I mention that because sometimes we are a little slow to review and update some of our permanent tip sheets, and it really helps when listeners searching the web for gardening info let us know when they discover one that’s wildly out of date or includes links that no longer work.
Which leads to this week’s tip sheet. It’s a total re-do of the take-all patch article written well over a dozen years ago.
Take-all patch (Gaeumannomyces graminis var. graminis) is an insidious fungal disease found in both St. Augustine and Bermuda grass throughout Texas. Take-all patch is also known as take-all root rot.
What we’ve discovered is that, while the advice in the original tip sheet still works – that being top-dressing the turf with peat moss – the equipment needed to perform such a noble task has never actually been created. And spreading peat moss by hand is something nearly impossible.
But as noted in that original tip sheet, compost top-dressing is still recommended. In fact, although the tip sheet also calls for a number of synthetic fungicides, we have come to the conclusion that the one and only true fix is compost top-dressing. And not just once, but at least annually for the first year and once a year from that point on.
Maybe you’re wondering how you got this stuff first place. There are actually many sources, but new sod from turf farms is often infected. The farm use large amounts of fungicides and other chemicals which keep the diseases dormant or suppressed, so there are no visible signs. When the treatments are stopped, the disease wakes up and starts to slowly grow, showing up months or even years later. Brown patch and take-all patch are spread by landscape and lawn maintenance companies, too, as they move their mowers from lawn to lawn. Very few companies bother to clean and sanitize their equipment between job sites. Other sources include grass cuttings, trimmings from edging, or soil particles that are blown into your yard from infected areas.
John Ferguson of Nature’s Way Resources also notes that certain soil conditions also help exacerbate the problem. “Take-all patch will grow better in and even prefers alkaline conditions, while brown patch prefers or grows better in acidic conditions,” he says. “Frequent shallow watering causes the most problems. Much of our area water comes from wells that tend to be alkaline (lots of dissolved carbonates of calcium and magnesium), hence watering tends to create the alkaline conditions the disease favors. When we water, the dissolved carbonates (limestone) precipitate out of the water and cement the soil particles, creating hard-pan soils and raising the pH, causing alkaline conditions.”
Now, to fix things, you just can’t use any old compost, and certainly not the cheapest one you can find. The right kind of compost makes all the difference in the world. High-end vegetative composts such as those from Nature’s Way Resources www.natureswayresources.com or The Ground Up www.thegroundup.com top the list. Cheaper compost has most likely not aged enough to be beneficial against fungal diseases like take-all patch. That’s especially true with bulk material.
Meanwhile, several other companies I endorse on GardenLine also sell compost by the bag. They include Black Cow, Soil Mender, Lady Bug, and Natures Creation. They’re very good for treating smaller areas or postage stamp-sized yards.
The key to success is compost that looks like the richest soil you’ve ever laid eyes on. All the companies above have compost exactly like that – bags and bulk that are easy to spread because they look like rich, organically infused soil.