Chinch Bugs, Gray Leaf Spot, Take All Patch or Brown Patch – Which Is It?

In Episode 6 of the Houston Grass Podcast, Michael answers questions about chinch bugs, gray leaf spot, take all patch, brown patch and the yellowing of your lawn that might be due to the chloramines in the city water supply.

Plus, are grass squares for sale the same as grass pieces for sale? Find out in this edition of the Houston Grass Podcast with Michael Romine. If you have questions or would like a quick quote for your project, call us at 281-431-7441.

Summary of Chinch Bugs, Gray Leaf Spot, Take All Patch or Brown Patch – Which Is It?

Good afternoon, everyone. This is Michael, and this is the Houston Grass Podcast. I’m sitting in my office here and it’s kind of dreary and been raining, which we’re real thankful for because we’ve been in a pretty severe drought. I think we’ve still got a ways to go to break that, but at least it’s proven that it can rain again.

Chinch bugs remain the number one topic. We’re talking to folks multiple times every day about chinch bugs.

People might, you might think fungus or something along those lines. And this time last year, that’s exactly what we were talking about because it was raining a lot. We were talking about gray leaf spot and how we needed to be treating with fungicide. But this year it’s definitely chinch bugs.

Signs of Chinch Bug Damage

Chinch Bugs Head for Drought-Stressed Grass

Chinch bugs are looking for drought stressed grass. So if your neighbor’s not watering at all or not watering enough, and they kind of get chinch bugs attracted in there. They they’ll move over to your lawn and find your dry spots too.

Or if you’ve got a broken sprinkler head or an area that’s just not getting enough water or you’re just being lazy about dragging the hoses out for the week those chinch bugs will move in there. They eat you out of house and home.

Like I said, they’re looking for that drought-stressed grass. You might mistake it for just a hot spot in the yard. And that very well may be what it’s, what it starts as. But like I said, the little gnat-looking chinch bugs will move in.

You should get down on your hands and knees to look for them in your grass. You’ll usually find them is where the healthier grass meets the dead looking grass. They’re, they’re moving out along the perimeters of those of those dead circles.

Chinch Bugs Can still Be Killing Your Grass Despite Recent Rains

There’s different life stages of them, but generally by the time you see them doing damage and they’re almost all entirely black. Their little white wings form an X. The tips of their wings are white and they kind of form an X as they fold their wings across their back.

They’re easy to kill once you identify them. Really the key with chinch bugs is identifying them early before they do a lot of damage. It requires getting down on your hands and knees around those dry looking spots. That is the really the way to do that. If I identify chinch bugs in my own yard, the first thing I’m going to do is use a spray insecticide.

Use Liquid Cyonara for a Quick Kill

We sell a product called Cyonara which is kind of a cute name, but anything that’s got the the Bifen in it is a good. We really like the liquids, especially the ones that screw on the end of your hose. You get an immediate results with that.

You spray the affected areas of your lawn a couple of times to break the cycle of them. That’s how you kill ’em once you’ve got them. But the way to keep them away and the best way to prevent them is to make sure you’re watering enough. If you’ve got a green, lush yard, chinch bugs are not for not coming in.

So make sure you’re getting that inch of water a week. We haven’t been getting much help from Mother Nature, but now we are. Time will tell what kind of rain we’re going to get.

You Have to Replace Grass to Fix Chinch Bug Damage

As those chinch bugs eat, they inject that toxin into the grass. If you’ve got chinch bug damage, the only thing that’s going to come back in those spots is weeds. Most of the time common Bermuda grass is what’s going to come up.

So you really need to scrape those areas to remove the dead grass, be it with a shovel or rake or a weed eater or a sod cutter. Prepare the ground and get some new grass down. That’s the fix. Unfortunately there’s no magic spray or no amount of fertilizer that will bring your damaged grass back most of the time.

