A healthy, thriving and well-manicured lawn can be the striking centerpiece of any yard, an area to enjoy during the summer months and the pride of many a home gardener. However, to maintain a lawn in this condition takes a certain amount of time and effort, and no matter how much love and care you give to your lawn, they can still be affected by drought, pests or diseases.
A common disease that may strike your lawn is grass rust, and if you detect this in your yard, you will need to take swift action to avoid the disease spreading. If you find signs of this infection, you will probably be asking, how do I get rid of rust in my lawn? Here, we have all the answers.
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What is lawn rust and how do you identify it?
Before we look at how to treat grass rust, we need to understand what it is. Grass rust is a kind of fungal infection that can affect your grass and that will eventually spread through your whole lawn if left unchecked.
Once established, the fungus begins to create spores – this is the “rust” – that will stick to shoes, clothes or pets to be spread to other areas of your lawn.
If you notice an orange, orange-red or yellow-brown coating on the grass leaves, this is a good indication your lawn is infected. You may also see small yellow flecks or pustules on individual leaves. These will eventually burst, spreading more spores.
Once the rust becomes more established, your grass will become weaker and will begin to look unhealthy – in extreme cases, bare patches may even begin to develop.
Why does grass become infected?
There are several factors that can allow grass rust to develop, but the most important is that it attacks unhealthy, damaged or weakened grass.
If grass is growing strong and thriving, it can defend itself – but if it is under stress from drought or for other reasons, it is prone to developing rust.
Grass rust also prefers certain conditions. It is most likely to develop in temperatures of around 68-86°F and it prefers a moist environment. This means infections are most likely to begin in spring or fall.
It can also strike in dry and bright conditions after a particularly mild and humid winter.
Compacted soil, poor air circulation, slow grass growth and shade can also encourage the development of rust.
What to do if your lawn is infected
First of all, if you detect grass rust, don’t panic. Unless the disease becomes well-established throughout your lawn, it should be easy to treat.
There are two major areas you need to address: you need to ensure your lawn is healthy to enable it to fight the rust itself and you need to make sure the conditions are not suitable for grass rust to develop and spread.
Improve lawn health
To make sure your grass is in good health, ensure it is adequately fertilized and watered – although make sure you don’t overwater either.
Also, be sure to mow regularly but appropriately. By regularly mowing your lawn, you will encourage further growth while also removing any infected or weakened blades. This will help fight the spread of the disease.
Don’t cut the grass too short since this can also weaken it. Be aware of what species of grass you have and find out the optimum cutting length. This can vary from 1½” and 3½”, depending on the variety.
Ensuring your grass is happy and healthy will go a long way to dealing with the infection.
Make sure the conditions are not suitable for rust
Grass rust develops in certain conditions – so you should make sure you don’t provide these conditions for it to become established.
One of the most important parts of this is to make sure your grass is not over-watered. If you water too much, your lawn becomes a potential home for grass rust. Check out this video about overwatering. However, not watering enough can also weaken your grass.
When you water, allow the soil to become moistened down to about 6-8”, and try not to water too often. If you water your grass less frequently, this encourages it to send down deeper roots, also increasing its overall health and hardiness.
Since watering is a balancing act between too much and too little, you might consider buying a smart sprinkler controller that can adapt sprinkler schedules automatically according to weather data and other information, ensuring your lawn always receives the optimum amount.
Removing shade by cutting back branches and hedges, etc. is something else you can do to fight rust. This will allow sunlight to reach your lawn, evaporating excess moisture and making conditions less favorable for the rust.
Finally, try to increase air circulation. Again, cut back anything that prevents the movement of air – this will also help improve evaporation and decrease moisture.
Here’s a video about how to get rid of grass rust.
What to do if this fails
Just by following these simple steps to improve the health of your lawn and make conditions less favorable for rust, the infection should disappear within a few weeks.
If this doesn’t do the trick and the infection proves to be more tenacious, you should apply a specialist fungicide – but this should be seen as a last resort since fungicides are full of harmful chemicals.
How to prevent further infection
To prevent an infection from returning or to stop one taking hold in the first place, you should simply follow the same procedure detailed above for dealing with an outbreak of rust.
Make sure your grass is healthy and fast-growing, and make sure you cut it often. Also, remove any thatch to give your grass the best conditions for strong growth. This will help boost its natural abilities to fight rust.
Ensure your lawn doesn’t become overly moist and that there is a good flow of air. This will help prevent rust from gaining a foothold.
If you live in an area that has a higher risk of grass rust, you might also consider choosing grass species that are naturally rust resistant.
Healthy lawn is the key
If you want to avoid grass rust, the most important step is to keep your lawn healthy. Feed it well, mow it regularly and look after it well. This will help your grass fight infections before they begin – and if your grass does become infected, it will also be better equipped to fight back naturally to end the infection.
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