Have you noticed odd, brown-like stripes appearing out of nowhere on your Dallas area lawn over the last few weeks? No, you are not going crazy, and no, aliens did not just land in your backyard. What you are seeing are called Zebra stripes, and this is a common phenomenon that occurs in zoysia and bermudagrasses this time of year. Read on to find out why and if there is anything you can do to prevent this from happening.
Brown stripes streaked across your lawn mimicking the stripes of a tiger or zebra may seem like a cause for concern, especially if they are occurring on your lawn but not your neighbors. Fortunately, your lawn is not a victim of some kind of fungus or vicious insect looking to wreak havoc on your lawn. These odd-looking stripes that occur on bermudagrass and zoysia grasses are caused by frost. And while they may look unsightly, they are not harmful. In a few days or weeks, they will be gone. Once the temperatures drop enough, your bermudagrass will go completely dormant, and in the spring, it will greenback as if these stripes had never appeared.
So what exactly causes these horrifying lines? Here in Dallas, November through December is a time of transitional weather. As temperatures start to cool and the hours of daylight diminish, we see seasonal changes in our yards. Trees put on a spectacular show of bright, vivid colors and the luscious green of our warm-season grasses starts to fade. This is because our warm-season grasses are sensitive to freezing temperatures.
During the fall here in Dallas, we are in the in-between phase. The ground is still warm, yet the air is getting colder. According to the National Weather Service, air temperature is typically measured about six feet above ground level, and the temperature at the ground level may be a bit lower. When the warm earth from below reaches the cool air above, it creates different temperatures throughout your leaf blades that circulate throughout them. But the conditions have to be just right. This is why you may see these odd patterns of stripes on your lawn but not your neighbors.
What Makes the Right Conditions
First, the grass itself has to be sensitive to near-freezing temperatures. Bermudagrass and zoysia grasses fit this bill. Secondly, ground temperatures must still be warm compared to the rapid onset of decreasing air temperatures. This is usually the case here in Dallas in the fall when we get our first few touches of frost. The warm ground provides a buffer from the chill damage. The higher the grass blades are, the more the temperature differences will develop within the blades. These factors combined with thermal currents within the blades will cause some of your grass blades to turn brown while other parts will stay warm enough to avoid frost damage and remain green. In a nutshell? Jack Frost causes zebra stripes.
Zebra stripes can occur throughout fall and even into late winter. But rest assured, there is nothing to worry about. Relax and give your lawn time to recover. If stripes occur before you are done mowing for the year, keep mowing at the same height while the pattern evens out. Once it does, mow the grass down to remove only 1/3 of the blade to avoid scalping the turf.
If zebra prints show up in later winter to early spring, let time do its thing. Your grass will come back around when the temperatures warm back up, and it comes back to life from dormancy.
To be sure zebra stripes are what you have, or if you have questions or need more information, feel free to call the professionals at Gro Lawn. And to ensure the health and vitality of your lawn, contact us about our different lawn care programs. We offer customized lawn care programs to fit the needs of all warm-season grasses, including Bermudagrass, St. Augustine, and Zoysia. Each program includes the appropriate amounts of fertilization required to keep your turf thick, full, and healthy. Each also contains the exact amount of weed control needed to develop a well-manicured lawn and disease control to ensure your grass remains well-protected.
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