Does Your Lawn have Summer Patch Disease?

Summer Patch Disease UltraLawn Cedar Rapids
Summer Patch Disease UltraLawn Cedar Rapids

Does your lawn look like this?

One of the most frequent diseases we encounter is summer patch. Summer patch is a soil-borne disease that attacks Kentucky bluegrass in the heat of the summer. The damage from summer patch presents itself as incomplete rings of discolored/dead turf, usually with a patch of live turf in the middle. This disease is sometimes referred to as “frog-eye” because of this appearance.

Certain conditions favor the development of this disease;

  • Lawns grown on compacted soil are much more likely to show signs of summer patch, as their root structure is stunted and is more adversely affected by the stress of heat and humidity.
  • Excessive thatch buildup also encourages summer patch development. Thatch prevents water from reaching the soil and acts as a sponge that holds moisture. Regular aeration, especially on sodded lawns, is highly recommended to both alleviate compaction and help remove excessive thatch.
  • Lawns that are watered lightly and frequently are more susceptible to disease. Diseases favor humid conditions, and a frequent irrigation schedule doesn’t allow the turf or thatch layer to dry out as it should. The rule of thumb when watering turf is “deep and infrequent”. The goal is to provide about ½” of water through irrigation, then not water again for 3-4 days or until the turf needs it.
  • Low mowing height puts undue stress on turf and makes it susceptible to all weeds, pests and diseases, not just summer patch. Mowing heights of at least 3” are recommended throughout the growing season. During times of extreme heat or drought, raising the mowing height to 3.5” is good practice.
  • Recent research has shown that summer patch tends to be more of an issue in soils that are lacking certain nutrients. There are 15 nutrients necessary for turf growth, and most of them are present in the soil. Different soil types are abundant or deficient in certain “micronutrients” (elements that aren’t needed in great supply), and soil tests will tell us exactly what is needed.


We typically see summer patch in sodded lawns that are 2-3 years old (although it certainly is an issue for golf courses and athletic fields too), and it is a condition that eventually goes away (research suggests 7-10 years). Over time, the soil builds up defenses and immunity to it, but it can be unsightly until then. Summer patch becomes active when soil temperatures reach 65 degrees, but it only shows itself during period of more extreme heat and humidity when lawns are under more stress.

Control of Summer Patch

Whenever we’re encountered with a pest or disease, there are two treatment options; chemical and cultural. Chemical control involves using pesticides or other compounds to eradicate an unwanted disease. Cultural practices involve a variety of management techniques meant to change the environment, so a pest won’t survive or find favorable conditions. We outlined a few earlier, but it would be useful to go over those again!

Cultural Controls for Summer Patch:

  • Aerate regularly to alleviate soil compaction and help prevent thatch build-up
  • Irrigate infrequently, and when you do irrigate, try for a deep watering of ½” water
  • Raise mowing height to at least 3”, and in times of extreme heat or drought, raise mowing height to 3.5”
  • Maintain consistent nitrogen fertilization throughout the season to avoid periods of time where the grass is starved for nutrition or excessively fertilized.
  • Maintain a soil pH around 6.5. This can be found with a simple soil test. Some “old wives tales” suggest adding lime to the soil every year to raise its pH. We rarely encounter soils with low pH in this part of the country, and a lime application is not likely to be needed.

Chemical Controls for Summer Patch:

Regular fungicide applications are effective on summer patch, but for the average home lawn, this method isn’t practical. These applications can be costly and must be done every 14-28 days. This program is typical of golf course putting greens or high-maintenance athletic fields.

As mentioned earlier, summer patch and other diseases tend to favor lawns that are deficient in certain micronutrients. At UltraLawn, we’ve helped customers with summer patch by making supplemental applications of micronutrients. This program is aimed at modifying the soil, which takes some time to accomplish. We’ve noticed that summer patch damage is less severe and recovers faster after one year of micronutrient applications. After two years, we can achieve near-complete control. These applications must go in conjuncture with the proper cultural practices outlined earlier.

