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Pests, diseases and physiological disorders

Lawn & Landscape Problems

Every lawn and landscape has its share of problems. If you don’t see the problems, it’s because you’re not sure what to look for.

Gardening isn’t difficult and doesn’t need to be expensive. It’s a matter of understanding what’s going on and what’s really happening when things don’t look right.

With a little knowledge, a sense of timing and a few helpful hints, even beginners can achieve results that will have the neighbors seeking their advice. Lawn and landscape problems fall into 3 major categories:

Soil Problems: (water, compaction, thatch, nutritional balances)

Insect Problems


First question: Has anybody done anything different in the last month?
For example, you’ve got a large dead spot in the exact same place you spilled gasoline filling the mower 2 weeks ago. The cause and effect is obvious. You won’t go out and buy grub control because you thought grubs had killed your lawn there. You wouldn’t suddenly start watering the area because you thought it was from lack of water. The spilled gasoline killed the lawn.

For the landscaped areas, has anything changed in the last 6 months? Did you have an extremely cold winter that may have killed some plants? Did you have an extremely mild winter with a few sudden cold spells? Most plants in the cooler climates go into a natural dormancy period, but when temperatures are mild, the plants may think spring is here and time to start growing, yet it's still mid winter. If the plants start the re-awakening process with sap starting to flow, and then the temperatures suddenly drop well below freezing, damage can occur. Freezing temperatures cause liquids to expand and if the plant's sap has started to move up through the roots and into branches, and then freezes, cell ruptures occur which will kill off the plant.

You'll also want to look for insect infestation. For ornamentals with woody stems, this will mean tiny holes bored into the stems. These can be extremely difficult to see at first glance. But careful inspection around the primary trunk of the plant will reveal them.

Diseases can also create problems. This is usually a much longer term problem. You may have noticed that the plant in the last year or two hasn't been performing as expected. It may have dropped leaves throughout the previous summer. While this may not have been the ultimate cause of the plants demise, it could have weakened sufficiently so the plant wasn't able to survive other problems that normally would not have killed the plant. It may be the combination of problems: insect infestations, untreated diseases, and warm / cold winter that ultimately doomed the plant.

Step One: Look for the most obvious cause.

If there is no obvious cause, then look at the scope of the problem area.

Is there just one dead spot, or are there many dead spots? Do they seem to be where your new puppy frequents? Are the spots just in the backyard, or are they in front and back equally? These are likely signs of insect damage. Do some excavating to see if you can find any grubs. As grubs begin to mature their appetite grows and they chew at the roots, so do sod webworms. If you find these insects, then treat accordingly. In this instance, when grub damage is apparent, it's too late to treat for them at this time. But it's not too late to prevent the same thing happening next year. Read more about grub control to determine when is the best time to treat for them.

If the lawn isn’t obviously dead brown, are there other visible changes: yellowing, orangish-red tinge, spots on the leaf blades? These are all signs of a fungal attack.

If weeds are taking over, this is a sign there's a soil problem. Have nutrients been applied to the lawn on a regular basis? Is the soil compacted? Is there a too thick layer of thatch? Is the soil dried out from lack of water?

Identify and correct underlying causes of problems

Understand the cause before treating symptoms. Occasional weeds are expected. When weeds become more than just a minor occurrence you have to start looking at the underlying cause of your lawn’s lack of vitality. When the grass plants lose vitality, then it opens up areas for weeds to take hold.

If all of this seems like more involvement with your lawn than you want to experience, don’t worry. Professional lawn care providers are extremely helpful when you have problems. They have encountered just about every lawn problem known to man and can identify it and know how to treat it. Give one of these companies a call and they’ll be more than happy to help you out.


Pests are animals that cause damage to cultivated plants. Some such as slugs and rabbits are well known. Others such as mites, nematodes, woodlice and millipedes are harder to identify. Insects form the largest category of pests.

Insect feeding is usually the cause for damage. They feed by sap sucking, tunneling through leaves, stems and roots. Sometimes their presence causes abnormal growth patterns known as galls. Other insects cause damage by spreading viral and fungal diseases.


Plant disease is any pathological condition caused by other organisms such as bacteria, fungi, or viruses with fungal diseases being the most common. Bacterial diseases are rare.

Symptoms of a disease include discoloration on the plant, distortion of the plant's natural growth, and wilting of the leaves.

Physiological disorders

Disorders of this type are usually soil related. Either their is an imbalance in the soil's pH levels, the soil is compacted, or their are nutritional deficiencies. Temperature extremes also cause disorders as do moisture levels in the soil, either too little or too much.

Symptoms of disorders include discolored leaves and stem wilt. A plant suffering from any physiological disorders may not die directly from the disorder, but may become less resistant to attack from insects and disease.