Ask Burton: This week, a heads up on a nasty turf disease in our area. Q: I have irregular patches of dead grass in my St. Augustine lawn. The areas are surrounded by yellowing grass, and the patches show up regardless of whether the areas are in sun or shade. I had chinch bugs last year and treated for them. Is it the same problem?

A: Probably not. Chinch bugs really take off when the weather gets hot, and are always worst in the sunniest, driest parts of your lawn. It’s early for this to be chinch bug damage.

What’s more likely is take-all root rot, a tenacious turf disease. Roots will be stunted and dead on the dying grass, and the runners will be easily pulled from the soil. Runners and leaf blades alike die, with grass yellowing around the dead areas.

Treat the disease with azoxystrobin (Scotts Disease Ex) or thiophanate-methyl (Bonide Infuse) fungicides. Raking in a layer of peat moss in the dead patches and in the area immediately around the killed spots is useful, as is applying sulfur at the rate of 3-4 pounds per 1,000 square feet over the lawn.

Stay with it. The lawn that’s killed by this disease is entirely dead, but with care, you can get the spots to grow back together from the edges. If you have larger killed areas, it might be necessary to sod some fresh grass into the worst areas to mend the lawn anytime soon, once the disease is under control. Don’t over-fertilize; excessive fertilization makes this disease spread.

Burton specializes in diagnosing and solving plant problems. If you have a question for Burton, please email him at and include photos showing the problem.