Drought and harsh winter weather has taken a toll on lawns throughout Texas leaving many homeowners wondering what can be done to restore turfgrass this summer.
“Last year we experienced severe drought conditions across the state and then winter featured some harsh freezes, particularly in North Texas and down through Central and South Central Texas,” said Young-Ki Jo, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service plant pathologist in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Bryan-College Station.
“Water restrictions during the drought also prevented lawns from getting sufficient moisture to sustain growth. Homeowners can take advantage during the spring by re-sodding or plugging turfgrass. This is the perfect time before it gets too hot.”
Above-normal turf losses to disease
Following last summer’s drought, Jo said precipitation returned to create a different type of stress – turfgrass diseases.
“This late-season precipitation promoted large patch disease caused by Rhizoctonia solani, a common fall disease that infects and decimates turf until plants go completely to winter dormancy,” he said. “During the past summer and fall, turf damage was more than usual.”
Jo said this dead turfgrass is likely visible this spring, and turfgrass sometimes never recovers even with sufficient fertilizer and water.
“Fertilizer and water may promote dormant grass to grow but will not make dead plants revive,” he said.
Take-all root rot disease
Take-all root rot, a fungal disease by Gaeumannomyces species, has also been appearing in Texas lawns among St. Augustine grass, Bermuda grass and zoysia grass varieties. Jo said the fungus survives in soil, roots and stolons for extended periods and infects turfgrass during warm weather and wet soil conditions.
“The fungus can be found in unhealthy grasses in damaged turf,” he said. “However, it can also be found in healthy-looking grasses near the same damaged turf area. Drought stress can exacerbate the symptoms of the disease. When turfgrass is already infected with the fungus, drought stress can cause infected plants to rapidly decline, leading to death.”
Fortunately, there are many fungicides available to control take-all root rot disease for homeowners. Many of these products labeled for the disease are available at lawn and garden retailers. The best time for application is the spring.
Jo said homeowners need to realize that dead areas of the lawn will not return to normal unless the dead plant material is removed and plugged with new turfgrass and a soil amender.
“Also, make sure these newly established areas are well watered,” he said.