University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Lawns & the 1998 Season

October 22, 1998

Although the growing season is not completely done yet for lawns, thoughts are already being directed at 1999 and avoiding problems of 1998. Here’s a quick review of a few of the major lawn problems of 1998 and ways to deal with them in 1999.

Poor rooting was an underlying problem for many lawns and turf areas in 1998. Cold, wet spring weather hindered root development, as the majority of root growth occurs in spring. Add to that a dry summer in many locations. While the weather cannot be controlled, there are ways to favor rooting of lawn grasses. These include avoiding excess nitrogen in spring, avoiding excess watering, core aerification, limiting traffic on stressed sites, and raising mowing heights.

Crabgrass flourished in many lawns this year. Fortunately, it is an annual weed, and dies each fall. Crabgrass prefers full-sun areas, invading thinner turf that is often mowed too close. Cultural methods to help prevent the return of crabgrass next season include raising mowing height and just following sound lawn care practices. Preemergence herbicides could also be applied next spring, with a target date of about the first week of May.

Patch diseases (Fusarium blight) were also common in 1998. Typical symptoms include crescent-shaped or circular patches of dead grass, often with clumps of green grass inside (often called "frogeye"). This problem is most common on recently sodded lawns (past 2-5 years) with soil, thatch, and sometimes over-management problems.

Management should focus on correcting underlying causes as a long-term solution, such as core aerifying and topdressing. In addition, avoid cultural problems such as mowing too short, overwatering, and heavy spring applications of nitrogen fertilizer. Overseed dead areas with perennial ryegrass/resistant Kentucky bluegrass cultivars next season.

Finally, white grubs were more common in 1998 as compared to the past few seasons. Most of the damage showed in late August and September. Trying to predict grubs problems for 1999 is very difficult. The best option would be to manage lawns properly to help assure healthy grass and monitor the situation closely to see if grubs do in fact show up, and then treat them if needed.


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