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katieeyler

White Fuzzy Mold on Grass - Please Help Identify!

katieeyler
9 years ago

This morning my husband and I discovered a few patches of fuzzy white mold growing in the lawn. Is this blight... or something else?
We had 2 days of constant rain this week followed by temperatures in the mid to high sixties for 2 days. The top soil never dried out after the rain.
The lawn is a mix of tall fescue and white clover.
Today is mowing day, but I think we should avoid mowing to ensure we don't spread this.
Can anyone help identify this fungus/mold/disease and suggest treatments?
Thanks!

Comments (27)

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    You can see the shapes of the fungus here...

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hopefully this close up makes the fungus easier to identify...

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  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    dchall_san_antonio, I'm pretty sure I've seen you give advice on this forum before to someone else in the Inland Empire... I'm glad you saw this since you're from the area.
    We're downtown, just a couple of blocks from Mt. Rubidoux.
    We recently reseeded the yard, so we watered everyday for a few weeks, then we began to water every other day, pretty much when the top soil got dry. (Baked clay soil)
    The yard gets intermittent sun and shade throughout the day due to all of the trees, add to that the slight cloud cover and morning dew, the grass hasn't dried out in almost a week.
    I just discovered more patches of fuzz this morning. Should we wait to mow until the ground dries? We haven't watered since Wednesday.

  • dchall_san_antonio
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Excellent. If you are in the neighborhood of 80-100 year old houses, I've been there. As I remember it you also have a root problem in the soil from all the ancient trees.

    What kind of grass seed did you use? Specifically, what grasses were listed in the guaranteed analysis? In your shade the only type of grass that will work are the fescues. Even your clover would rather get more sunlight.

    Watering should be done deeply and infrequently. The idea is to moisten the soil down several inches and allow the surface to completely dry out for days or weeks before watering again. As you may suspect the time between watering depends on temperature, humidity, shade, clouds, soil type, grass type, mowing height, and root depth. For a lawn out in the full sun you would expect to water once per week with temps in the 90s, once every other week with temps in the 80s, once every 3 weeks with temps in the 70s, and once a month with temps in the 60s or below. With your shade you should be watering even less often than that. When you allow the soil to dry out completely, all that fungal disease stuff stops as does most of your weed pressure. Weed seeds need continual moisture to sprout. When you deny that by allowing the soil to dry out, the weeds stop. Of course Mother Nature does not cooperate with that plan, but that's the general idea. If you were doing the watering right, 2 days of rain would not be a problem.

    Can you post a picture of your lawn taken from the street? Preferably take the picture on a cloudy day. I'm interested in how the soil either crowns or sinks in the yard. Does water stand in the yard when it rains, or do you have "excess" soil mounding up in the middle of the yard? Many (MANY) yards in older neighborhoods will have had someone live there who decided it was a good idea to topdress with 1/4-inch of topsoil every year. That's not a good idea.

    I lived by Poly High School (the "new" one on Central Ave) from 1955 through 1975.

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We used the Vigoro Tall Fescue Blend, which we used in the front yard last spring with excellent results. The front yard gets much more shade throughout the year and has always done better.
    Our back yard is divided into two sections with chain link fence: The very back portion is pretty much full shade year round (the grass done fine and I barely water) and the front portion is in the shade about 75% of the time in the winter and sun 75% of the time in the summer. Gotta love the changing angle of the sun and all of the trees... Makes things confusing for the plants (and me!)
    We chose fescue because I despise the encroaching nature of warm season grass and I wanted something that would work year round.
    The soil is clay (obviously) and the yard had been unwatered and neglected for years before we moved in so we started with a completely blank slate last summer. The clay was so compact that water would roll off the surface like it does on a windshield... We've watered enough in the past year+ to get the ground to start absorbing water normally. When we water, it doesn't puddle anymore. We have taken care of the high/low spots the best we could. I think that throughout the drought we just haven't watered long enough to get the water to really soak in deep enough to water less than every few days.
    I did the math and with the type of sprinkler we have, combined with the water pressure, it would take 13 hours to get an inch of water down if we were to do it slowly and steadily - and that made me wonder if I was even doing the math right... That's a long time!

    *Side note: I went to Poly High School. Small world, huh?

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Here is a view from the side of the house...

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    ...and another view from the corner.

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thirteen hours per inch is high, but within normal range for hose/sprinkler combinations, particularly wide-area sprinklers.

    My heaviest-lay sprinkler takes a single hour to drop an inch, but only does a circle of 12' radius. My irrigation system requires four hours to deposit one inch in most zones, but there are exceptions.

    >>The soil is clay (obviously)

    I'm so much kinder than Andy on this point. Almost every single person comes here and says that. Post a jar test, most discover they have sand and silt. I'm actually very, very rare in that my jar test resulted in 40% clay, 60% silt, and about four grains of sand. That's an extremely heavy soil.

    Pure sandy soils can puddle, be compacted, and have major resource issues. Quite often, overapplication of lime over years (either from a homeowner or agribusiness if the area was fields beforehand) results in excess magnesium, which renders soils tight.

    Lack of organic matter in the soil is also a cause of compaction. No--or very little--OM equals little soil life equals no biological maintenance of water and air channels.

    Fixing or improving those problems fixes the water penetrance problem and makes the grass perform a thousand times better. Nowadays, my (actually) heavily clay soil absorbs water like there's no tomorrow. Even the swale runoff disappears when it hits my land, the soil's water capacity is astounding.

  • dchall_san_antonio
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Agree. It's not obvious to me at all that you have clay. You're so close to the river I'd be surprised if you didn't have mostly sand. The jar test amounts to putting a cup of soil in a 2-cup jar (or any proportions) and filling it with water. Before you start take a picture of the soil in the jar next to a ruler. Then put in the water, screw the lid on and shake. Put the jar down and wait 2 minutes. Then hold the ruler up and take another picture. Wait 2 hours and take another picture. Wait 2 days and take another picture. The 2-minute picture will tell you what proportion of sand and gravel you have. The 2-hour picture tells you how much silt. The 2-day picture shows if you have any clay. If you can see through the water in the jar after 2 days, then you have virtually no clay. Clay will remain suspended and murky for days and days. It's helpful to know this about your soil.

    I have an oscillator sprinkler and fairly good water pressure. When I put it on a full sweep it takes 8 hours to fill the cans. I like the oscillator because of the slow application of water.

    Good pictures. I don't see what I was fearing...way too much soil. Looks good from that standpoint. Some of us here and many of us on other Internet grass forums have had good success loosening and softening the soil by spraying it with shampoo. I first learned about it from morph, but I doubt he gets all the credit for it. You can buy professional surfactants for $70 per gallon to cover your golf course or you can buy a bottle of any clear shampoo for $1 at the Dollar Store and spray it yourself. The application rate is 3 ounces per 1,000 square feet up to 50 ounces per square feet. Morph tried to overdose at 50 ounces per 1,000 and spraying every weekend. Turns out it just seemed to make his soil better. I sprayed mine twice back in 2011 and it's been soft ever since. Spray the shampoo and then follow up with a full inch of water to wash the shampoo down deep. Morph says it helps flocculate the soil particles. I say it helps hold the moisture levels (and temperature levels) constant for long enough that the soil biology recovers. When the soil biology is correct, the soil becomes soft again. And when I say soft, I mean after you water for a day or two. The soil should harden back up again for several (many) days before you water again. It seems to be popular in SoCal to keep the soil saturated by watering every day - especially with that Marathon dwarf fescue. Please don't fall for that. By doing the deep watering your grass roots will be much MUCH more tolerant to the heat and dryness when the Santa Ana Winds blow in.

    And speaking of biology, no matter how much you love chemical fertilizers, your soil and lawn will thank you for using an organic fertilizer at least once per year. I firmly believe the reason chemical fertilizers became such an important additive was because the soil biology originally was in good health. Over the years as you continue to use only chemical ferts, the microbes in the soil suffer. But if you feed the microbes with organic fertilizer once a year (or ALWAYS), then even the chemical fertilizers will work better. I'm fully organic with my fertilizers, and so is morph...almost. They really do work and work surprisingly well.

    RPHS Class of '69. Go Bears!

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We're due for an inch of rain to fall tomorrow... Can I just go outside and start flinging shampoo straight out of the bottles onto the ground tonight and hope they cover evenly or do I actually need to spray it through a nozzle?
    I've heard of the shampoo trick before and I just may try it.

    I assume what we have is clay due to the fact that it is extremely compact, reddish brown and sticks to everything when it's soaked. I've had it pull off my shoe when I've stepped in it after an area flooded.

  • BoatDrinksq5
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I don't think you would get decent coverage by just squirting...

    Most people water it down slightly and put it in a hose end sprayer for fertilizers or herbicides. For me I need to get to to about at least 25% water in the bottle to get the soap to get taken up consistently in my glimour pro(?)

  • dchall_san_antonio
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yeah, if I have 2,000 square feet to cover, I put 6 ounces of generic baby shampoo into the spray and fill the rest of the bottle with water. Then I try to spray it as evenly as I can. The beauty of this "trick" is that you can not make a mistake. If I accidently put an entire bottle of shampoo into the spray and sprayed the whole thing, it will still work and not hurt anything.

    Shampoo is only a trick in that you're not paying $70 per gallon for a very similar formula used to loosen soil on golf courses. Similarly applying alfalfa pellets or soybean meal instead of commercially bagged organic fertilizer saves you a bunch of money. Its tricks like this that have made organic lawn care practical when it used to cost up to 100x more.

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I was reading through older posts last night and came across the alfalfa sprout method and put that on my to-do list as well.
    You have all been so helpful and I extend my sincerest appreciation!
    After I conduct the soil jar test, I'll go from there in forming a plan of action that will get this yard healthy and happy.
    You guys rock!

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    >>The beauty of this "trick" is that you can not make a mistake. If I accidently put an entire bottle of shampoo into the spray and sprayed the whole thing, it will still work and not hurt anything.

    Mind you, I wouldn't repeatedly make this mistake on a tight schedule. You'll be adding sodium to the soil, which you may then have to get rid of later.

    If one does accidentally do this, wait longer between applications. So for 2 oz per thousand square feet, once a month is OK if a little high (and I wouldn't do that for more than a year or two). For 12 oz per thousand, wait six months before doing it again.

    >>Morph says it helps flocculate the soil particles. I say it helps hold the moisture levels (and temperature levels) constant for long enough that the soil biology recovers.

    Both statements are true. As soil biology recovers or increases (adding organic matter is necessary to help that along in most cases), soil flocculation also increases. Bacteria like to stick themselves to "caves" in soil peds, which also helps maintain and build soil peds.

    >>I first learned about it from morph, but I doubt he gets all the credit for it.

    Pbbbbbt. :-) But seriously, surfactants have been in use for ages. Andy had the idea of making a cheap one. I just stabilized the chemistry. Shampoo is the poor-man's version; it works, but adding yucca extract does work better, as well as injecting minor levels of organics directly into the soil. Yucca extract is pricey, but fortunately you don't use that much. And there are better things to use than shampoo.

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hey, guys!
    I started my soil test and I discovered a couple of things:
    1) We eat a lot of salsa here. I hadn't noticed that until I realized that the only jars we had were salsa jars ;)
    2) I'm totally THAT person who blames compacted clay soil for all of my gardening troubles. In my defense, I'm a novice gardener who took bad advice from other gardeners regarding soil consistency and type. The test isn't finished but we've got lots of sand and silt so far.
    3) My soil has remained soft and diggable since last weeks rain, so the issues with it being caked and dry are totally my fault for not watering deeply enough. I'm ready to let the water run for HOURS at a time and not water again for at least a week, if not longer.

