Working on a lawn year round is no simple task. Lawn care consists of mowing the lawn on a regular basis, fertilizing trouble spots, and implementing a sprinkler system to ensure that it has the proper moisture at all times. Some people are far more serious about their lawn care than even that.
So, it can certainly be troubling to lawn enthusiasts when they look out the window and notice that the grass is beginning to turn white. During the colder months of the year, this can simply be attributed to frost on the grass. That is nothing to concern yourself with as it is totally normal in the colder regions.
But it can be pretty clear when it’s something else. Here are the two major reasons why your grass may be turning white.
The Signs of White Grass
Aside from the obvious white coloring, if you look very closely at the blades of grass, you may begin to notice white powder-like spores that are showing up on the individual grass blades. Depending on when you notice this, the disease has either just started or substantially advanced. This can mean just a few patches of white or the entire lawn looking as such.
It is also important that you do not confuse powdery mildew with snow mold. Both of them can appear to be white when you first notice it. The difference is that the white coloring from the snow mold will look more like a webbing over the top of the grass. It isn’t the same as the coating of white that you may notice from powdery mildew.
The good news is that even if you notice white in your lawn, it is entirely fixable. The first thing to do is to properly identify the issue at hand and then work to correct it. With a little time and some patience, you can get your lawn looking good as new once again.
1 – Sick Grass
When a lawn is under quite a bit of stress, it may begin to start looking white. What stresses grass is overcutting or drought. When the color begins to fade out of the grass, it is a sign that you need to raise your cutting height. One of the most common issues is cutting more than one third of the grass blade’s length.
It is also a good idea to not only keep your lawn mower blades sharp, but to make certain that the length of the grass doesn’t get too long, either. When the grass grows taller, you run the risk of taking more than the designated third off of the grass length when you do mow it.
Having a sprinkler system or other measure of irrigation is essential for keeping the roots of the grass nourished regularly. Manual watering can be fine for those dedicated to the task, but an automated schedule of watering is probably better.
The good thing about sick grass is that it is reversible. Take the time to properly water it and be careful about how short you leave the blades of grass. With some time and patience, it shouldn’t be terribly hard to get the grass looking lush and green once again.
2 – Powdery Mildew
The other likely culprit is something known as powdery mildew. This is where you find patches of white across your lawn instead of the entire lawn looking uniform in color. Not only that, but there is also a dust-like covering on the grass blades.
Powdery mildew is a fairly common form of lawn disease, particularly for varieties of grass such as Kentucky Bluegrass. Powdery mildew is actually a fungus, which most of the other lawn diseases tend to be, and it typically isn’t very invasive.
The grass with the powdery mildew over it tends to not have enough sunlight. This is either from some kind of obstruction that prevents light from reaching it or because the weather of late hasn’t been very good.
Start by pruning or trimming away any of the potential blockage that is keeping sunlight from reaching your grass. You will also want to be careful to not add too much fertilizer or water to this type of grass and make sure that you do not cut the blades of grass too short.
Another thing to make note of is that mowing the impacted areas can potentially spread the fungus to other areas of the yard that have yet to be affected. Give your lawn a little bit of time to improve after removing the blockages or obstructions that may be keeping proper sunlight from reaching it.
How to Fix White Grass
The first thing to keep in mind if you see white grass clippings in your yard is to take a deep breath. White grass is not necessarily deadly for the grass and can be remedied with a little care and some patience.
As mentioned with the mildew, the most common culprit is a lack of sunlight. Look around for potential obstructions that may be blocking out the light. In most cases, it could be vegetation and shrubbery in the area.
Start by taking down any low-hanging branches if you have trees in your yard. If this still doesn’t have the impact that you’re looking for, consider getting rid of the trees altogether. Trees can be detrimental to the healthy growth of grass, so just be aware of this.
Another thing to consider is the air circulation in your yard, particularly in areas that may be heavily shaded. Thin out the shrubbery, trim back the trees, or even install a fence. This can allow your grass to “breathe” properly, keeping airflow moving throughout the yard.
While sunlight is typically the direct cause of powdery mildew, your fertilizer may be playing a role as well. Nitrogen fertilizer in particular actually promotes the activity of powdery mildew. If you notice that powdery mildew is building up on your lawn but there is no noticeable blockage of light, it could be the result of the fertilizer that you use. In that case, cut back on the amount that you use and see if it has any impact on the powdery mildew growing on the blades.
It is also important that you do not water your lawn at night. Grass needs the proper amount of sunlight to prevent overwatering, which can be damaging to the grass. Make sure that you do your watering early in the morning so that it has time to soak in the proper nutrients while dissipating just enough to prevent overwatering.
If you plan on reseeding your lawn anytime soon, go with grasses that are mildew resistant. Grasses such as Kentucky Bluegrass tend to be more shade tolerant than other grasses. You can also try fine-textured perennial ryegrass, improved fine fescues, bermudagrass, and turf-type tall fescues.
Make sure that you check with the county lawn extension services. They can help you come to a proper choice of disease-resistant grass seed that best fits your specific location and climate.
There are just a few causes of white grass, but they are definitely reparable. Take proper preventative measures and you can keep that white film from developing on your grass and further damaging it.