Rust Fungus: “What’s Wrong With My Lawn?!” ☹
One of the most common sod questions that we get this time of year is “Why is my grass turning orange?!”. When grass is subjected to excess moisture and its growth is slowed, it is much more vulnerable to a common disease called rust fungus. You can easily identify rust by a dark red dust on your grass blades. This dust can even come off on your shoes, pets, or children! Worry not though: it may look unappealing but it is relatively harmless if ingested. Try to wash off paws and clothing to prevent inadvertent spreading!
Timing is Everything
Late summer and early fall are the worst times of year for this unsightly disease. Heavy rains followed by a dry period will almost certainly result in an outbreak. Spores can begin to form if your grass does not dry out after a period of about 6-8 hours. Your lawn is more prone to the fungus if it is depleted of nitrogen. A thick thatch layer and infrequent mowing can also increase your likelihood of a rust outbreak.
This disease can hurt your lawn, but only severe cases will result in grass death. It can, however, make your lawn vulnerable to other pests and diseases. For this reason, you should try to minimize the amount of fungus that can form and make your lawn as healthy as possible to resist it! Your best defence is a solid cultural maintenance program for your lawn.
Rust Defense? Proper Maintenance.
Mow your lawn frequently, never cutting more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. Collecting your clippings and disposing of them properly can help reduce the effects of an outbreak as well. Using a leaf rake, rake your entire lawn pulling away excess thatch and dispose of it. Be sure to wash off any tools that could have collected spores to prevent accidental spreading. Also, watering early in the morning and allowing your lawn to dry out through the day can help reduce rust potential. Fertilizing your lawn with a high nitrogen fertilizer could also help with a rust problem, but its best to test your soil to ensure you are supplementing the nutrients that your lawn needs!
The fungus will eventually run its course, and once the environmental conditions are no longer favourable, it will just go away. Improve your lawn care program to try and keep rust from forming again! Sometimes environmental conditions are just out of your hands. You may have to deal with an annual rust visit. Keep in mind that it is relatively harmless, and it should go away just as quickly as it came in.