It is not uncommon for homeowners to look at a lawn problem and call someone for help. Before calling, though, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske recommends taking a closer look and making notes.
Whomever is called will still want to know many facts, even if a site visit is planned. A close-up digital image also can go a long way in helping identify the problem through e-mail.
The diagnostic process often requires lots of information to be most accurate. Koske says you should be able to answer most of the following questions.
• What kind of grass do you have? You may not know the cultivar but you must know the type of grass it is, such as centipedegrass.
• What are the symptoms? Symptoms are a description of what the problem is doing to the patch of turf and the individual plants, for example, halo spots on leaves having dark edges and tan centers, 1-inch brown spots, dying arc-shaped areas.
• Are there signs of a pest? Signs are the actual structures related to pests, for example, toadstools, sclerotia, chinchbugs, earth castings, black slime.
• Describe the affected site, for example, high spot, low spot, steep slope, often very wet, lots of shade and the use of that area of turf.
Lawn and garden professionals will want to know how the symptoms developed. For example, did the symptoms happen overnight? Over three days? A week? Did they spread from one corner? Did they march across the yard?
Koske adds that a site history can help. Describe the recent weather or recent unusual occurrences. What was applied to this area in the last four to six weeks?
Dig deeper into the problem, literally. Shovel out a clod of turf and look at the soil or whatever is underneath. Wash some soil off the roots and notice whether they are whitish, gray, brown, slimy or sparse.
If it’s a weed problem, don’t just ask, "How do I control weeds in my lawn?" Note the kind of weeds, season of growth and the type of lawn grass.
Don’t rule out other pests. Dogs, livestock, shade tree mechanics, neighbors spraying stuff, armadillos, birds, deer and unsupervised children all can damage the lawn.
For related topics look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture