How To Identify & Treat Dollar Spot

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A lush, green lawn is the pride of any homeowner, but an unexpected intruder can disrupt the harmony of your outdoor space: dollar spot. Not only is this fungal disease an eyesore, it can rapidly spread across your lawn and infect healthy plants. This common lawn fungus can turn your perfectly manicured lawn into a patchy, unsightly mess if left untreated. In this blog post, we'll explore how to identify and effectively treat dollar spot in your lawn so you can maintain the vibrant, healthy grass you've worked so hard to achieve.

Life Cycle Of Dollar Spot

The life cycle of dollar spot fungus (Sclerotinia homoeocarpa) can be summarized as follows:

  • Spore dispersal: Dollar spot spores are dispersed by wind, water, and human activity.
  • Infection: Spores germinate and infect grass leaves when conditions are favorable, such as when the leaves are wet for extended periods of time.
  • Mycelial growth: The fungus grows inside the grass leaf, causing lesions to develop.
  • Sclerotia production: The fungus produces sclerotia, which are hard, dormant structures that can survive for several years in the soil.
  • Sclerotia germination: Sclerotia germinate and produce new spores when conditions are favorable.

The dollar spot fungus cycle is continuous, and the fungus can infect grass throughout the growing season. However, the disease is most common in the spring and fall when conditions favor fungal growth.

Identifying Dollar Spot

Dollar spot is a fungal disease commonly affecting cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, and perennial ryegrass. It often appears as small, circular, straw-colored patches in your lawn. Dollar spot is more noticeable in the morning when dew is on the grass. As the day progresses and the grass dries, the symptoms may become less visible. Here's how to identify dollar spot:

  • Dollar spot typically manifests as small, round patches in your lawn, resembling the size of a silver dollar or a few inches in diameter. These patches can merge, forming larger affected areas.
  • The grass in these patches appears straw-colored or bleached, with well-defined margins. It may have a reddish-brown border, particularly on the outer edge of the patch.
  • A distinctive feature of dollar spot is the presence of lesions on the grass blades. These lesions are small, tan, or white, often with a reddish-brown border.

Treating Dollar Spot

Once you've identified dollar spot in your lawn, it's crucial to prevent its spread and help your grass recover immediately. Here are the most effective treatment strategies:

  • Adjust Your Watering Habits: Water your lawn in the early morning to allow sufficient drying time during the day, reducing the moisture that fuels the fungus. Avoid overhead watering, which can facilitate disease transmission.
  • Fertilize With Care: Apply a balanced, slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to maintain your grass's health and vigor without promoting excessive growth, making it more susceptible to dollar spot.
  • Enhance Air Circulation: Ensure proper airflow within your lawn by trimming overhanging trees or shrubs that cast shadows and by aerating the lawn to reduce thatch buildup.
  • Consider Fungicide Application: If the infection is severe, or you're dealing with recurring outbreaks, consider using fungicides labeled for dollar spot control. Consult with a professional or carefully follow the product's instructions.
  • Reseed Bare Patches: After successfully controlling the disease, reseed any bare patches with healthy, disease-resistant grass seed.
  • Optimize Mowing Practices: Adjust your mower to a higher cutting height to provide shade for the soil and reduce stress on the grass. Ensure you mow when the grass is dry to avoid further disease spread.
  • Regular Lawn Care: Consistently maintain your lawn with practices such as dethatching, removing debris, and addressing any signs of disease promptly.

Preventing Dollar Spot

Preventing dollar spot is crucial to keep it from taking hold in your lawn and is often the most effective approach. Follow these steps to keep your lawn from favoring the conditions needed for the growth of dollar spot:

  • Routine Lawn Inspections: Conduct regular lawn inspections to detect any signs of dollar spot, enabling prompt action. Be sure to diligently inspect your lawn as you go through the routine care to keep your lawn in optimal condition.
  • Efficient Water Management: Avoid overwatering and ensure the lawn has ample time to dry during the day. Deep, infrequent watering is ideal for disease prevention.
  • Optimal Fertilization: Follow a balanced fertility program to maintain grass health without encouraging excessive growth.
  • Select Disease-Resistant Grass Varieties: When seeding or overseeding, choose grass varieties less susceptible to dollar spot, such as perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, colonial bentgrass, and zoysia grass.

Professional Lawn Disease Control

Dollar spot is a challenging foe for lawn enthusiasts, but with proper identification and effective treatment strategies, you can reclaim your healthy, green lawn. By promptly addressing dollar spot when it appears and implementing prevention techniques, you'll maintain a vibrant, disease-free outdoor space that you can enjoy year-round.

Of course, if you want the very best protection against fungi and lawn diseases, nothing can beat a professional defense like what you get from Holmes Lawn & Pest. With the best practices and products available, we help ensure that your lawn stays healthy and disease-free all year long. Call Holmes today, or visit a lawn care provider near you for more information.

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