tops of blades browning

lalalaJune 13, 2009

We've been renovating our small lawn since moving into our house a year and a half ago. We use a reel mower, and recently we've noticed that the tops of many of the grass blades are turning brown. This is not just the very tips of the blade, but maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the blade. The bottom half looks totally fine. It affects the lawn uniformly, but I think it may affect the thinner/finer blades (fescues?) more.

Could this be the result of a dull mower blade? Our reel mower is an old hand-me-down and we do sharpen it by hand, but perhaps we need to have it professionally sharpened. My best guess is that maybe the fine blades bend over too much and get damaged rather than actually cut?

The details on the lawn:

Last spring we basically started from scratch in the back yard, raking up what little lawn was there, turning the soil, amending with compost, and seeding heavily. We overseeded in the spring as well, and have been very happy with the results. We have clay soil, and have used a granular organic lawn fertilizer (it has bone meal, kelp, etc.). We have an irrigation system and water deeply once or twice a week depending on weather. The lawn is in part shade, getting somewhere between 3-6 hours of sun depending on the section.

For seed we used Jonathan Green Sun & Shade mixture grass seed, which is described as: 20% Carmen Chewings Fescue, 20% Frontier Perennial Ryegrass, 20% Hood Chewings Fescue, 15% Darkstar II Perennial Ryegrass, 15% Deepblue Kentucky Bluegrass, 15% Eugene Creeping Red Fescue.


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Fescues (both fine and tall) are more susceptible to tearing than KBG, so if this is showing up more on the fescues, I think a dull blade is a likely prospect.

Can you post a closeup picture?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 11:24PM
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In addition to sharpening the blade, do you adjust it so you have the proper distance from the bedknife? That's apparently important and something I run across while trying to decide on getting a reel mower.

When grass gets cut it has to heal. Until it heals it has a greater chance of getting a lawn disease, especially if it rains within I think 24 hours of cutting.

Could be some of the grass is getting more damaged, could be some of the grass is resistant to the fungus while the other isn't? Do you see any dark spots on any grass blades?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 11:59PM
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OK, here are some pictures. The first is a range of sample blades from the lawn (the two on the left being healthy and the rest having some degree of browning). Then close-ups, and two wider shots. The one that is kind of C-shaped is what I had initially noticed, but now that I look closely I see some other patterns of browning too.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 2:37PM
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Looks kind of like brown patch, a lawn diseases caused by fungus, except it doesn't have the dark rim that brown patch does.

The damaged blades are also much longer. Kinda looks like damage from the mower blade striking it but not cutting it, then striking it at a different location next time you mow and so on.

Only way to know what it is for sure is to take/send a sample to your local cooperative extension office and have them examine it under a microscope.

Might be time to sharpen or replace your mower blade. Frequent mowings with a sharp blade apparently helps to deter brown patch.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2009 at 9:42PM
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