QUESTION: Every winter for some reason our lawn actually appears to turn pink! On close examination, some of the grass blades are actually pink. What causes this? Is there anything we can do to prevent it?

ANSWER: Based on the symptoms you described, most likely your lawn is infected with the fungus disease commonly known as Corticum Red Thread. This fungus disease develops most rapidly during periods of high moisture and cool temperatures. The effects of this disease are noticeable during spring and fall, but especially during the winter months. Symptoms consist of watersoaked, darkened, irregular areas from two to 24 inches in diameter. These areas gradually become bleached or tan colored. When the disease is well-developed, light pink to red fungus strands, 1/16 to 1/2 or more inches long, grow from the tips of the leaves and from the leaf sheaths.

The disease is primarily cosmetic; it rarely kills any grass and is more severe on lawns which lack vigor. Although there are turf fungicides registered for the control of this fungus, the disease can be effectively controlled simply by maintaining a balanced nutritional program. WSU turfgrass specialists recommend applying five pounds of Ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) per 100 square feet four times a year, with the final application due the last week of November. Proper fertilization not only helps reduce red thread, but also helps reduce Ophiobulus patch, rust and other leaf diseases and weeds.

QUESTION: Last year we received a beautiful Thanksgiving cactus in full bloom. We had hoped it would bloom again this year, but it doesn't appear to have a single flower bud. Why?

ANSWER: Thanksgiving cactus are hybrids of the old fashioned Christmas cactus. The majority of them bloom in November and on into December. Unfortunately, even when they get good care, they often fail to bloom. The difficulty can often be traced to one of two causes - either incorrect temperature or insufficient light. They will not flower if the temperature in your home is too high. They prefer cooler temperatures, preferably around 60 to 65 degrees F, although they will set floral buds at 70 degrees F if their daylight hours are not extended by electric lights. The ideal location for floral bud initiation would be a cool room with good, bright light during the day.

Thanksgiving cactus should not be treated exactly the same way as desert cactus. They need a fast draining potting medium that is re-watered each time the surface begins to dry out. One of the recommendations often found in older garden books discussing this plant is the practice of withholding water in the fall to encourage good bloom set. A number of researchers have found this practice actually decreases bloom numbers.

Roots of Thanksgiving cactus are best kept somewhat confined. Transplanting the plants to a larger pot about every other year using a well-drained potting media should be sufficient.

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