    So, my questions are:
    1) Should I still apply a couple of shampoo treatments or should I take what nature has given me (a proper deep watering for once) and keep it up on a consistent basis?
    2) How much alfalfa pellets should I spread to begin an organic regimen? Do you recommend the full 20 lbs per 1,000 sq ft or should I do 10 lbs to start and do another 20 lbs later?

    If I do condition the lawn with shampoo, should I do it before the alfalfa, after or at the same time?

    I know that I need to water the full inch after applying shampoo, but do I need to water that much after applying alfalfa pellets or do they just need to be moistened a bit?

    I've attached a picture of the ingredients in the rabbit food my husband picked up. Do these look okay?

    Sorry for all of the questions but I'm eager to start!

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    1) Either-or. The shampoo might still help, particularly with times when nature sends along small rainfalls regularly.

    2) 10 pounds per thousand, no more than twice a year. Alfalfa contains growth hormones and an overdose, paradoxically, slows and weakens growth of roots. Other times of the year, use soybean meal.

    2a) That amount of alfalfa doesn't feed very much--the equivalent of 1.5 pounds of protein per thousand square feet, or about 0.2 pounds of nitrogen. That's extremely low on the feeding scale. Fifteen pounds of soybean meal works out to an equivalent of 1 pound per thousand, about a normal feeding.

    >>If I do condition the lawn with shampoo, should I do it before the alfalfa, after or at the same time?

    It doesn't matter at all, so whatever's most convenient for you is fine.

    >>I know that I need to water the full inch after applying shampoo, but do I need to water that much after applying alfalfa pellets or do they just need to be moistened a bit?

    Neither really needs to be watered in, but moistening the pellets will make them swell and shatter, starting the decay process much more quickly. I always damp the ones I put on my roses as otherwise the rabbits eat them. The rabbits do poo on the lawn and gardens, but not usually under the rose that I was trying to feed.

    >>I've attached a picture of the ingredients in the rabbit food my husband picked up. Do these look okay?

    Perfect. It's roughly what I've used when applying alfalfa if I couldn't get alfalfa pellets. You may find that some of the cut-rate chinchilla food is cheaper in the future, and it contains the same stuff.

    Mildly amusing story--the salesperson asked me why I was buying so much chinchilla food. I said I was trying to trap the rare Pennsylvania Spotted Chinchilla.

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thanks for the advice, morpheuspa! I went ahead and spread 25 pounds of pellets on roughly 2,000 sq ft of grass and flower beds, moistened them and broke them up and spread them with the back side of a rake. Hopefully I'll see results in terms of color and growth in a few weeks!
    As for my jar test... Well, I've definitely got sandy/silty soil. I'll continue to apply shampoo and alfalfa pellets as needed to get this soil soft and healthy. I can't imagine battling through another hot and dry summer in a desperate attempt to keep the grass alive.

    *Tall Jar - Grass is growing and thriving farther from house
    *Short Jar - Bare spot next to patio that refuses to grow anything
    I figured that I might see some differences in the two soil samples. The short jar is taking longer to clear, so we possibly have more clay there but the amounts are negligible.

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yep, that's about 50% sand, 50% silt, with a little more silt in the good spot and not so much in the poor spot. But it's not really enough of a difference to matter.

    Call it silty loam on the left, sandy loam on the right. There's not enough clay in there to matter, which is pretty normal.

    It's possible that, being a bit sandier, the righthand sample's plot dries out faster, which damages the grass, and kills it over time. Particularly if that spot by the patio is in more sun, or very close to patio stones that keep it hotter. There could also be a resource difference there, depending on the size of the area and the way the edge transitions.

    For water retention, mulching the soil lightly with shredded bark mulch or compost or peat moss will help. A quarter inch is just fine, and replace it when it rots in (that's too little to cause problems with the grass as well). Over time, that will also radically increase the water retention in any soil as the organics work in.

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Also, in regards to 'clear' shampoo - It's not literally the absence if color we're going for, right? It can be colored, but not milky...?

