North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Identifying lawn problems


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There are a variety of problems that can threaten your lush, green lawn.

Landscaping can be a rewarding hobby that instills a sense of pride in homeowners. Whether you prefer to get your hands dirty planting perennials or devote the bulk of your attention to crafting a lush, green lawn, chances are you will run into a problem during lawn and garden season.

Some problems are easy to identify, while others are more complex. The following are a handful of diseases homeowners may encounter when spending time on maintaining their lawns and gardens over the next several months.

Red Thread

Red Thread disease is the most common fungal infection in the Pacific Northwest that lawn caretakers have to worry about.

It generally happens in the spring and fall, said Steve Smith, owner of the Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

"You'll see these pink patches in the lawn and the grass blades will have shriveled up and have a pink hue," he said.

The disease is named for the small red needle-like objects that come out of the grass blades that give them a reddish color.

According to Smith the disease is caused by poor fertility or drainage. The best ways to fight it are by aerating the lawn to improve drainage or to fertilize the lawn to stimulate growth.

Applying a fungicide may also help fight the disease, said Smith.

Crane Flies

Crane flies are the biggest concern for Washington state growers when it comes to insects because they can get into your soil and "they eat all the roots and your grass will die," said Smith. Last year was an especially bad year for crane flies, he said.

You want to be sure you actually have crane flies before you try insecticides though.

"The worst thing you can do is throw a lot of pesticides on the off chance you might have crane flies, because that's bad for the environment and bad for plants," said Smith.

The best way to test for them is to take a five-gallon bucket, Smith says a paint bucket will work, and cut out the bottom. Set it over a portion of the grass that is dying and pour about a gallon of soapy water in the bucket.

The soap in the water will drive insects to the surface, and you'll likely see earthworms and other insects.

"If you have a lot of crane flies, you could see 20 to 30 of them per square foot," said Smith.

Insecticides are one way to fight the flies. Another method is local birds, like starlings and robins, which "will forage on the lawn and eat a lot of them," said Smith.


Weeds are another common problem, said Smith.

The best way to prevent weeds is to mow your grass as high as you can make it.

"One of the biggest mistakes in keeping a lawn is cutting it too short," he said. With higher blades the ground is more shaded and it's harder for the weeds to take root in that environment, said Smith.

Using good soil and applying fertilizer on a regular basis help discourage weeds as well.

Smith does not recommend the use of weed and feed as a deterrent though.

"That's spreading herbicide on the entire lawn. It's better just to spot spray a few of the weeds," he said.

He recommends more lawn care tips from Snohomish County's Natural Yard Care program, which can be found at and offers tips for environmentally friendly lawn care.


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