening due to a common turf disease that has been aggravated into activity by a change in the weather—Lawn Rust.

Now, the first thing to know about Lawn Rust Disease is that the spores of this disease are already present in your lawn, as well as just about every other lawn in your neighborhood. The disease becomes active due to the environment, which lately is the perfect concoction for Lawn Rust to develop. Just like a fire needs three components to develop – fuel, heat and oxygen – diseases occur when three conditions are all present: pathogen, host plant and environment. Since those three were all present, Lawn Rust developed in the grass.

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The best way to tell if your lawn has Rust is to look at the individual grass blades. You can usually tell the areas where the disease is more prominent, since that area of your lawn will look slightly yellow. If you scuff your feet across the area, a cloud of orange dust will rise up from the lawn. Pick up a few of the grass blades and you will see orange colored spore sacks, called pustules, in parallel rows on the grass blade. Applying a disease control material at this time will have little to no effect on Lawn Rust, as the disease has run its course and is now producing “seeds.”

Treating Lawn Rust Disease is fairly simple, actually. The best thing to do if you lawn has Rust is to fertilize it to stimulate new growth, and provide it with about an inch of water per week. It is also a good idea to collect clippings for two or three weeks to reduce the number of spores that are left on the lawn. It may take a few weeks, but your lawn will look great again.

For more information about Lawn Rust Disease and ways you can keep your lawn healthy, contact your local Spring-Green professional.

Fertilizing Your Lawn in the Fall: Cool vs. Warm Season Grasses

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Is Fall a Good Time to Fertilize?

It all depends on what type of grass you have growing in your lawn.

If your lawn has warm-season grasses in it like Centipede, St. Augustine, Bermuda or Zoysia, you are at the latest possible time to fertilize your lawn. Many universities recommend that these grasses not be fertilized after the end of September since you don’t want to stimulate new, tender growth that could be damaged by frost. These warm-season grasses need to “harden off” or slowdown in growth as they begin to enter into their dormant period. If you still want to fertilize your lawn now, you could cause damage to your lawn that may not become apparent until next spring.

If your lawn has one of the cool-season grasses, like bluegrass, ryegrass, fine fescue or tall fescue, this is the best time of year to fertilize it. Fall is the time of most active root growth for these cool-season grasses. They need the food that the fertilizer provides to grow new roots. These grasses are better adapted to the cooler temperatures of fall and actually grow better at this time of year. In addition to lawn fertilization, fall is also a good time to core aerate your lawn as this process will help the roots grow better as well.

How Much Fertilizer Do I Need?

Depending on where you live, there may still be enough time to apply two applications of fertilizer this fall. You should space the applications apart by about 4 to 6 weeks. As far as the amount of fertilizer you should apply, generally speaking you should apply between three-quarters to one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. Determining how much fertilizer product you need to deliver requires the use of some mathematical equations.

The three numbers on a bag of fertilizer represent the percent by weight of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that is in the bag. So, if the bag has an analysis of 28-0-3, the bag contains 28% nitrogen, 0% phosphorus and 4% potassium. If your goal is to provide three-quarters of a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft., then divide .75 by .28, which equals 2.68 pounds of product applied per 1,000 sq. ft. If your lawn is 10,000 sq. ft. you will need about 27 pounds of product to supply three-quarters of a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.
Fall is rapidly approaching, which means that leaves will be falling soon and before we know it, we will be switching from lawn mowers to snow blowers. For this, I can wait.

If you hate math, leave fertilizer application to the pros. Get in touch with your local Spring-Green today!