As more university research is done on summer patch and information is gathered, we at UltraLawn will continue to pass our knowledge and expertise on to our customers. If you suspect that your lawn has summer patch or have any other questions or concerns, feel free to give our staff a call!

Dead Grass in Your Lawn? You May have Bluegrass Billbugs

Throughout the course of a growing season, grass can be affected by several damaging insects. One of these is the bluegrass billbug. It gets its name from the long snout or “bill” that it uses to chew on leaves and stems. However, it is the larvae of these insects that cause considerable damage. Adult billbugs are usually seen in spring, and then again in early fall. Damage from their larvae usually appears in July. This damage begins as discolored, irregularly shaped patches. These patches turn yellow/brown, and when the damage is most severe, the turf can be lifted out of the soil with ease. To better understand the when’s and why’s of billbugs and their damage, it’s good to understand their life cycle.

Identification & Life Cycle

Adult billbugs are about ¼” long, with a brown/black body. The distinguishing characteristic is the long, curved snout and bent antennae. The larvae of the bluegrass billbug looks very much like the dreaded white grub, only they are considerably smaller. They have a white, fleshy body with a small orange/red head.

Adults emerge from “hibernation” in the spring and chew small holes in the leaves and stems of turf plants. This damage is not harmful to the plant. They will then lay their eggs in these holes. Those eggs hatch in June/July, and these larvae are voracious eaters. They will chew their way through the plant down towards the “crown”, which is an area near ground level where growth originates. 

Here are a few pictures of the damage caused by billbugs, up-close and from a distance:

Control of Bluegrass Billbugs

The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies when dealing with these creatures! The best way to treat them is with a preventative insecticide aimed at eliminating billbugs in their larval stage. The product that UltraLawn uses for its grub preventer is also effective on the larvae of bluegrass billbugs. Should you or residents in the Cedar Rapids or Iowa City area have any questions or concerns, feel free to give the experts at UltraLawn a call and we’ll be happy to assist you!

The Great (Fertilizer) Debate: Organic vs. Synthetic


At UltraLawn, we continually work to provide the best service possible. This includes researching various fertilizer and pest control products and selecting the right tools to provide optimal value and results. For years, “conventional” lawn application programs relied heavily on synthetic fertilizers. However, we are excited to be modifying our program to include an organically blended fertilizer for all our applications! What is the difference between these products? What benefits can you expect? Let’s take a look….

What is Synthetically Derived Fertilizer?

Synthetic fertilizers are best known for being fast-acting and for coming in a variety of forms such as liquid, pellet, granule, and spike. Synthetic fertilizers are water-soluble and can be taken up by plants almost immediately. All lawn fertilizers are formulated to provide three main nutrients; nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. In the turf world, these are referred to as N, P and K. These nutrients come from a lab; certain chemical compounds are mixed and broken down, and eventually blended together to give us a final product. While these products provide a quick-hit of nutrients and rapid greening, the color won’t last as long as when organically derived fertilizers are used.  Consumers must reapply synthetic fertilizers regularly to keep the results from fading. UltraLawn has always used synthetic fertilizers that are treated and coated to release nutrients in a more controlled fashion, in an attempt to keep your lawn a nice, green color for as long as possible.

Synthetic fertilizers give plants a quick boost but do little to stimulate soil life, improve soil texture, or improve your soil’s long-term fertility. They’re highly water soluble and can leach into waterways. The quick results of synthetic fertilizers can come at a cost; apply too much and it may burn your lawn and plants. In order to deliver nutrients to the turf, limestone pellets are coated with nutrient blends. This method is extremely effective at ensuring a consistent layer of fertilizer is being applied, and the entire lawn is covered thoroughly. However, what’s left behind when the nutrients are fully released? Limestone, while not being bad for the soil, doesn’t truly provide benefits to the soil either. These conventional products do more for the turf, than for the soil. Synthetic fertilizers can do a lot of great things when used properly, but here at UltraLawn, “mostly great” isn’t good enough. With that in mind, let’s find out some more about Organic fertilizers.

