Dollar Spot vs. Brown Patch: Comparing 2 Lawn Diseases in Memphis

Few things are more frustrating than finding patches of discoloration on a lawn that seemed to be healthy one day—and appeared to turn overnight. Unfortunately, lawn diseases in Memphis tend to show up that way. Like a sneaky villain, they creep into a healthy lawn and quickly wreak their havoc.

That’s why it’s important to get these types of problems under control quickly.

First and foremost, you must make the proper diagnosis. There are many lawn diseases in Memphis, many of which are caused by lawn fungus. Two of the ones that we see most often are Dollar Spot lawn disease and Brown Patch lawn disease.

In this article, we’ll compare these two common lawn diseases, including what you can look for and how you can deal with them. Although they both have their own identifying characteristics, we do find that homeowners mix them up. That’s to be expected as you certainly shouldn’t have to get a degree in agronomy to be able to have a healthy lawn (and we don’t expect you to!). We’ll help provide some education that will give you a better sense of what you might be dealing with and how to address it.

Dollar Spot vs. Brown Patch

Both Dollar Spot lawn disease and Brown Patch lawn disease are caused by invasive fungus. Brown Patch appears as brownish-yellow “patches” (irregular circles) that can spread. They might start around six inches in diameter but can grow to be several feet. This disease begins to grow fastest when temperatures are higher (80+) and there is also high humidity.

Brown Patch lawn disease

Like any lawn fungus, it thrives in conditions that are both wet and hot.

In terms of size and shape, this is different from Dollar Spot which begins as small, tight, circular clusters. True to the name, Dollar Spot lawn disease does look like small silver dollars throughout the lawn both in size and in shape.

Dollar Spot Lawn Disease

These small circles are usually straw-colored and they often have a brown border around them. While these small circles don’t seem like a big deal, it doesn’t take long for them to spread and cause a lot of damage.

In their early stages, Brown Patch and Dollar Spot are fairly distinguishable from one another, particularly since Dollar Spot is going to have smaller circles (pretty perfectly shaped). But as the Dollar Spot lesions grow, they can become larger, irregular patches (especially as they grow together).

It is at this stage that Dollar Spot vs. Brown Patch can be difficult for some homeowners to tell apart if they don’t know much about the disease.

Discoloration Not Caused by Lawn Diseases in Memphis

Of course, sometimes homeowners call us and are pretty certain that they have a lawn fungus problem when in actuality, it turns out to be something else. Before we dive into how to treat lawn disease, let’s quickly talk about other potential causes of spots on the lawn.

  • Dog Urine: Urine burn is a common reason behind brown spots in the yard. Because dog urine is high in nitrogen and urea, in large quantities, it can burn the grass and cause “spots.” This tends to occur if you have a pup that uses the same location to repeatedly go to the bathroom.
  • Dull Mower Blades: Homeowners are often shocked to learn how much mowing can impact the health of their lawn. But mowing the lawn with dull blades can absolutely do damage that can lead to brown or yellow spots that might look like a disease.
  • Pest Problems: Just like lawn disease, lawn pests can also wreak havoc and cause discolored spots on the lawn. Grubs, chinch bugs, and armyworms are three particular pests that we see often in Memphis, TN and that can definitely leave behind discoloration.
  • Thatch Build-Up: If you have a lawn that is dealing with a thatch problem, this can also lead to discoloration. Your lawn can die in spots from excessive thatch. That’s why aeration and overseeding is such an important service.
  • Heat and Drought Stress: It’s no secret that lawns in Memphis, TN can really take a beating during the hot and dry months. If you’re experiencing discoloration with your lawn, it could be a response to the stress that it’s going through from an environmental standpoint. We’ve written an article on how to tell the difference between dead and dormant grass which can provide some more helpful information.

