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Extension Service plays "show and tell'

Editor's Note: Carol Frary is a graduate of the Extension Service Master Gardener class. This column will run bi-weekly and feature answers to questions presented to the Extension Service. To have your question answered, call the Extension office at 726-2141. For more gardening news, see SECTION D of today's Times.

It seems that "show and tell" has been a recent theme at the Extension Office. A man came into the office for us to identify a worm for him.

Question: What is this? (He was holding a jar with some sand in it and a worm that was blue-grey in color and looked like a fishing worm but moved around like a snake.)

Answer: It wasn't a snake. It was a worm lizard. They are native to just north and central Florida. They live in the ground where termites and fishing worms are their favorite food. You would probably never see one unless you dug it up with a shovel of dirt. The man took it home with him to put it back in the soil. If it eats termites, it is worth keeping.

A couple brought in a sample of grass that was turning brown in parts of their yard. Most of the yard looked good, but these brown spots were beginning to increase in size.

Question: What is wrong with our grass? We fertilized the middle of March. We've been watering and you can see that the lawn has not been scalped.

The problem is brown patch. It is a disease of turf grasses caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani. It occurs in St. Augustine, Bermuda grass, bahia grass and centipede grass. In north Florida, it is a spring and fall disease. The fungus infects parts of the foliage nearest the soil, disrupting transport of water and causing death.

The first symptom of the disease is yellowing of the foliage; wilting of the leaves also occurs. Affected leaves dry and turn various shades of reddish-brown to straw brown. Under favorable conditions the affected area can grow from a few inches to several feet in diameter.

The affected area usually appears in a circular pattern but mowing might alter the shape by spreading the fungus. The basil portion of the leaf is rotted and brown. Surviving sprigs often grow and recover in the center of the patch so that the diseased area has a doughnut pattern.

To control brown patch use Daconil, applied according to the instructions, on the diseased area and one to two feet beyond. Repeat the treatment, if necessary. Always follow the directions on the label for best results.