Posts Tagged ‘dead grass’

Early Summer Lawn Stress

While Vermont and New Hampshire are not suffering through a long-term drought like California, we are experiencing an official drought in many locations, especially in NH. Compounding the problem for lawns is the current high heat. Not only was the spring recovery period skipped, lawns are now into drought stress usually reserved for July. Lawns are simply under horrible growing conditions as we enter early June.



Winter Kill on a lawn

The dry spring and lack of rainfall has not allowed turf time to recover from winter. We are seeing dead white patches mixed in with drought stress. Lawns are looking their worse when May and early June is when they should be looking their best. Winter kill has caused widespread and serious lawn damage on treated and non-treated lawns alike. New grass was especially hard hit but specific turf types like rye and some fescues seemed particularly susceptible to thinning or even death.


A dry spring followed by hot weather means trouble for most lawns.

A dry spring followed by hot weather means trouble for most lawns.



What can be done?
1. There is nothing you could have done to prevent this; winter cold/ice/snow are not controllable.
2. Water for 30 min a day with manual sprinklers or turn up your irrigation system starting immediately until we get rainfall. Make sure your irrigation heads are aligned and providing accurate coverage otherwise turf will still brown with inadequate water.
3. Skip dethatching and don’t mow unless you really need a cut. Mow to 3-3.5”
4. Your lawn may need future repairs this summer or fall
5. Hope it rains soon, and the temperature drops out of the 80’s.


Three reasons your lawn looks bad every year

You don't have to suffer with a bad lawn in 2012

Face it, your lawn is ugly and you know it.  You can pretend the front lawn looks lush and green as your lawn tractor mows and creates a dust bowl similar to that of the great depression.  Unless of course your lawn is made up of more crabgrass than real grass?  The crabgrass will take a while to flourish, so this spring there will be more open prairie than visible lawn.  If that’s the case, at least you’ll have weeds to cut by late July. When did things go wrong?  Some lawns can die from catastrophic insect infestations and others a more gradual and slow decline. The most likely causes would be mowing abuse, poor soil care and a host of other circumstances.  So, let’s dig deeper.

Even if you had a lawn at one time, chances are you mow it to short.  I call this syndrome the “military style” mowing tactic. Short, clean, and improper.  With the mower deck only centimeters above the soil, the blade catches chunks of sod, soil and debris discarding the plume of devastation into the air or mower bag.  Like helicopters flying above the enemy, nothing survives and what is left resembles a parking lot in New York City left vacant for years.  Mowing to short heats up the soil causing weed seeds like crabgrass and spurge to germinate.  Mowing short places tremendous drought stress on the grass itself as water loss evaporates from the cut leaf blade.  Mowing short creates a short leaf blade that means less surface area for the lawn to capture sunlight and manufacture food for survival.  Would you prefer all of your teeth or only the front two for eating?  Mow your grass between 2.5 and 3 inches most of the year and you will minimize most of the aforementioned issues.

Removal of grass clippings is another mowing related issue that deprives your lawn of valuable nutrients over time.  Mulching or discarding clippings directly back onto the lawn is a desired practice as opposed to removal while mowing.  Consider your lawn a crop. Each time you remove organic matter (clippings), you deny the soil and turf (your crop) a piece of the food it needs to flourish.  Like recycling, returning that energy and sunlight in the form of clippings is a very good practice and should be encouraged all year long.  That is not to say that on occasion after returning home from a vacation or a heavy lawn growth in the spring that clippings could not be removed to facilitate a better cut.

Neglected soil is perhaps one of the greatest mysteries to a home owner. It’s almost as mysterious as the creation of the great pyramids in Egypt.  You cannot see it; you walk over it, mow over it, and wonder why your lawn looks so horrible.  Unfortunately, soil should support healthy lawn growth or other landscape plants but cannot when there are poor conditions.  While some folks may understand that their soil is sandy or full of clay, what to do about it is another story altogether.  The good news is that changing your soil from unhealthy to healthy is possible with dedicated and diligent effort.  Good soil is like a nice cake or bread mix, it needs the right ingredients in the right amounts.  For instance, organic matter is highly desired in a soil setting as it supports a wide array of micro-organisms which in turn help create a wonderful relationship with turf roots and available nutrient uptake.  Organic content, along with fine clay particles also help retain moisture needed to get through dry periods.  On the other hand, too much clay in the soil can become compacted with smaller air pockets unable to support healthy root growth.  Too much sand in your soil means little water holding capacity but great drainage- ideal for septic systems or wet areas.

The corrective measures required to improve your soil could include annual liming with either calcium or magnesium, topdressing with organic matter in the spring or fall, adding compost tea to enhance microbial life, or even the introduction of mycorrihizae by coating grass seed.  Of course, mulching your clippings, proper mowing height, raking and watering will make a big impact long term.



Excessive grub activity is going undetected in NH lawns

If your lawn is brown, don’t assume it is merely drought damage or continued drought given the dry weather pattern in NH.  Many lawns are being eaten right now by white grubs of all kinds.  White grubs are in bountiful numbers given the past dry, hot weather in NH & VT.  Unfortunately, many homeowners and commercial locations are not aware of this damage which will continue well into early November.  Many landscapers do not have the education or proper state certification and licensing to diagnose and treat complex lawn problems.  Left unchecked, grub damage can destroy sections if not entire lawn areas within weeks to months if left untreated.  The news gets worse!  These grubs will hide and wait until next spring, then the feeding will start again!  Many brown turf areas can be infested with grubs because many will assume the area was caused by drought and high heat.  While this may be true for some, other lawns will continue the downward spiral without appropriate action this fall or at best next spring.

Look for animals digging like crows, ravens, or skunks at night.  The turf will be easily uprooted since the root system is being attacked and cannot grow fast enough to anchor the grass to the surface.  Focus on sunny areas, along driveways or walkways.  Hot, or sunny areas are prime locations for beetles to lay their eggs for the next generation.  Your grass may be brown mixed in with green but when exposed, the trained eye can find grubs of varying sizes and types.  There are many products which can be used to control grubs including chemicals and nematodes.  Each claims success under various conditions and instructions to the home owner.  Don’t assume that picking up a bag at Lowes or the Home Depot will insure results.  Unfortunately, there are many products aimed at specific periods in the life cycle of grubs so a bag of “Grub X or Milky Spore” applied in the fall does not mean it will work.  You must read the label or call a professional to determine if your $30 investment will actually work or just make you feel good.  If in doubt ask- don’t simply apply materials to your lawn without understanding the ramifications, that would not be environmentally responsible.  While grass is important, what you do to the environment is more important.  This is why professionals like myself must train, take written plus verbal exams by state agencies, and work in the field to gain “real world” experience.

Don’t let brown areas go unchecked, go call or e-mail a reputable lawn care company like mine.  Speak with a local professional with appropriate licensing and experience to give you the real answer.  Your lawn need not be damaged with proper information to back up appropriate action!

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