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disappearing grass

Posted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 10:28 am
by DebBvl
We are located in Barboursville, Virginia. Every year, we aerate and reseed, and every year, the grass comes up beautifully in my front yard, but it completely disappears on half of the lawn by July. We have taken away soil, added soil, humus, and other good things for grass seed, blended them all together and spread it over the affected area. Again, the grass came up beautifully and disappeared by July.

The lawn has no shade. We have purchased only Scott grass seed for lawns with no shade. We've evaluated every bag of grass seed sold locally, and have chosen only brands for sunny lawns and few weed seeds. We've had the ph of the soil tested 3 times and added more lime as specified, until the soil reached the best ph for planting seed. We purchased sod from a local store and that didn't live. We have sprinklers installed in the lawn. My neighbors do not have this problem.

Last year we purchased seed from Southern States and the pattern was repeated, with beautiful grass in the spring, and no grass in the summer. We also have sprayed weed be gone to keep out weeds, and all looked well until July.

The disappearance begins with the grass turning from dark green to a yellowish shade, then it turns brown and the next step is just dirt, no grass.

What could it be? What can we do?

Re: disappearing grass

Posted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:30 am
by lorijones
This is very strange but I am wondering if it has something to do with your watering practices. I sent your question to Ashton Richie from the Scotts Company to get his ideas and here is his response:
Lori, I do not have a quick answer for you. I will start by saying the cool-season grasses (bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue) get a range of problems when daytime temps are consistently in the upper 90's and higher and the nighttime temps are in the upper 70's along with high humidity. The fescue blends, like Scotts Heat-Tolerant Blue have a better chance. On the other hand, warm-season grasses like Bermuda and Zoysia thrive in heat (as long as there is not shade), but spend quite a bit of the year in winter dormancy in your neck of the woods. You did experience an especially hot late spring and summer this year.

Here are the summer problems:
  • 1) Lawn diseases like Brown Patch and Summer Blight start out as brown circles about a foot in diameter that can spread thru the lawn. Leaf Spot and Dollar Spot have black, brown or white spots on grass blade leaves that cause the lawn to thin and turn brown. Scotts Lawn Fungus Control helps if you catch the problem early.

    2) Lawn insects like chinch bug, sod webworm, cutworm thin the lawn and cause it to turn brown. Lawn moths flying from the lawn when you mow are a sign of eggs being laid for these worms. Ortho Bug B Gon MAX stops this problem.

    3) Grubs cause patches to show up in late summer with more problems in fall. Lots of Japanese beetles in the area during June and July are an indication that grubs will show up later in summer. GrubEx protects against this problem.

    4) Lawns need an inch of water a week, however if you set sprinklers to run each day to get that total 1 inch a week, you will have a shallow root system. You are better off watering a half inch twice a week. The alternative is to allow the grass to go dormant in summer.

    5) 4 or 5 feedings a year should be the max. In your area it would be best to put them down in March, May, Sept, Oct, Nov. Using a slow-release lawn food like we have at Scotts would be the best choice.
Hope this helps.

This might give you some things to watch for. Especially the watering issue. Shallow root systems lead to grass that cannot withstand extended periods of heat and drought.

Re: disappearing grass

Posted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 8:20 pm
by DebBvl
Thank you. I will follow up on all your suggestions. There is an article on this website regarding Summer Patch, and I was leaning toward thinking that was the problem. We've had this problem for years, enough for the spots to grow in diameter and just become one big spot with several little spots nearby. There was a description of the color changes that occur in the grass..."gray-green to light tan"...that sounds very familiar. It does take on a grayish tinge before turning to straw colored grass. The article mentions that Fescue is susceptible to the problem. We have been planting Tall Fescue for years, and it was supposedly disease resistant. Based on this article, I tried finding perennial Rye grass seed. Also, the fescue that I purchased to mix with the Rye has a small amount of Bluegrass in it, although none of the cultivars mentioned in the article. It is nearly impossible to find anything but Fescue here in central Virginia. I found both seed types at the local coop, not the big box hardware/gardening stores. There were also some fungicides mentioned that could be applied in the spring before the disease began to set in, but I did not know what products to find them in. You have answered that question. Thank you for your advice!