Yellowing Grass Caused by Irrigation

Another thing that we are seeing right now is just general yellowing of grass. I’ve actually noticed it around my office. I don’t see it at my house right now because I did fertilize there in mid-summer. I did not do that here at my office.

Randy Lemmon mentions several different things that can cause yellowing of your grass. If you see your grass getting light green to lime green, maybe even a little yellow, the likely cause is that we’ve all been having to water so much.

We haven’t gotten rain, water that the grass really needs. So we’ve been using irrigation water. And when you’re using irrigation water for those of us who live in the city, uh, they’re putting chloramines in the water and that accumulates over time. I do know that just excessive, prolonged exposure to just irrigation water can cause this yellowing. This is especially true if you haven’t fertilized according to the schedule we put out.

Yellowing Caused By Missed Fertilization

You should fertilize with Superturf in the late spring, and then you do it again in the summertime. If you miss that, you’re losing that nitrogen in the grass and it really needs another another kick of it. You really need that extra dose of the Superturf if you want the greenest grass, you possibly can grow.

Fall Special Fertilizer will be coming out probably in late September for an October or November application time. But it really needs that summer application of Superturf to keep that grass as lush and green as it can be.

Could Take All Patch Cause Yellowing

There is another thing that we’re not hearing much about that could cause yellowing of your grass and that is take all patch or take all root rot. It could be mistaken for some of these other causes we’ve talked about.

Take all patch is a fungus that can attack St. Augustine grass. I’ve linked to a Texas A&M Extension article about take all patch. A number of fungicides are effective against take all patch including the Heritage G, which we sell at our office. It will do the trick. Other effective fungicides are listed in the article. We’re not hearing much about take all patch this year, but it’s something for you to be aware of.

The End of the Drought Could Bring Gray Leaf Spot

We’re not seeing gray leaf spot at all this year. That’s usually a huge problem during the wetter years when we’re getting uh, seasonal rains and we’re not in the drought. Gray leaf spot is a fungus. It just doesn’t stand a chance right now with the lack of rain. But in any other year, gray leaf spot would be something to look out for.

Like take all patch and brown patch, gray leaf spot can be treated with the Heritage G. We sell Heritage G at our office or you can get online. But again, gray leaf spot has not been a problem so far this year.

The indicator of gray leaf spot is those brown little dots that start to appear on the individual blades of grass. Then it spreads to the whole blade and the, the whole blade will kind of disappear.

These are some of the culprits for yellow grass. In the late summer, lack of fertilizer and excess irrigation water are probable causes 90% of the time.

It’s Time to Think About Brown Patch

Another thing I would like to talk about here is brown patch. Brown patch is something that starts to appear usually in late September at the earliest and more commonly in October and November. You can recognize it by the yellow circles that you get in your yard.

We like to tell people to treat preventatively with Heritage G in late September. Heritage G is a granular fungicide. You put it out at the preventative rate, which is a pound and a half per thousand square feet. That’s half the application rate you’d use if you were treating existing brown patch. So it doesn’t take much to put the brakes on this stuff. If you put it out preventatively, a lot of people have a lot of success. It’s really easy to prevent brown patch. Whereas getting rid of it is a bit more of a chore.

We’re here in August and summer’s coming to an end. Before we know it we will be looking at at fall and brown patch is a fact of life with St. Augustine in this part of the world. If it stays as dry as it’s been, I don’t think we’ll see as much of it this year. But once we get those cooler nighttime temps and we’re still seeing the mid seventies to low eighties for daytime temps, you will really start to see the brown patch kickoff.

So if you see any little yellow circles in your yard, go ahead and treat with Heritage G or another fungicide to stop it. Brown patch will likely start small in your yard, especially in the lower spots that hold moisture a little bit longer. You treat it once and then you treat again three weeks later and you’ll put the brakes on that stuff. So be on the lookout.

