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From the UGA Extension Office: As green as grass
Richard Evans
Richard Evans

Richard Evans, Contributor.

As green as grass. As red as a tomato. As blue as the sky. Some things seem to epitomize a certain color. When we think of green–we automatically think of grass. A sea of green around our homes is our idea of a healthy lawn. What do we do when grass is not green? Here are some colors area gardeners do not like to see in their lawn.

Some have called to say, “My centipede grass is turning red.” Lawns should not be red. What is happening?

There are two basic types of centipede grass. One turns yellow when it is stressed. The other kind turns red.

Some type of stress has turned the grass red.

We sometimes see red streaks where the tires of the mower run. On closer inspection, we may find that the lawn is suffering due to hard compacted soils or too often watering. If we correct these problems the red may go away.

Take a shovel and try to sink it into the dirt. Can you dig at least eight inches fairly easily? If not, the soil is probably compacted. Water the soil well and then core aerate. Use an aerator that pulls plugs out of the ground.

Are you watering more often than once a week? If so, begin to water deeply once a week. Apply three-quarter inches of water each time. How long should this take? Put a short container (a pie pan or tuna can) under the sprinkler and turn it on. Time the system to see how long it takes to put out three-quarters of an inch. Water this long each time.

If you have been watering every other day or even every day, you may have damaged the lawn. Slowly reduce how often you water and increase how much you water until you are on this program.

Twice a week may not be too often, but see how your lawn responds on the once a week program. The best way to time your system is to water when the grass turns grey, the leaves roll up and footprints remain in the grass.

Did you say that lawns can turn grey also? They certainly can! Grey grass is an indication of lack of water. One area of the lawn will often turn grey first. The soil may be compacted, very sandy or the sprinkler may not hit it well. Find and solve the problem.

“My centipede lawn is yellow,” some say. Centipede grass should be a yellow-green color, I call it crab apple green. Do not fertilize it so much that it stays dark green all the time. If you do, your centipede may go into decline.

Centipede sometimes turns completely yellow. This is due to stress or centipede decline. Find and remove the stress. To green up centipede or other lawns, you can treat with a chelated iron product. Once again, do not try to keep centipede grass green with fertilizer.

St. Augustine may also turn yellow.

Check for chinch bugs, disease or hard and dry soils. In Bermuda and Zoysia, look for drought or disease problems.

Centipede can even be white and red striped. Each blade can have white and red streaks running through it. Though this sounds pretty, it is not. This can be an indication of a spittle bug infestation.

Look for the masses of spittle deep in the turf. These hide the young which feed on the grass. The adults are brown to black, 3/8 inch long with two orange stripes.

They hop and fly across the yard.

It takes a lot of spittle bugs to damage centipede grass. Do not spray unless you see lots of damage like this. Spittle bugs are worse on over watered and thick thatch lawns. Water as I mentioned before, mow at the correct height (one to one and one-half inches) and then should be less of a problem. We should seldom need to spray for them.

Hopefully your lawn is the correct color. If not, follow these recommendations. A soil sample can help you to identify and correct other problems, such as pH. Follow these tips to help your lawn be “green as grass.” Please contact the Bryan County Extension office with any questions you might have.

Richard Evans is the Bryan County UGA Extension Coordinator. You can reach the Bryan County Extension Office at or call (912) 6532231.

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