bluegrass sod turning brown

I just bought the probe from U-Spray, after reading about the importance of proper Ph for a healthy lawn. I put in blue grass sod last spring. I live in the Chicago suburbs. In Aug and Sept, a large area of the sod began going brown. Not totally dead, but very weak looking. I aerated and increased watering but it didn’t help. Now I am guessing it is a fungus problem. I checked the Ph using the new probe. The reading was just a bit under 8. Based on the article on your web site, I have alkaline soil, which requires treatment with sulfur. Before I go ahead, is alkaline soil consistent with the lawn problem I have described?


As you know from our SOIL PH ARTICLE, getting your soil PH balanced is paramount when trying to diagnose turf grass related issues. Based on the information you’ve provided, I’m sure the high PH you’ve discovered in your soil is causing a problem. But it’s really tough to know for certain just what the problem is as long as the grass isn’t growing and the PH is out of whack. In fact, bluegrass likes a low PH. Something in the 6.25-7.0 range would be best. Once you get over 7.5 mark on the soil probe, a lot can go wrong. And as long as the PH is over 7.0, trying to figure out what’s wrong doesn’t make a lot sense. I’m inclined to say it’s something like iron chlorosis and not a fungus but at this point I would be premature in making any such assessment. I just know bluegrass is prone to this disorder; once bluegrass turf gets a high PH and chlorosis kicks in, one of the symptoms can be brown, faded grass blades. But it’s way too soon to know for sure so here’s what you do.

First, get some SULFUR GRANULES and apply them right away. I would attempt to get the PH down to a level of 6.5 or slightly lower. Since it’s just the beginning of December, it might take a little longer for this to happen once the turf in your region freezes. If you’re able to get some granules applied before the yard is covered with snow, you should be able to start the process. But for the PH to change as much as you’ll need it to move, I’m thinking you’ll need some warm temps here and there over the course of the winter so the chemical adjustment can have the right conditions to complete the reaction and drop the PH level. Fortunately I believe you have enough time to correct the problem before next spring but for now, that’s all I’d worry about accomplishing.

And after a month following the first application of Sulfur you can try to get some PH measurements to see what’s happening. I’m thinking it might take 2-4 months so don’t fret if it’s January and you still haven’t gotten below a 7.0. This is quite normal for cold climate regions and as long as you get it down to the good range by next April-May, I think you’ll be set for next summer and whatever other turf problems arise once the PH is in balance. At that point (when the PH is in the right range) you can start trying treatments to cure problems as they occur.

Here are direct links to the information and products listed above:

Soil PH Article:

Sulfur Granules:

PH Probe:

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