What is Organically Derived Fertilizer? 

Instead of being mixed in a lab, the nutrients that the turf needs come from animal or plant waste products. Organic products are more sustainable, thereby leaving a smaller carbon footprint. Fertilizers derived from organic sources provide benefits to both plants and soil and when used properly, won’t burn or damage plants. Organically derived fertilizers improve the structure of the soil, and stimulate micro-organisms in the soil. Soil microbes play a key role in converting organic fertilizers into soluble nutrients that can be absorbed by plants at a rate they can use. Organically derived fertilizers often provide the secondary and micronutrients plants need, usually absent in synthetic fertilizers.

Organically derived fertilizers typically have a lower NPK analysis (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) than synthetics fertilizers, but they feed plants for a much longer period of time. As a result, the impact of organic fertilizers on lawn and plants is usually more subtle. It may take a little longer to see results, but the reward is a lawn that stays greener longer. There are no waste products in an organic fertilizer, everything in the bag is beneficial and used by the soil and turf!

There are a few downsides to a fully organic program; the cost is higher, and warmth and moisture is needed for those nutrients to be broken down and made available to the plant. Also, options for weed control and grub control are severely limited following a strict organic program.

What Programs Can UltraLawn Offer?

At UltraLawn, we offer several options for those who wish to follow a program that is more environmentally conscious;

Full Organic- This program features five applications with a 100% organically-derived fertilizer product. These products are loaded with beneficial nutrients and microbes, and will be excellent for building soil and turf health. However, this program does not include any forms of weed or insect control.

Organic with Weed Control- This program also includes 5 applications, with the first being a fertilizer with pre-emergent weed control. All other applications use organic-based fertilizers, and weed control is accomplished through spot-treatments. This program offers all the benefits that come with organic fertilizer, while accomplishing weed control as needed!

Organic/Synthetic with Weed and Insect Control- Our 6-application program offers the best combination of fertility and weed control in the area! Our sixth application includes a grub preventer, which will protect your lawn from devastating pests.  We will be combining the best of the synthetic/organic worlds and providing an organic blend fertilizer as part of this program. This program utilizes granular fertilizers and liquid products at the right time, to ensure your lawn is getting what it needs when it needs it! The best lawn care program around is now even better!

Give UltraLawn a call TODAY for a free estimate, and to talk with our staff about making your lawn an UltraLawn!

Battling Yellow or Brown Grass?

Have you struggled to solve the puzzle of yellow or brown patches in your yard? Several factors could be at play:

Warmth/Sun Exposure

Warmth or sun exposure can be the most obvious. Some yards may slope south and get more sunlight while others are stuck in the shade. Shady spots will always be slower to green up than the sunny ones and will require more time to ‘wake up’ in the spring.


A yellow lawn can be a sign that your lawn is chlorotic or lack proper nutrition. Our late fall application is helpful in preventing this. Lawns are hungry for more than just water! We can help you find the right balance.

Soil Compaction

The more compacted the soil is, the less warm spring air gets down to the roots, slowing down growth. Aerating your lawn at least once a year can prevent this. Another simple tip to consider is a light raking of your lawn to reduce any matting that may exist. This will also help your grass breathe.


Some species of bluegrass green up earlier than others. They may also have different healthy color characteristics – some may be a slow-growing dark green while another is a fast rising lighter color.


If you’d like answers, reach out for an on-site diagnosis. You can email us at or call 319.378.0386

Common Questions or FAQs about Our Lawn Care

Lawn Care FAQs

Do you do any granular applications?

We apply 4 granular applications and 2 liquid. We choose the application method based on what is most effective for the time of year.

What’s the difference between liquid and granular applications?

Weed control is always best applied in liquid form as we can control exactly where the product goes.  Our fertilizer has slow release properties whether it’s in liquid or granular form.

What does your fertilizer consist of?

We use a different fertilizer each time we’re there.  We apply the proper amount of the proper nutrients throughout the season.

When do you apply the Grub preventer application?

