Posts Tagged ‘brown turf’

July & August can bring out the worst in a home lawn

Classic mid summer crabgrass outbreak

Midsummer weather can put even a great looking lawn into a slow dive of despair without careful attention.  As the heat kicks into high gear, soil temperatures reach their smoking point and crabgrass seeds begin germinating in earnest, popping like corn in a microwave.  Limey green crabgrass plants appear virtually overnight exposing vulnerable areas along driveways, patios, walkways, mailboxes among others.  Where did they come from?  How can they grow so fast?  Ah, the games have just begun!

If you have not watered and your lawn is cut short, now is when your thin lawn becomes choked out with crabgrass plants the size of small cars.  During hot, humid weather, cool season grasses will stop growing, sitting idle while crabgrass seemingly grows an inch an hour, basking in the searing July heat.  A weak or thin lawn, or those lacking a pre-emergent crabgrass barrier, are now at high risk for a crabgrass invasion that will only cease when school reopens.  While post-emergent sprays do exist, spraying at this stage is like using a garden hose on a house fire: it’s best just to let nature take its course.  Measures should be taken in the fall such as aeration, overseeding, lime, and turf thickening fertilizers to help prepare the lawn for the following spring.  A healthy lawn resists this invasion, and although areas may see some crabgrass, it will not be to the point where one could harvest the greenery for salads.

Damaged lawn

A casual glance toward the interior of your lawn may reveal disturbing patches and blotches of varying sizes and colors ranging from brown to white.  How can this be?  What went wrong?  Like a good CSI episode, it is time for the facts to speak and rule out the guessing.  These issues generally fall under environmental stress such as heat, sun scald, or some other non-pathogenic source.  Ruling out diseases can be very tricky depending upon the weather, timing, and location of injury.  This summer has seen a significant upswing in disease-related damage ranging from pits and scars, to unusual patches.  Preventative measures can be taken to help clean up your lawn with either traditional or organic treatments.  Insects are perhaps the easiest to detect given their predicable nature and timing during the season.  Now is a perfect time to treat for grubs, sod webworm, and chinch bugs using either organic or traditional materials.

Doing some simple things properly for your lawn during the next 6 weeks can reduce unsettling issues arising from disease, insects, and environmental stress.  Summer is generally not the best time to spray for difficult to control broadleaf weeds like ground ivy and violets since high heat and low soil moisture content reduce product effectiveness.    If you think you have an invasion at your house, get it checked out and maybe there is a solution to either stop the problem or slow the damage.  Don’t let your lawn scare the neighborhood children – plan ahead and keep it clean and green!

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Chinch bugs, when a brown lawn goes bad

Chinch bugs are under rated and a delightfully evil little lawn pest.  They love hot weather and can devastate a lawn if left unchecked in mere days to weeks.  Don’t think your are in the clear if you live out in the woods, these pests will find your lawn and eat it while you sleep.  They are small, they are shy and hide down in the thatch layer where you don’t see them.  Chinch bugs vary in color but the adults have an unmistakable white diamond on their backs.

These tiny little fellows have kids that range in color from orange, to gray, to black before reaching the slim classic adult with the diamond back.  They are about 1/8″ long and run fast when you uncover their hiding places.  A trained eye can easily spot them but unless you are down at ground level forget about it, these guys will party until your lawn is dead and gone.  The funny thing about chinch bugs is they get about two generations in NH and VT.  Left to their own evil plans, chinch bugs populations will build over time- especially in dry weather.  Since the adults overwinter and hide for the following year- the population will continue to expand and move further into your lawn.  In other words, chinch bugs do not die over the winter, they hide and wait for warmer weather like many of us!

I recently visited a lawn which pictures I have enclosed in this post.  I have not seen this many chinch bugs since the late 90′s!  Oh my word, there were so many, they were climbing up the garage door and foundation.  Can you say science fiction?  Not in this case- this is real.  If you view these pictures- the lawn has a grey tint to it versus a brown or tan.  While most lawns will only suffer blotches or patches, a heavy infestation will cause extreme thinning and the unmistakable look of death- grey.  This lawn has suffered massive damage and most of the turf will not recover especially with heat and drought stress.  We treated the lawn to clean up these villans today mostly to save the front lawn and stop the population explosion underway.

If you have any doubt, have a professional check it out.  This homeowner went to a local garden center and a few other “experts” and no one could determine the identity of this bug.  This is why licensed, educated, field experienced veterans like myself are truly of value and set the bar of those in the industry by merit and deed.  Don’t let a brown lawn stay brown, make sure it is checked.

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High Heat and Brown Grass

High heat and a lack off rainfall is double trouble when it comes to your cool season lawn- whether in NH or VT.  Brown grass results within days if not weeks after prolonged heat and an absence of rainfall.  What is a homeowner to do?

At this time of year, most action would be preventative such as proper cutting height (3”), lime, slow release fertilizer, mulched clippings to enhance organic matter, not mowing during the heat of the day, and having over seeded with a drought tolerant turf.  In terms of no rainfall, unless you have an irrigation system setup properly or a very shaded lot- browning is as inevitable as bacon in skillet on Sunday morning.  Hmm, you can just hear the sizzle and smell the lawn drying out to a golden brown!

On a serious note, its not the browning of your lawn that is a huge thing, but what might eat it while brown.  You would never know of an attack because green turning to brown might get your attention while outside.  What about brown staying brown?  Nothing can indicate a problem- no color change.  Now is the time to monitor for chinch bug, grub, or sod webworm activity either yourself or by hiring a professional licensed lawn care company. 

In terms of watering, anything is helpful- but don’t expect that magical green you would see in the spring or fall.  Providing an inch or more of water may not even be allowed if there is a ban like many towns are now experiencing here in NH.  Since most grass needs about an inch per week, anything else helps to keep the dormant turf alive as it remains in a hibernation state.  High heat will brown out and cause all kinds of blotches and spots in a treated or non-treated lawn setting- it is plain just too hot for cool season grass when the mercury rises above 85 to 90.  High heat can cause white blotches on the leaf blade to creating drought stress as dull blue or purple sections.  Further stress results in a tan or light brown lawn as the plant shuts down to preserve itself.  Remember, grass blades are 99% water, so no water- no grass to grow!

 Now is not the time to apply liquid fertilizer or herbicides- the result can be a disaster resulting in what I call “corner to corner grey or brown turf”.  A trained eye can spot this kind of chemical induced stress.  High soluble fertilizers place undue stress on a lawn already on the edge.  Mowing during the heat of the day is like lying on your driveway at noon- hot and unpleasant.  Any remaining moisture is quickly lost through the fresh cuts as the lawn literally wilts in hours- sometimes causing massive browning.  Stressed turf is highly susceptible to mower tracks from the weight of a tractor.  This is also true of lawn care companies that use perma-greens and other powered equipment to apply fertilizer, lime, or herbicides- the pure weight causes tire tracks and the resulting brown lines!  A light touch using smaller spreaders helps to minimize this issue.

In short, high summer heat is not customary in NH or VT, but when it does occur- be sure to watch out for insect damage, water if you can- what you can, don’t mow if you don’t have to- especially during 11am to 3pm, and cut high 3” to 3.5”.  Don’t feel obligated to mow when not mowing is really the best course of action.

Take a vacation and have some fun- but make sure you take care of your investment!

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