Archive for the ‘Cultural Practices’ Category

Summer lawn tips

Dramatic weather fluctuations in temperature and humidity cause real problems to your summer lawn. Daily temperatures in the upper 80’s or low 90’s directly contribute to our cool-season grasses shutting down to protect themselves resulting in brown or tan patches in your lawn. High heat also contributes to fast drying of the soil which speeds up the browning in a normally green lawn.

 

Grub control being applied to a large lawn

 

Lawns really prefer temperatures in the 70’s, so grass browning is a normal part of summer. Even with adequate soil moisture, high heat slows lawn growth and the typical lush lawn you had in the spring fades to lighter shades of green. July and August can be brutal on lawns, especially if you are mowing too short and have not been diligent in preparing your lawn in the spring and even the previous fall for summer weather.

 
Thin lawns or those predisposed to quick drying, perhaps with a higher sand content or southern exposure means the soil will become very hot, leading to crabgrass germination and annual weeds like spotted spurge, oxalis, black medic, and purslane. These heat-loving weeds will pop up in a short time, barely noticeable until they begin filling in thin or bare areas within weeks. Spurge is particularly aggressive and will literally grow up and over your lawn like crabgrass. Crabgrass thrives in hot and dry weather, seemingly growing inches overnight under ideal summer conditions. What can be done?

 

 

Spurge is a fast growing summer annual weed.

Spurge is a fast growing summer annual weed.

 

 

Preventative measures are the best course of action starting off the year with a spring pre-emergent, broadleaf weed control, and high mowing, and mulched clippings to recycle valuable nutrients. However for severe weed infestations or those with a low tolerance for such invaders, summer spraying can provide some relief. There are several products available which will specifically target the crabgrass and annual weeds during July and August. A few treatments can do a nice job restoring a civilized lawn which may have become overrun by crabgrass along the driveway, walkway, or patio sections.

 
Areas prone to high heat such as along roads, thin areas, and pavers are particularly vulnerable to weed invasion even with a spring treatment of inhibitor simply due to the weak turf foundation and the harsh conditions of summer. Any pre-emergent product applied can only stand up so long in thin or bare areas of a lawn which is why a thick, healthy lawn is the best defense. High heat is not the only down side to summer lawn blues; high humidity can spell double trouble as diseases like summer and brown patch can really take hold and do damage in short order.

 
In the case of brown patch, too much water when combined with high heat can set your lawn up for damage and thinning virtually overnight. Watering in the morning is your best friend and a little less water is better than too much when it comes to irrigation systems. I’ve seen a lot of lawns killed with kindness as irrigation systems drown the grass, and although the color is better and there is less dry brown, damage from summers diseases can cause more significant turf loss.

 

 

For a free mowing magnet, just e-mail or call anytime.

For a free mowing magnet, just e-mail or call anytime.

 

 

On the flip side, short mowing and not enough irrigation promotes summer patch, especially in sod or bluegrass lawns. Summer patch damage becomes evident as pitting, scars, and crescent-shaped lesions due to heat, humidity, and turf under stress like drought. Short mowing further compounds the problem which means even more stress placed on your lawn resulting in permanent damage. Seeding with a disease-resistant rye grass into the patches in the fall will help ease the visual trauma.

 
Think of the summer as a time to get your lawn through a bad cold or flu and fall as the cure. The goal is to prevent as much damage as possible from weeds, insects, drought, and disease. Sometimes a light touch is better than spraying materials which further stunt and stress out an ecosystem already under duress. Each lawn is unique, but many underlying principles remain the same in respect to irrigation, mowing, and lawn treatments.  As always, the best offense is a good defense in the spring and fall. When in doubt, seek professional advice; what you chose to do or not do this summer really can impact your lawn.

 

In any case, take a vacation, this is great beach weather!

 

 

Enjoy your summer vacation but be sure to follow basic lawn tips.

Enjoy your summer vacation but be sure to follow basic lawn tips.