As you can see, there are many different reasons why your lawn might be going through a period of discoloration and it’s not necessarily a lawn fungus issue. This is one of the key benefits of working with a lawn care professional that can help you to make the proper diagnosis.

lawn care technician discusses lawn disease with client

At Master Lawn, we even encourage homeowners to text us photos of their lawn in between our visits if there is something going on. We understand that with certain issues, particularly disease and pests, time can be of the essence. If it does turn out to be something like Brown Patch lawn disease or Dollar Spot lawn disease, we want to help you act quickly.

Implementing Lawn Fungus Control

If your lawn discoloration does turn out to be related to lawn disease, then the next step is lawn fungus control. It’s important that the proper diagnosis is made because Brown Patch lawn disease and Dollar Spot lawn disease can require specific fungicides.

Getting fungal activity under control quickly is important because of how fast these diseases can spread. While they do sell fungicides in the store, a professional-grade product is going to be much more effective.

technician pours granular fungus control into spreader

At Master Lawn, we have found a top-of-the-line granular product that is highly effective. Though many companies do use liquid control, we have found that instead of mixing up a huge tank of liquid product and hoping we have the right amount from property to property, that granular allows us to be a lot more precise. We can apply just the right amount and put it exactly where it needs to go.

Of course, a common misconception is that fungicide fixes the damage that was already done. That’s not the case. Instead, it’s going to work to stop the lawn fungus from spreading any further. We usually tell homeowners that it could take around one week for it to start working fully.

Repairing a Lawn Damaged by Lawn Diseases in Memphis

Once active growth ceases, we can then start lawn repairs as necessary. Some of the damaged grass blades will grow out and be mowed off. Since the disease was stopped in its tracks, there should be healthy grass below.

technician performing aeration on yard

On top of that, we’d want to perform aeration and overseeding to begin to fill in any bare spots that were left behind. Most of the time, a lawn will really bounce back after the lawn fungus is stopped and aeration and overseeding are performed. However, if the lawn was completely ravaged by disease, it might take a little bit longer.

It’s also important to note that lawn fungus controls do not last forever. If conditions persist, you’ll need to repeat the control applications.

Preventing Brown Patch Lawn Disease and Dollar Spot Lawn Disease

Because lawn disease can take over quickly, the best action truly is prevention. So often these diseases are already spreading even before they are on the homeowner’s radar. That’s why good lawn care habits are important.

sprinkler watering grass in morning

For one, it is recommended that you water early in the morning which gives the sun time to dry your lawn out. When you water in the evening hours, that water sits on the lawn and creates a habitat that can breed fungal growth.

lawn care professional mowing lawn with ride on mower

As we mentioned, mowing habits are also really important to a lawn’s health. You want to make sure that you are mowing with sharp, clean blades so that you prevent spreading disease. If you are using a professional mowing service, make sure that they are cleaning their mower deck so that they aren’t bringing a disease from one property to another.

It is also beneficial to implement preventative care. At Master Lawn, our Gold Program includes preventative turf disease treatments.

Partner with a Pro for Peace of Mind

We know that lawn disease can be a stressful topic. It can feel like you’re doing everything right and yet lawn fungus can still wreak havoc. That’s why it can be so beneficial to partner with a professional.

Not only should a professional be on the lookout for early signs of a lawn disease but they’ll also be able to take proactive measures to help prevent some of these problems in the first place.

Lawn Care Services - Master Lawn

At Master Lawn, we value having a partnership with our clients. As we’ve said, we welcome clients reaching out to us in between lawn care visits at the first sign of trouble. The last thing that we ever want is for homeowners to lose their lawn to a disease. We’re here to help make sure that doesn’t happen.

Ready to have a lush green lawn, free from disease, at your Memphis, TN home? Talk to a lawn care expert, choose from 3 program options, and become the master of your lawn.

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Image Source: Brown Patch, Dollar Spot 

Joey Steele, Lawn & Plant Health Care Manager

Since 2004, Joey has been using his B.S. in Landscape Construction and his turf and ornamental certifications to transform properties in our area. He loves seeing the fruit of his team's hard work and enjoys the many relationships he's formed since joining our team in 2008. He's an Olive Branch, MS native and enjoys spending time with his wife and three young boys, fishing and going to football games.

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