As with all things, prevention is always most certainly better than cure, and the same is true with our lawn care. Preventing lawn diseases from ever establishing in our lawns is all part of a good lawn care regimen which focusses on maintaining a healthy lawn year round. Good lawn health not only gives us a lush beautiful lawn to enjoy, but also naturally prevents many problems from ever occurring - such as lawn diseases.
The origins of many lawn diseases lay naturally dormant, or in otherwise very minor occurrence within our soils. Its only when we give these diseases the chance to flourish under optimum growing conditions - that we then see an outbreak of lawn disease on our turf.
Some less common lawn diseases can be spread via contamination. As an example - in recent years there was a newly identified disease that was found in some vineyards. The people who visited these vineyards and walked through the affected soil, and then came home and walked across their lawns in these same shoes, then introduced this newly discovered disease to their lawns. Although rare, these cases have been documented.
Generally speaking, the most common lawn diseases are also the most easily preventable. So lets look briefly at how to naturally prevent lawn disease.
The number one cause of any lawn disease outbreak is watering lawns at late afternoon or night time. Much water applied to the lawn is left sitting amongst the thatch layer of the turf during the night, which in turn provides a perfect breeding environment for lawn disease, most especially during the warmest and hottest months of the year.
We should always try to complete all lawn watering at the beginning of each watering day. The earlier the better after the sun has risen is a perfect time to water our lawns.
An occasional afternoon watering after a very hot day is acceptable if necessary, and if our lawn soil and lawn health has dramatically been affected by the heat of the day.
The thatch layer of the turf is where much moisture is trapped, which in turf provides perfect conditions for lawn disease to thrive. We should always try to keep as much water out of this thatch layer overnight, but also we need to control the thickness and growth of this thatch layer throughout the life of our lawns.
Cutting the lawn nice and low, and scalping the lawn a little once a year, or every second year in the Spring is a good way to keep our lawn thatch under control. This is generally very safe to do on all warm season grasses including Couch, Kikuyu, Buffalo and Zoysia. The lawn will need a little extra watering for the couple of weeks following this procedure.
Alternatively we can hire a contractor to vertimow / dethatch our lawns properly, using specialised machinery to do the most effective job possible. Just be warned this is a very big and messy job, and not generally recommended for the homeowner to undertake on their own. Most contractors will not vertimow Buffalo grass due to its lack of underground runners.
Dethatching cool season grasses via scalping is never recommended - and could kill a cool season lawn.
Soil aeration will be necessary for lawns which are heavily compacted. A compacted clay based soil will naturally resist letting water freely drain away from the surface of the lawn… and as a result we will again be allowing excess moisture to sit in and around the thatch layer of the lawn for long periods of time, overnight, and through the warmest months as well. Which in turn can create perfect breeding environments for lawn disease.
If necessary, lawn soil may need to be aerated via the use of a lawn coring machine, or otherwise aerated by use of a garden fork which is dug into the soil and agitated so as to cause a lot of breaking up of the soil compaction.
A strong healthy lawn will naturally resist and fight off many possible outbreaks of lawn disease without us even recognising this was happening, and therefore we may never see any outbreak of lawn disease.
The same is true in opposite - a lawn which is weak and in poor health will be extremely susceptible to being attacked by lawn disease.
Maintaining a lush healthy lawn doesn't need to be difficult or expensive. Regular lawn mowing to suit the time of the year and the growing rates of the turf is essential. Equally vital is a year round fertilising regimen which feeds our lawns with nutrients - which is easy and cost effective when done properly. Pruning surrounding trees and bushes to remove excess shade will also ensure better lawn health through more direct sunlight.
Applying enough, and not too much water is important for each differing season of the year, and maintaining lawn thatch at correct levels will also ensure a healthy lawn.
Having the correct type of lawn is also very important, as choosing the wrong type of lawn for our needs or for the environment in which it will grow - will always result in a lawn in poor health which is always struggling.
We could of course continue in discussing all the methods to achieve a healthy lawn which will naturally fight off disease, but all of it always comes down to looking after our lawns throughout the year, and which is discussed throughout the pages of this website.
And as this article began, so too will it finish, in again quickly stating that the three simplest ways to prevent lawn disease in our lawns is to water correctly, and only in the mornings, to control the thatch layers in our lawns, and to look after our lawns with good lawn care practices. Do these things and it will be highly unlikely that we will ever have to deal with any type of disease in our lawns!