 

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Red thread disease

Published by mrgrass on June 22nd, 2014 - in Cultural Practices, Turf Disease

Nothing can spoil the fine view of a healthy lawn than an abrupt case of red thread. Appearing from spring until fall and typically confined to humid or wet weather, red thread can pop up in a short period of time with a characteristic fist-sized patch of pink emanating out of the ends of the grass blades. This discoloration later turns tan or light brown. Red thread can be spread to other lawn areas if cut when wet because it is a moisture-loving fungal disease. Red thread is a very common lawn disease and can really make a nice lawn look rather unsightly. Fortunately, keeping your lawn healthy is the best prevention: a.m. watering, regular mulching of the clippings for a natural fertilization, and not mowing when wet.

Older red thread in a home lawn
Unfortunately, some grasses like fine fescue are more prone to becoming infected with red thread than say bluegrass. Commercial mowing can also spread the disease from one infected lawn to another under the right conditions, such as wet grass. The good news is red thread is primarily an esthetic disease, not generally causing any long- term damage, unlike brown or summer patch. (See http://www.mrgrassblog.net/2013/06/11/lawn-diseases/ for additional information on summer or brown patch.) The characteristic pink patches are most noticeable early in the morning while dew is still present. Red thread actually grows out of the tips of the grass blade appearing like pink cotton candy. A fungicide can be used to clean up the disease, especially if there is a low tolerance to how it looks or perhaps a special event is planned and the lawn needs to be in pristine shape.

Red thread disease in lawn
Mulching your clippings helps recycle valuable organic matter and actually helps keep the lawn more stable in terms of year-round health. Grass clippings help reduce peaks and valleys in a fertility program or when unusually wet weather causes a rapid growth rate, depleting the bank of food available to your lawn. Cutting at 3” also insures a more supportive root system, ideal when hot weather hits, keeping the soil surface cooler and inhibiting weed seeds from germinating.

Red thread patches in a home lawn
If you think you have a case of red thread disease, give your local lawn care provider a call and have it checked out to confirm this diagnosis. Like a common cold, red thread can pop up and then just go away, so don’t fear.

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Spring Lawns After a Harsh Winter

Unusually large amounts of snow and a late winter thaw can spell trouble for home lawns in VT and NH.  Massive piles of snow and ancient icy banks are determined to persist well into late April.  Slow melting ice and snow is anything but good news for grass buried deep beneath the arctic wasteland we call home as temperatures remain far below average in the last days of March.  The real damage from the copious use of rock salt will become apparent as the snow recedes, exposing brown and yellow patches along walkways and driveways.  Pieces of turf now flipped upside down lie like fish out of water from plow damage after each successive storm in what has been called a “real winter”.  Cue the spotlight on snow mold as the cold temperatures, with just the right amount of humidity, are ideal for this disease to thrive.  Pink and gray snow mold may be widespread and hamper the ability of your lawn to recover successfully from the trauma dealt by Mother Nature.  If I had a batman lamp, I would surely turn it on and point it into the night sky; our lawns need help.

Help our lawns
Fear not, Mr. Grass is here and although not a super hero, I am well versed in the green art of lawn care and helping the innocent lawns which have been beaten down from a harsh winter.  You can help your lawn immediately by breaking up piles of ice and snow, scattering the chunks onto warmer surfaces to melt; a driveway or patio perhaps.  The faster the snow goes, the quicker the soil will warm and awaken your dormant lawn into recovery mode.  If there are excessive leaves, debris, branches and other objects, try and remove them before the lawn begins growing to prevent mulching and unnecessary damage.  This is especially true of gravel and rocks that may have been pushed up and onto lawn surfaces from winter plowing.  Rake and remove any gravel and sand from your lawn.  If you do have visible turf chunks, help them by flipping the root surface over and put it back on the ground so when growth occurs, some root regeneration can occur.  Leaving chunks of lawn in pieces lying on each other will also damage the healthy lawn below; acting as mulch.  This phenomenon is especially true as things really warm up and the grass begins to grow again.

Big pile of snow
Additional winter recovery can be obtained by firing up the friendly soil micro-organisms with compost tea, a high quality lime, or fertilizers.  I do not recommend heavy dethatching because the damage inflicted may well thin out or even kill portions of your lawn under such stress.  I do recommend lightly raking out any matted snow mold and ice damage which will speed up the drying process, warm the soil, and promote new root and shoot growth.  Your lawn will need extra help this spring so plan on doing your part.  As your lawn recovers, using crabgrass or other broadleaf weed controls become more practical as tools to protect future infestations.  Good luck and may the temperature rise in your neighborhood creating more green and less white!

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