Kansas State University


K-State Turf and Landscape Blog

Tag: clay soil

Recent turf problems – a few photos

(Megan Kennelly, KSU Plant Pathology)

It’s mid-July, and much of Kansas continues to be pretty wet. Here are some recent turf issues I’ve been seeing and hearing about. I won’t go into details – this is just a photo collection for now.

(1)Brown patch in tall fescue lawns.

When you get all sweaty just from dragging the trash can down the driveway out to the curb on trash day, you know it’s brown patch season. Here are some symptoms in my neighborhood.

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(2) Summer patch

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Summer patch is a root disease of Kentucky bluegrass. Infection occurs in the spring, when soil temperatures hit 65. Symptoms pop out in mid-summer, when those poor plants with their compromised root systems just can’t take it anymore.

(3) Dollar spot

Sometimes dollar spot checks out during the summer, if conditions are hot and dry. We’ve had enough warm/wet weather to keep it rolling. Here are some photos in Kentucky bluegrass as well as in creeping bentgrass, especially in highly susceptible varieties.

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(4) And, “it’s not a disease”

Turf sites with heavy clay soils, low areas with poor drainage, and shady sites = high stress. I received a sample the other day with some of the heaviest clay I’ve seen in awhile. It was so clay-ey that I took a moment to sculpt it into this little soil person:


If your soil is heavy enough to use in art projects, you may have a problem. As you look forward to fall, think about aerification, drainage improvements, reducing shade, and other practices to improve conditions in tough sites.

A not-so-obvious site issue

I mentioned this last week in a post about brown patch (click HERE if you missed it) but forgot to post a picture:

What’s going on here? This is part of my yard. I have heavy clay soils, and though it’s not obvious from the photo, this is a slight depression area where water sits for awhile after rain. Wet heavy soils = compromised roots. Compromised roots = areas that area quicker to check out during summer heat and drought.

We’ve seen this with trees, shrubs, and flowers this year too. We got some big rainfalls earlier in summer that damaged root systems. As long as weather was mild, the plants chugged along okay on those compromised roots. However, as soon as stress kicks in, those compromised roots can’t support the plant as well, and we see some decline.

In my lawn there, it is that same area year after year that shows the problem. Come autumn (and milder temps) it usually recovers pretty well.

**After posting, someone asked about the solution. If possible, improving the overall flow/drainage by changing the grade might be an option. Here, there’s just isn’t enough slop to play with in order to do that. Another way to improve root health and drainage is through core aerification. The best time to do that in cool-season lawns is in the fall.**