Does your lawn look like it’s drying out, despite all of the rain we’ve had? Closer inspection will reveal that it’s not drought stress, but rather Red Thread Disease (Laetisaria fuciformis), a fungal infection characterized by thin, red, needle-like strands extending from the grass blade. These needle-like strands (called stromata) can survive in leaf blades, thatch, and soil for months to years. Infected areas are then spread by water, wind, and contaminated equipment.
Red Thread Is Treatable
The good news is that Red Thread is treatable through several cultural methods and fungicide controls.
- Adjust your irrigation. Humid summers like we often have in New Hampshire can exacerbate the growth of Red Thread in your lawn. Some homeowners – thinking their lawn is drought stressed – have made it worse by watering the lawn more. Don’t do this! It may seem counter-intuitive, but a better tactic would be to deep-water your lawn every 2 to 3 days, allowing it to dry out in between.
- Keep blades sharp. Dull mower blades tear the top of the grass blade, leaving a wider “wound” that gets infected.
- Bag your clippings. Like all lawn fungus, Red Thread spreads through spores that received themselves in the turf. Bagging your clippings and disposing of them away from the lawn area will prevent it from spreading. Also, take a hose and spray down the mower blades and deck after each cut.
- Fertilize with nitrogen. Applying the correct formulation of nitrogen fertilizer will cause the grass to grow faster, pushing the infected blade up and out.
- Aeration and over seeding. A thick thatch layer will trap moisture and provide a fertile environment for lawn fungus to become established. Core aeration in the fall will break up that thatch layer and introduce oxygen to the root zone. Over seeding with disease-resistant turf grasses may also be beneficial, if your lawn is prone to Red Thread.
- Top dress with compost. Most lawns lack the benefits of naturally occurring microbial agents commonly found in woods areas. You can introduce some ecological balance to your turf grass by top dressing with compost after aerating.
How Groundhog Turf Care Can Help
In addition to these cultural methods, we can also apply two fungicide treatments, three weeks apart, that will help suppress the disease. These fungicide treatments – as well as aeration and over seeding – are included in our Estate Program. They can also be added à la carte to your Standard Program. Call our office if you would like these added to your program.
The other good news about Red Thread Disease is that – although not aesthetically pleasing – it is not fatal. Even without treatment – your lawn will eventually recover.