If your lawn develops brown spots, be sure that it isn’t an irrigation problem before assuming the cause is a pest or disease.
Damage from lack of water usually results in a faded edge with some gunmetal gray turf around the perimeter. If your lawn looks like it needs more water, try irrigating it twice every other day. Daily irrigation encourages shallow, unhealthy rooting and can help pests and diseases take hold.
A quick irrigation audit may be worthwhile to determine whether your sprinklers are matched and working properly. Information on checking their output can be found at www.ucanr.org.
More efficient sprinklers have been introduced in the past few years. Some require only a change of the nozzle. Check with your water provider to see if it gives a rebate for changing to efficient sprinklers.
Disease or pest problems will usually appear as spots with a defined edge to the damaged area. Evidence of caterpillars or grubs can be found under the surface of the green grass right outside of the damaged area. If you see pests or suspect disease, talk with someone knowledgeable about turf for specific solutions.
Fertilize only if needed, with a slow-release or organic fertilizer. Shocking a lawn at this time of the year with a sudden input of high nitrogen can cause all sorts of negative results.
I’m planting some perennials for late-season color to distract me while my lawn recovers. Great choices for our area include aster, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, daylily, gaillardia, sage (such as Salvia guaranitica), summer phlox and verbena. A good resource is http://plantfinder.sunset.com.
• The Green Thumb is a column by Tracy’s master gardeners. University of California-certified master gardeners answer questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.