Can You Get St. Augustine Grass Seed for Sale

We’ve seen a trend of people asking about St. Augustine grass seed. There is no such thing as St. Augustine grass seed. The Raleigh St. Augustine does produce a seed head, but no one sells that. There is no commercially viable way to harvest that seed and bag it up and sell it. It just doesn’t exist.

There are grass seeds out there for the cool weather grasses in the Northern part of the United States. The way they grow grass is with seeds. In our part of the world though, there are some Zoysia seeds available for sale. I believe one is the Compadre variety. I believe it produces a seed that you can buy.

Another seed you can buy is common Bermuda grass. When you see that stuff that they spray out on the roadside or on big commercial sites, that’s a slurry of nutrients with common Bermuda grass seed, which is basically just a glorified weed. But it does cover the dirt up and it is erosion control. But there is no such thing as a commercially available St. Augustine grass seed.

Can I Save Money by Using Grass Plugs or by Checker-Boarding Grass Pieces

You can buy St. Augustine grass as the plugs at a few places. Plugs is the way we plant grass at our farm. But we have found that using plugs is not a great way for homeowners to install a lawn. As a matter of fact, it’s probably the worst way a homeowner can plant grass. To save money, people sometimes try checker-boarding or something like that.

However anytime you don’t cover the bare dirt with grass pieces, you’ll be fighting with the weeds. Weed seeds that are naturally occurring. They’re blown around with the wind or dropped by birds. Those weed seeds will germinate on that empty blank canvas of dirt that you’ve got out there before the St. Augustine gets a chance to cover the area to keep those weed seeds from germinating.

Once you have full coverage with St. Augustine grass, the St. Augustine is so thick that it prevents weeds from getting a foothold. Most of the time, the sunlight can’t penetrate through to the dirt and the weed seeds don’t get a chance to germinate.

So that’s why we strongly suggest 100% coverage when you’re planting grass. We do not recommend using plugs or spacing the grass out in a checker board pattern or something like that. In our opinion, you’re kind of setting yourself up for failure if you don’t cover your bare dirt with grass.

You don’t see grass plugs for sale hardly anywhere. I guess I’ve seen some online. I think I’ve seen them at Home Depot in the little plastic things. But I don’t even want to think about what it would entail trying to get something like that going.

Doing One Section of Your Lawn at a Time Is a Better Strategy

If it’s a budget thing, normally what we recommend, just go out away from your house with solid grass sod as far as you can to keep the erosion at bay. Maybe just do the focal areas and get all that established. Give it some time. Save up and do further away from the house when you have the money.

But we highly recommend a hundred percent coverage on the grass because it’s just not worth the battle with the weeds that you’ll have. Unless you have a chemical applicator’s license, you won’t be able to get your hands on all the different chemicals that it will take to keep those weeds at bay.

Are There Grass Squares for Sale

The last topic I have here to talk about today is that people have been asking about grass squares versus pieces. When people call and talk to us, we refer to grass pieces, and a grass square is the same thing.

I have actually never seen a piece of grass that comes from any farm that is not a 16 inch by 24 inch rectangle. So when people say a grass square, what they really mean is these 16 by 24 inch rectangles. There are a few farms that sell grass pieces in larger sizes. We call those grass slabs.

They’re basically three pieces together. The grass slabs are 24 inches wide by 48 inches. But I think there’s only one farm around here in this part of the world that I’ve ever seen those come from. So most everybody uses the 16 by 24 inch rectangles. But we refer to them as pieces of grass around here.

We do sell the Raleigh St. Augustine grass by the piece and by the half pallet and pallet. Whereas all the other grasses, the Palmetto St. Augustine, the Bermudas and the Zoysias that we sell, we don’t sell by the piece. We sell them by the pallet only, just because we don’t sell near as much of that as we do the Raleigh St. Augustine. So grass squares equal grass rectangles equal grass pieces in the Houston area.

So, uh, that is all I can think of today. Let’s hope the rain, uh, the rain keeps it up and everything in nature out there green back up before we get into another winter here. Thanks for listening.

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