During the same visit as our summer application.

Can I buy some of your fertilizer?

No, we do not sell our fertilizer. We provide the service of applying it for you.

Can I do some seeding after your first application?

No, the 1st application contains pre-emergent crabgrass control, which prevents seed to germinate. If you do wish to seed it is best to bring a layer of soil in to cover the area then do your seeding.  FYI, the best time of year to seed is August or September.

Do I need to water-in my applications?

Yes, if you would like the product to become active. Otherwise, it will become active once it has come in contact with moisture.

Will your first application kill the dandelions?

No. Typically, the 1st application is applied before dandelions are actively growing and therefore weed control at that time is ineffective.

Should I rake my lawn before the first application? (still have leaves from last fall)

Light raking is good before or after this treatment.  If there is matted down grass it is always best to rake lightly to help the surface breathe and allow for a faster green up.

Do you power rake?  What do you do about thatch problems in lawns?

We do power rake, however, we recommend you aerate once a year as aeration does not cause stress on your lawn like power raking does. Aeration helps reduce thatch and compaction at the same time, and it’s usually cheaper!

What causes thatch problems?

It is natural for lawns to develop a thatch issue if aeration is not performed on a regular basis. 

I have children/pets, will this application be harmful to them?

Our applications are thoroughly tested and are approved for use where children and pets will be playing. The EPA performs roughly 120 tests on the products we’re using before they get approved for use. 

My application was just done, can my kids/pets be back on the lawn now?

We recommend you have pets/children stay off the lawn until the liquid applications that we apply have time to dry, which can vary from 1 to 3 hours depending on the humidity and so on. With granular applications you can re-enter the lawn immediately following our treatment.

I have a very narrow gate at my back yard, will your aerator fit through it?

Our aerators can only fit into a 36” gate.

I have moles, the master gardener said to spray for insects.  Will insect spray eradicate the moles?

No, you will need to trap or try a bait for the moles in order to eradicate them from your lawn. A grub preventer is not a mole preventer. The main food source for moles is earth worms and you wouldn’t want to hurt them as they help your lawn.

My lawn is very bumpy.  Do you roll lawns?

No, rolling of lawns counteracts the effects of an aeration. It makes your lawn compacted.

I have an acreage and can only afford 2 applications.  Which ones should I take?

We would recommend a minimum of 3 applications so you will not have crabgrass, however, if this is not feasible then late spring and early fall would be the best options if dandelions are your biggest concern.  We can get limited control of crabgrass and dandelion control with the early spring and early fall treatments.

Does it cost more per application if I take three or less applications?

Yes, it does.

3 apps = an extra $5 per, 2 apps = an extra $10 per, and 1 app = an extra $20 per.

It rained right after my application.  Now what?

If it was a granular applications, great! The rain will help the product become active. If it was a liquid application, a light rain will only help the nutrients get deeper into the soil.  If it was a heavy rain it is possible for the weed control to be affected; in this case remember we provide free service calls, if you have weeds that don’t die after a couple weeks please let us know and we’ll re-treat free of charge.

I know the square footage of my lawn.  What is the cost to spray _____ sq feet?

Let us get that price for you. We will always measure your lawn for our own records.

I know I’ve missed the first application, but can I still prepay for the remaining applications and receive the discount?

Yes, you may. We can get you a total discount for prepaying.

I don’t believe in chemicals.  Do you offer only mowing?

No, we do not offer just mowing. We do have two organic options for you, one that does provide weed control and one that is 100% organic which does not.

My lawn mower broke.  Can you mow my lawn today?

Unfortunately, not today. Give us a call and we’ll see what we can do as quickly as possible.

My grass is over a foot tall & my mower can’t cut it.  Can you mow my lawn?

No, we do not have the proper equipment to do this type of work.

Do you take credit cards?

Yes, we do accept credit cards for payment. We just do not accept credit/debit cards for prepayments due to third party fees. If you wish to prepay with a credit card, that’s fine however the discount will not apply.  Did you know you can set up auto payp

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