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Diagnosing Lawn Disease

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist

You've got silver dollar-size spots of dead grass, yellow patches, and brown spots surrounded by intense green growth in your lawn. All signs point to lawn fungus; or do they?

Lawn fungus is a common woe. But there are actually many non-disease problems that have symptoms similar to those of grass fungus. Before you diagnose, consider the following possibilities.
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Pet Problems

Dog urine burns lawns, creating little patches of dead turf that can look a lot like the effects of lawn fungus. If you've got a dog, check to see if the brown areas green up with heavy watering. If they do, blame Fido, not fungus.

Lawn Fertilizer Burns

Nitrogen can injure your grass. Apply too much, and you'll burn your whole lawn the same way dogs burn patches with their nitrogen-rich urine. If there's a possibility that you went overboard on your last fertilizing, grass fungus may not be the reason for the dying grass.

Grass Insect Infestation

Bugs can harm your lawn, and in many cases it can look a lot like lawn fungus. Get up close and check for insects. If you can pull any of your grass out in chunks (a classic sign of grubs), or can see little guys crawling all over, chances are they're the problem.

Nutrition Shortfalls

Lawns need nitrogen and iron. If you have a lawn that is yellow and thinning in patches, poor nutrition may be the culprit. Most fertilizers will give your lawn a good dose of both of these nutrients, but if you haven't been feeding your lawn enough, you should be suspicious of nutrient deficiency.

Diagnosing lawn disease can be a tricky matter. The surest method? Send a sample to your county extension office. They'll not only tell you what you've got, but also how to kick the problem.

About the Author
Dawn West B.A. holds a B.A. in English from Harvard University and teaches writing at Oregon State University.

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