Turf Troubleshooter

Turf can be susceptible to a number of problems, but this guide should help you combat the most common issues.

Disease

Toadstools

It is very common to find toadstools growing in recently laid turf. However, these are nothing to worry about and take very little to get rid off.
They occur because when turf is harvested, the roots of the plants are damaged. Microscopic bacteria and fungi, present in all soils, then start to decompose the dead tissue once the turf has been laid. When you lay the turf, you provide the ideal conditions for the fungi to reproduce as the turf is usually warm and moist. Small brown toadstools will appear on the lawn, and while it’s difficult to say whether they are poisonous without accurate identification, we would recommend keeping children and pets away from them.

The best approach is to remove the toadstools by breaking the stems, until they disappear completely. Once the dead material has gone, the toadstools will no longer appear. These toadstools are a sign that your garden is healthy and they do not damage the turf. There is currently no treatment for them in the UK, other than little patience.

Red Thread

Red thread is one of the most common turf diseases in the UK. It is not very harmful and usually causes no permanent damage. It creates pinky red areas on the turf where the leaves are matted together. It does not effect the roots so it relatively easy to combat.

Red thread is commonly caused by low nitrogen and fertility in the soil. Therefore, soil preparation and maintenance is key to avoiding it in both new and established turf. Ideally your soil needs to be well structured and free draining, you may want to consider adding organic material as well.

A regular feed will also help ensure the correct levels of nitrogen in the soil. If red thread does appear it can sometimes resolve itself, but if there are persistent areas, a nitrogen feed should again rectify the problem. Just remember that the development of the disease is linked to the soil the turf is grown in, so good preparation is key.

Fusarium

Fusarium appears as irregular shaped brown areas of turf that sometimes have a pinky white fungal growth at the edge. Over a period of weeks these die back and leave bare ground. It is caused by fungi that occur naturally and flourish under certain environmental conditions, normally when the weather is humid and the turf is wet for most of the day.

In most cases the lawn will completely recover as the weather conditions change. This can take longer in the autumn or winter as the turf is not actively growing. There are steps you can take to limit its development. Firstly, be careful not to overfeed the turf and then make sure you mow regularly. This helps to keep the surface of the lawn dry as air will be able to move freely though the grass.

Pests

Leather Jackets

Leather jackets are the legless, grey/brown larvae of crane flies. In the late summer, the crane fly lays eggs in grassy areas, the larvae then stay underground during the winter and hatch and fly away in the following spring.

Leather jackets can cause serious damage to your turf. The larvae feed on the turf’s roots during the winter, limiting its ability to take up nutrients resulting in the death of the turf. At first, small brown patches will appear in the turf and you may notice birds taking more of an interest in your lawn than normal. The leather jackets live just below the soil and can be found by lifting up a portion of the turf.

The dead areas of turf that they leave behind are unlikely to recover so early treatment is key. They are also easier to get rid of in the autumn when they are small and young, before they have eaten their way through the entire lawn. The only control is biological through the use of a nematode. This enters the skin of the leather jacket and kills them.

Wormcasts

Wormcasts are the coiled deposits of mud that are sometimes found on the surface of lawns, often in the autumn They are caused by earthworms as they feed on the vegetation within the soil, and then excrete any soil that is eaten alongside.

They only cause problems when they are trodden into and across lawns. This then invites the development of weeds and moss. If the worm cast is dry, they can be easily brushed across the lawn to remove the build up of mud. However, they most commonly occur when the soil is damp, making this approach difficult to use. If this is the case, it is best to stay off the lawn until it dries out.

Earthworms are in fact very beneficial to your turf as they help to aerate and drain the soil, which in turn leads to a healthy lawn. So although unsightly, wormcasts are a sign that your garden is being well maintained.

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