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Why 2015 was a tough year for grass

I’ve said it time and time again, 2015 has been a really tough year on New England lawns. As the New Year rolled in with bone-chilling cold and tons of snow, our winter certainly continued through February. A wintery March came and went while snow banks lingered well into April in many towns. The next punch landed in May with hot, dry weather – crushing normal turf recovery after a brutal winter of cold and long-lasting ice and snow. With a shortage of rain in May, many lawns saw permanent damage and a backward swing from the fall of 2014.



Fall is the best month to help repair damage caused by summer heat and drought.

Fall is the best time to help repair damage caused by summer heat and drought.

June was the “best” lawn month with some rain and a somewhat normal temperatures only to have the oven turned to broil as July/August lingered in hot and humid weather for weeks upon weeks. Our cool season grasses simply never had the opportunity to recover never mind prepare for a dry, hot, humid summer. But there is more!

Trying to control broadleaf weeds without good soil moisture and reasonable air temperatures meant many were left to linger and grow. In a normal lawn season, these weeds would have thinned out. If that were not enough, the heat flamed the fan of crabgrass growth which took off like a rocket. Any crabgrass barrier failed prematurely with the hot, arid soil simply baking in the summer heat. Thin or bare patches of lawn soon became a sea of limey green crabgrass as the invasion progressed from late July into August.

Seriously, this was a hard year for many lawns. But there is still hope. Fall has arrived with rain, wonderful rain, and cooler temperatures. Perhaps all is not lost. There is hope for recovery; there is hope for repair. But what should be done? Fix damaged lawns with loam and seeding. Aerate and overseed thinned lawns or those needing extra help from the beating they received only weeks ago. A modest amount of fertilizer can bulk up your lawn and get things back on track. Prepare now for next spring, for we know not how the winter will treat our grassy friends. There is much to be done in the next two months, don’t let this vital time slip through your fingers. Not this fall.


Back to school: Ideal time for aeration

All the ads for back to school supplies are great reminders that it’s the start of a new season for lawn care too. Late summer/early fall is a great time of year for many lawn care services and this especially this year, your lawn deserves some extra attention. 2015 has been and continues to be a tough year for New England lawns beginning with a dry spring and a humid summer with less than desirable rainfall. Right from the start, a late spring dealt a harsh blow to grass attempting to recover from an arctic winter.



Aerating your lawn in the fall is a great way to prepare for next spring.

Aerating your lawn in the fall is a great way to prepare for next spring.

A dry spring faded into a dry summer with some areas receiving less than ¼ of the amount of normal rainfall. Humid weather brought red thread and placed even more stress on turf already feeling the pain of summer. Crabgrass, grubs, and chinch bugs began popping up in browned-out lawns. This is exactly why back to school time should include some extra attention to your lawn.

Fall ushers in the best time to seed in NH and VT due to warm soil temperatures and the demise of annual weeds like spotted spurge and crabgrass. Unlike spring, annual weeds are dying and provide an ideal opportunity to seed damaged and thin lawn areas alike. Don’t let this opportunity pass, it will be another year before it arrives again!
Specifically, core aerate to reduce thatch and compaction from dry weather.


The aeration holes provide an ideal scenario to overseed into an existing lawn area or one that is thin. Overseeding is not designed to establish a lawn, but add to an existing lawn by providing better turf grasses for future growth. For more damaged areas or bare patches, consider topdressing with a loam/compost blend and then seed at a full rate. Topdressing is a great way to repair insect or drought damage from this season.

Fertilizing, lime, and compost tea are all great ways to work on rejuvenating your lawn this fall. If your grass simply has weeds, fall is a super time to treat for them before winter arrives. Back to school time reminds us that preparation is key, not just for children and their parents, but for your lawn as well. The more you do for your lawn now, means a better start to next spring.


Patience with Your Lawn

However, a living landscape is much different then ordering your coffee with extra sugar in the morning. Living plants, including grass, are not easily changed by your desires or a swipe of your debit card. This mindset is hard to break evidenced by, “If my lawn is treated today, it had better respond by at least tomorrow morning”. Sorry my friend, but there are complexities of the outdoor environment that may be difficult to control irrespective of your desires.

Red Thread is a very common disease during the summer.

Red Thread is a very common disease during the summer.

Living grass and the soil beneath is a complex ecosystem which does not easily yield to our commands and thoughtful applications. Even under the best lawn care program, high heat or drought can hinder expected improvement during the season. A harsh winter can take your lawn back five steps after so much hard work the prior season. Mowing short can undo months of hard earned results if done at the wrong time of day and year. Patience is what I recommend, with a dash of hope, to any homeowner dreaming of that emerald carpet.

Think of all the working pieces in a lawn, the soil, the grass itself, the location, and then the care it receives in terms of mowing, watering, raking and such. There are a lot of variables, each playing a role in hindering or helping overall improvement to your lawn. The instant fix mindset does not work in the realm of living plants with so many “what ifs”. Sure, there are general predicable outcomes for any action, but there are many side roads which can lead to disappointment without a measure of patience.

There are no pizzas with extra cheese in the world of lawn care, only a mower with a sharp mulching blade. Patience means knowing that one season of weed spraying may not live up to your expectations. Patience means knowing that too much water can be just as bad as no water. Patience means knowing that you cannot have instant success when dealing with living plants.

There is a Latin proverb which says, “He who endures with patience is a conqueror”. Maybe we do live in a fast-paced society with a frenzy to be the best and have it all. Perhaps patience is a lost art and could be practiced in the many areas including lawn care. A fascinating thought worthy of reflection. I hope this year you can be the conqueror of your lawn and so much more while enduring with ample patience.

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