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 Post subject: Mystery Lawn Disease
PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 4:42 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 22, 2006 10:35 am
Posts: 7
Location: Flower Mound,TEXAS
Help! I'm a first-time homeowner and my lawn is driving me crazy! When we moved in last September, I noticed a brown patch on a slope in the front yard (Bermuda grass). But then winter came and the whole yard turned brown and I forgot all about it. Now it's summer and what was a small area has spread to about 1/3 of the lawn!

At first, I thought that I wasn't watering enough because it turns brown and dies. So I started watering an inch a week and I put down cornmeal in case it was a fungal disease. That was 4 weeks ago. But the brown areas kept expanding! So I got down on my hands and knees and saw that it was full of little black bugs. Hmm. They didn't exactly look like chinch bugs but what do I know, right? I've never done this before. So I treated it with diatomaceous earth. No change. And the bugs are still there. After catching a few in a jar I'm pretty sure they're big-eyed bugs, which I think are beneficial.

So now I'm back to thinking it's probably a fungal disease. Closer inspection of the dead leaf blades shows tiny black spots that rub off on your finger. So I treated it again with cornmeal two days ago.

Am I on the right track? If it is fungal, why didn't the problem go away after the first treatment with cornmeal? Any ideas? Suggestions? Maybe the big-eyed bugs are feeding on a pest that's killing the grass? Thanks for any help at all!


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 3:40 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 10, 2003 10:54 am
Posts: 133
Location: Dallas,TX
Alee, I don't know why one of the experts didn't respond to you. I don't know what the little black bugs are, but if I were you I would call Howard on his Sunday radio show and talk to him about it. I am sure he can help you.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 3:52 pm 
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Location: Weatherford,TX
Not quite enough info. to figure this out. What kind of cornmeal did you use? You could have rock/junk under the soil keeping it dry or something keeping it too wet. You might try poking/driving a rod into the area to figure out which.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2006 9:11 am 
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Joined: Mon May 22, 2006 10:35 am
Posts: 7
Location: Flower Mound,TEXAS
Thanks for the suggestions. I used horticultural cornmeal. And believe it or not, I think I'm seeing some improvement this past week! So hopefully that fixes it.

Let me ask you this...the home we moved into is 20 years old and I know that the previous owners used lots of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. Is it normal for everything to go a little haywire while it's trying to adjust to an organic program? Seriously, I've had to deal with chlorotic trees, powdery mildew in my crepe myrtles, the lawn fungus, squash vine borers in my pumpkins, mealy bugs, aphids and diseased photinias all within the last few months. This gardening stuff is hard work!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2006 11:37 am 
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Joined: Wed Dec 31, 1969 6:00 pm
Posts: 47
Location: Hubbard,TX
I would think a yard laced with chemicals would go though a rough period because the plants are addicted to that stuff. I'd rather get a neglected yard than to reverse a chemo enthusiasts work. Did you apply any zeolite to bind up the chemicals?

Anyone think this can still be done and provide a benefit?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2006 6:44 pm 
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Posts: 127
Location: Denton,TEXAS
alee wrote:
Let me ask you this...the home we moved into is 20 years old and I know that the previous owners used lots of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. Is it normal for everything to go a little haywire while it's trying to adjust to an organic program?

I think so. I didn't know about zeolite. Would have been interesting to have tried that. Oh well, not sure I need it now.

Anyway, I bought a house about 3 years ago that was also about 20 years old. The previous owners were very regular with the chemical program, and watering 2 or 3 times a week I believe. I know when I started only watering once a week the lawn had a hard time. I had to back off a bit and ease more gradually into it. Now, it easily goes a week, and the St. Augustine grass (I have both Augustine and Bermuda) at times looks like it could go a bit further. Good thing with this drought. Maybe I'll be lucky and the Bermuda will die off. Parts of it are already getting displaced by the Augustine, but I digress.

Now the lawn is getting to be pretty healthy. Neighbors even recently commented how heathy it was looking (thankfully the Augustine portion is closest to them.) Also, the last two season I haven't been plagued any where near as much as neighbors have been by slugs. Not sure exactly why, but at least what I seem to be doing doesn't seem to be making things worse.

alee wrote:
Seriously, I've had to deal with chlorotic trees, powdery mildew in my crepe myrtles, the lawn fungus, squash vine borers in my pumpkins, mealy bugs, aphids and diseased photinias all within the last few months. This gardening stuff is hard work!


Well, some of these things, such as the powdery mildew on the crepe myrtles, I'm afraid you're going to have to contend with even after the organic program gets more established. (You can find some of my rantings on crepe myrtles on this site. :wink:)

Still, once things get into a more balanced rhythm, I do think things become more manageable. Perhaps not terribly easier, but a bit easier to contend with. It seems like in some ways it gets easier because you have a better idea of what's going on. And I've never done this yard/garden thing before, so I'm totally learning from scratch.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 5:17 am 
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Location: McKinney,TX
Back in 1985 I was not organic. Just getting out of college, I got great advice from my neighbors on all the chemicals to spray each week on my plants to kept them beautiful. I did just as they told me and was always fighting some disease or pests if I was late with my chemical treatments.

But then I stopped everything. I was not feeling good after a car accident so I didn't start an organic program, but just did nothing. My roses got so diseased that every leaf fell off and most everything in my yard looked terrible! I still did nothing. Then the next spring (6 months later) when everything was leafing out, my roses came back looking better than ever.

My yard went through a terrible phase as nature rebalanced, but then everything was healthy and beautiful with no more disease problems. I learned the importance of patience and to not panic. Even now after almost 20 years of practicing organics, I don't rush to spray or treat even with organics because things often clear up by themselves and then secondary problems don't develop. The key is to get the soil healthy and one of the best ways to develop healthy soil around your yard is to make and use compost.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 10:05 pm 
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Location: San Antonio,TEXAS
I think all the problems you are seeing are the same ones the previous owner saw. If there was a transition period where the chemical treatments "wore off," then the problems would come back with a vengeance. The long term effect of the organic program is to diminish all the problems.

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