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Exactly. One of my favorites if I don't have the formal brew is Suave Naturals Green Apple. It's neon-green, but the scent (of sharp apples) is nice and I like it.

    I've never been one hundred percent happy with the "clear" specification, but it's a good enough general guide that I never sat down to change it. If sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, or sodium laurel ether sulfate is listed on the bottle, it's great. Don't use a combination shampoo-conditioner.

    Usually the cheapest thing on the shelf is going to be best--it has a higher percentage of (coconut derived) sodium laureth (or one of the others) sulfate. Suave and White Rain tend to be the cheapest, but the bulk discount section of your store may feature other brands (or store brands) that are cheaper.

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I looked at our personal arsenal of shampoo and we only had milky products and natural (Trader Joes) ones. I started to wonder if I could use Herbal Essences Body wash - Then I decided not to be rash.
    I just had my husband pick up some Suave Naturals Ocean Breeze. Our yard is about to smell ah-mazing!

    Once again, thank you for your help! I'll be posting results later. You guys will get all if the credit ;)

  • theturfguru1972
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    This is typically seen primarily in the morning hours and dissipates by afternoon. It is a symptom of red thread (pink patch disease) and can also occur with a dollar spot infection. Both of these diseases are best controlled culturally rather than chemically. Mow tall, collect clippings until the disease activity is gone. Water only in the morning hours during daylight time, between 6 am and 11 am. Do not water in late afternoon or evening, or when dark outside.

  • dchall_san_antonio
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Sorry I disappeared. We had an unexpected car buying event, and the new car needs some attention.

    The good news in your jar test is all that stuff floating on top is organic matter. That's a good percentage. And I'm not at all surprised about the mix. You're so close to the river that it sort of had to be sandy.

    You might actually be able to find soybean meal in Riverside. About 10 years ago I was looking in the Temecula area for feed store organics. The only thing I could find was soybean meal. It was $40 for a 40-pound bag, though. That's ridiculous. Even commercially bagged organic fertilizer was less than that. The key thing you're looking for in organic fertilizer is protein. The protein usually comes in the form of alfalfa, soy, corn, flax, and cottonseed. Sometimes they will add animal byproducts such as feather meal. All the grains, nuts, and beans will decompose and become available in a week or two. Feather meal takes forever the first time you use it, but if you use it at least annually it will decompose faster and faster each time. But feathers really boost the protein, so manufacturers will sometimes put it into an otherwise weak mix. You also will see poultry litter listed as an ingredient. As far as I'm concerned, that stuff is between good and great. You can't use it fresh in any quantity, but by the time it's been bagged, it's good for the lawn.

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hey, first post of Christmas!

    Feathers are great, but try to use hydrolyzed (pressure and steam-treated) feathers. They go a lot faster. While raw feather meal can be used, it rots very, very slowly.

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Ah. the first Christmas post... Merry Christmas, guys!
    I'll start looking for alfalfa with feather meal. There are a lot of feed stores between here, Norco and Mira Loma do it should be easy to find. I really liked how easy the alfalfa pellets were to apply, water and break up.
    I'm a few days away from applying my second shampoo treatment. I started by applying 5-6 oz per 1,000 sqft. I'll do the recommended 3 oz on Sunday and see if I have much improvement a couple of weeks after that.
    Until then... Happy holidays!

  • katieeyler
    Original Author
    9 years ago

    Good morning, everyone!

    So it's been three months and the yard is looking decent. I've only managed to apply one shampoo treatment (never got around to the second one) but the yard seems to still be absorbing water much better than when I first posted.

    The area of the lawn that had the fuzzy mold hasn't completely died off, but on cold mornings when dew is on the grass it still gets small amounts of fuzz. I was wondering if there was a chance that it could be snow mold? Obviously we don't get snow, but this winter was much colder than last winter and the problems seem to arise when it's very cold and damp. The fungus is also rotting the dutch white clover, not just the grass. On warm days, the clover in that area is pale and seems to be transporting and wilting which it shouldn't do.