Brown Grass

Asked October 24, 2019, 10:45 AM EDT

My grass is brown and it's spreading. My neighbor has a similar issue but not as bad as mine. I have seen a few grubs but not enough to treat. I have a severe case of ants that I've treated for (they're still there) and this treatment was supposed to kill that as well. I put out mole killer but, honestly, I think I have a vole. Does this look like one of these problems or something else (nutrient issue)? What do I do or who do I call?

Wayne County Michigan lawns and turf lawn

3 Responses

Hello,

I’m sorry for the delay in an answer.

The overall pattern could be a disease issue, a problem with uneven irrigation, or a weedy annual grass that has now gone dormant. Grub damage could look like this, too but less than 5-10 grubs per sq. ft. wouldn’t cause this because healthy grass can outgrow that density of grub feeding. Voles leaves narrow winding trails in the grass. Moles leave raised tunnels below the surface that collapse when stepped on.

Things to check-

How much water was the grass receiving during the season? Grass needs ½ inch per week in 3-4 doses, up to 1-1 ½ inches in hot summers on sandy soils.

Are you watering early in the day so grass dries by nightfall? Long periods of wet leaves are prone to diseases

Did you apply a preemergent to prevent crabgrass? How many times was the grass fertilized this season? Vigorous grass is less susceptible to insects and disease.

Do an irrigation assessment to see if yours has dry spots or wet spots hat relate to he brown areas. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/how_much_water_does_your_lawn_irrigation_system_apply

https://water.unl.edu/landscapewater/measurement

Several insects could be at work here. Next season examine your turf for billbug, chinch bug and sod webworm — see the Management tab for each of these on how to diagnose-

http://www.msuturfinsects.net

Several browning diseases are listed here with details of diagnosis if you would like to try for yourself

http://www.msuturfdiseases.net

To submit a lab sample for diagnosis, cut a 6x6 inch sod sample with roots attached, and spanning a problem area so that brown and green grasses are included. Fill out a sample submission form and follow instructions to send it to MSU Plant and Pest lab. For a fee they will diagnose problems found in the sample including diseases, weedy grasses, and insects and include suggested management or controls. Here is the website- https://www.canr.msu.edu/pestid/

I hope this helps you resolve the mystery.

Thanks for using our service.

Hi Laura,

The grass has been brown like this all summer and it seemed to get larger and more prominent. I definitely have tunnels that collapse when stepped on but there are no piles of dirt at the end of the tunnels

I did try watering the front for a couple weeks and there was no improvement. How much - I'm certain i over watered. Typically, I do not water the grass. I live on ½ acre of land – it’s expensive and it’s environmentally unfriendly.

Leaves fell late last year and snowed early. So leaves were there over the winter – not in clumps that would cause this. The brown was present last year also, it’s just getting worse.

I applied an ant and grub killer. That’s it. I am concerned about fertilizers. Are the contents safe for kids and fully utilized by the grass? What do you recommend?

I have the little green worms in the area. TERRIBLE. They turn into little cream color moths.

I think I'll have to wait until next year to do the rest...unless we get a crazy Indian Summer. Thanks for the information and tips!!

Do an irrigation assessment to see if yours has dry spots or wet spots hat relate to he brown areas. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/how_much_water_does_your_lawn_irrigation_system_apply

https://water.unl.edu/landscapewater/measurement

Several insects could be at work here. Next season examine your turf for billbug, chinch bug and sod webworm — see the Management tab for each of these on how to diagnose-

http://www.msuturfinsects.net

Several browning diseases are listed here with details of diagnosis if you would like to try for yourself

http://www.msuturfdiseases.net

To submit a lab sample for diagnosis, cut a 6x6 inch sod sample with roots attached, and spanning a problem area so that brown and green grasses are included. Fill out a sample submission form and follow instructions to send it to MSU Plant and Pest lab. For a fee they will diagnose problems found in the sample including diseases, weedy grasses, and insects and include suggested management or controls. Here is the website- https://www.canr.msu.edu/pestid/

I hope this helps you resolve the mystery.

Thanks for using our service.

-Laura Sheffer, Advanced Master Gardener Volunteer, MSU/Extension, Michigan Plant & Pest Hotline 888-678-3464

Hello,

The little green worms that turn into moths sound like sod webworms, so please follow the recommendations here for those, next season

http://www.msuturfinsects.net/details/_/sod_webworm_11/

Also next season, please submit a turf sample to the lab when the tan grass is showing.

Once you have an a curate diagnosis from the lab, then you can soil test and follow the recommendations for feeding the lawn. Lawns need at least two applications of fertilizer per year to remain vigorous. The fertilizer is safe around kids when applied according to the label. And the lawn will utilize the fertilizer when it is applied in the recommended amounts, according to a soil test result.

You may conduct a soil test anytime the ground isn’t frozen. Instructions on purchasing a test kit and submitting a sample are here

https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/dont_guess_soil_test_get_your_home_lawn_and_garden_soil_test_kit_today

The mole tunnels are always present, and can be managed by following the recommended practices in these MSU links

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/moles_in_the_lawn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq1J5Y2R76c

We will be here in the spring to help you as you gather more diagnostic information.

Regards, Laura