Fungus: The Boogey Man of Lawns - Scary, Invisible and Mostly Your Imagination


By Rick Orr 04/17/2017
St Augustine lawn and shrubs
Rarely is a St Augustine damaged by fungus

Fungus: Often Accused Rarely Guilty

So many times I have heard "I have brown spots in my lawn, it must be a fungus". No, it's not a fungus, it probably something else. Why? Fungi are such pathetic weak pathogens,  what little damage they do is cosmetic, sub-lethal and temporary. Fungi are not invisible ninjas, moving silently in the shadows killing your lawn. Fungi are as delicate as a snowflake, so fragile, they can be stopped by a puff of air or a ray of sunlight.

If Fungi are Harmless, Why All the Fungicides?

Golf courses and marketing drive the promotion of fungicides. A fungus on a golf green will cause an uneven putting surface and an ugly blotch on the green. Fungicides keep the green smooth and appealing. That same fungus on a St Augustine lawn mowed at 4" is barely even noticed, much less a reason for concern. But fungicide makers have learned that the homeowner is willing to buy fungicides to rid their lawn of the boogeyman - fungus.

Fungi and Your Lawn

Fungi must have perfect conditions to damage your lawn. Whatever those perfect conditions are, as soon as the conditions change - i.e. the sun rises, the wind blows or leaves dry - the fungus is dead. It is no longer viable. It cannot damage your lawn any longer. Most fungi can do little more than damage a few leaves which are replaced by the grass plants within days. The average homeowner is more likely to mistake water stress for a fungus problem and think a fungus problem is normal.

Fungi are Beneficial

Fungi are part of the soil microbial community and necessary for the enzymatic digestion of organic materials - composting. Their job as microbes in the soil is to digest dead dying tissue and recycle it into plant food. Under certain conditions - usually very temporary conditions - fungi can attack living tissue. But only while conditions remain perfect. St Augustine turf has few problems with fungus and the few that can cause problems are weak, sub-lethal and temporary. There is no need to constantly treat for fungus in a St Augustine lawn - it does more harm to the ecosystem of the soil than good for the grass.

Some Fungi are Worse than Others

In Pinellas, brown patch is the worse. Brown patch can cause "crop circles" in a St Augustine lawn that are quite ugly. It only occurs during specific weather conditions - the moist cool nights of fall and spring. Prevention is nearly impossible, curative treatments help to reduce damage and the lawn will recover and look great in a week. But even as ugly as brown patch is, it is not a lethal threat that will kill your lawn. It is merely ugly. A temporary ugliness.

You Got a Fungus - We got a Cure, for a Price

Many of the larger lawn spraying companies, like Trugreen,  sell fungicide as an add-on to their regular service. They have learned what the fungicide makers already knew - homeowners will buy fungicides to get rid of the boogeyman in their lawn. It's magical -  you had a fungus, we sprayed it and it went away. But in practice applying fungicides to a St Augustine lawn is very profitable to cure a minor problem that would have gone away with the change in the weather - anyway.

My Lawn is Sick, I'll Give it some Medicine

Many homeowners want to cure what ails the lawn by giving it a shot of medicine. The fact is disease caused by fungi are minor, insignificant and temporary problems in a St Augustine lawn. Save yourself some time and money and avoid fungicides as a cure for what ails your lawn. If you want to spend time and money to cure what ails your lawn, upgrade the irrigation system and buy a mower that will mow a lawn at 4". A better irrigation system and mowing at 4"  will have a greater positive impact on your lawn than the most expensive fungicide.

Rick Orr Owner-Operator APL Pest Control/Creator of ILOVETURF.COM
APL Pest Control

Rick Orr is the creator of, Owner/Operator of APL Pest Control and a graduate from VA Tech in Agronomy (Turf Ecology).  

Since 1980, Rick worked in the green industry, mostly with golf courses, resorts and large communities. Rick worked as a Golf Course Superintendent of Fripp Island Resort, agronomist for Seaside, FL and the spray tech for Vinoy Golf Course. Rick has been certified as an arborist, landscape and irrigation contractor and adjunct professor for Environmental Horticulture (SPC) in Pinellas County.  

Home Pest Control came naturally. Entomology (bug science) was part of agronomy studies. Nearly every indoor pest problem starts outdoors. Crossing over to home pest control from lawn spraying was a natural process – the technology, methods and materials used for home pest control are modifications of the ones used for lawn spraying. 

The results of that work is a one of the top rated pest control companies in Pinellas County – APL Pest Control. APL Pest Control is a family owned business serving residential and commercial properties in Pinellas County, FL. 

Free Price Quote for Home Pest Control and/or Lawn Spraying CLICK HERE

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Speaking Engagements - Does it seem like you are only hearing one side of water restrictions, fertilizer bans, plant restrictions, and many other urban landscape hot topics? Rick Orr is available for speaking engagements for your HOA, Community or Professional Association or Garden Club about a variety of subjects. To contact Rick you can find him on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Instagram for booking information.