Posts Tagged ‘drought stress’

My lawn has white and brown patches this spring


I bet your lawn does look strange this spring, the result of unusually dry and sunny conditions.  I have seen grass dormant and just not growing because it has not had enough moisture. I have seen snow mold patches just sitting amongst healthy turf.  I have seen stressed out turf with sun scald blended in with drought stress from excessively nice weather.  I have seen rock walls heating up the soil and causing brown dormancy typical of late June or July.  What is going on?  I bet you wish this spring was more “normal” but instead, your usually plush green spring carpet is sitting idle or has patchy oddities mixed in.

When in doubt, go back to the basics of proper watering and mowing, even if it is mid-May.  Even if the weather is cool, sunny dry weather will cause just as much harm and unseen stress to grass as a July day at the beach.  Picture fresh new leaves emerging and they are delicate, like a house plant being brought out onto the porch after winter.  Days of sunny, dry weather and wind cause an excessive drying effect and stress load on the lawn.  Your lawn has just starting coming out of dormancy and is looking for an abundant supply of water, but none is to be found.  The bright sunny days and warming soil stimulate new leaf blades but the water is not in enough supply and any new growth becomes stressed.  This type of problem will manifest itself with slowed growth, light browning, or a fast shock of sun scald where patches of grass appear with white tips or half wilted leaf blades.  I have included a picture taken recently to illustrate what this spring’s weather has done to a normally healthy, vibrant lawn.

Sunny dry weather can cause all kinds of lawn problems

Short mowing, below 2”, places unreasonable and terrible stress on a lawn already setup to turn brown, even in May, yes – even in spring!  You must mow at 3” whenever possible to promote deeper rooting and a better food manufacturing area, otherwise known as grass blades, to enhance long-term density.  Watering in a cool, dry spring is very important – especially on sandy soils. 

Now is the time to wait for rain and hope that the dreams of green come true and the summer of 2012 was just a one-time nightmare.  Stay tuned because no one knows what 2013 will bring; good or bad. 


Core aeration and your lawn

Published by mrgrass on August 2nd, 2012 - in Aeration or Core Aeration

Back to school time is fix up your lawn time

Summer is beginning to fade as August begins and soon school buses will be back on the roads as Labor Day approaches.  Your heat-ravaged lawn would do well to get in on the end-of-summer shopping extravaganza.  Although notebooks and new clothes are not appropriate, core aeration will break up the compacted soil caused by drought and is definitely what the teacher ordered.  And warm soils and cool nights beckon new seeding to repair damaged sections of your lawn.  This over seeding is best done after aeration so the seed can germinate in the core holes.  For those areas too large for a minor fix up, topdressing with compost is just the ticket to supply organic matter and a superior seed bed after core aeration.

Fall is the best time of the year to work on your lawn, especially when it comes to seeding because of increased rainfall, warm soil, and cool nights.  There is less competition in your lawn as summer annuals like crabgrass and spurge are on their deathbeds. And every lawn can benefit from core aeration regardless of condition or age. Simply put, fall is summer in reverse as the weather begins to feel like spring except with a splash of vivid foliage color to make a great outdoor backdrop for family activities.

Core aeration physically removes a plug to reduce soil compaction

Aeration can normally begin in August as soon as there is sufficient soil moisture to allow the hollow tines of the machine to break through the hard surface.  Dry soil often does not allow good plugs to be pulled as the soil falls apart or it is difficult to penetrate from compaction caused by dry summer weather.

A core aeration machine is a wonderful organic way to renovate a home lawn


Over seeding allows better grasses to be introduced into your lawn so it can become more resistant to disease, insects, and drought.  You may have grasses which prefer partial shade living in full sun.  Fall is a great time to add a better grass to this kind of area.  Perhaps you have an older bluegrass that is not tolerant to disease; now is the time to seed in superior hybrid turf grasses that are resistant to disease yet blend in with your bluegrass lawn.  Don’t skimp on seed quality, like fine wine, you get what you pay for and using subpar seed to save money will detract from the overall results.

The grass seed in the aeration holes needs no special care. In fact, you should continue your normal mowing routine. Topdressing will aid in the thickening of the lawn because the seed is delivered into the holes and on the lawn surface.   Any supplemental moisture for both over seeding and topdressing will promote maximum grass seed germination although it is not required for good results under normal autumn weather.  Too much moisture is often called “killing your lawn with kindness” and can be worse than not watering at all.

Drought, disease, or insect damage can thin a healthy lawn

Core aeration and over seeding are an excellent pair of lawn renovation activities which do so much good, especially after a dry year when many lawns had some drought or disease damage.

When you hear those back to school advertisements, don’t forget to help your lawn looks its best before winter arrives. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.


Your brown lawn may have more than a color problem

High heat and lack of rainfall has NH & VT lawns turning brown


The summer of 2012 is shaping up to be one of record heat, sun, warmth, and drought in many areas across the USA.  While this is fabulous vacation weather for the beach and outdoor activities, your lawn may have gone brown months ago depending upon your location.  In New England, we are experiencing dry weather not felt since the 1950’s.  I don’t imagine Elvis would be pleased to have a brown lawn upon his return home from touring.

At any rate, severe lack of moisture can create other problems beside the straw colored grass you see below your feet.  Extended dry periods cause the soil temperature to dramatically rise, which in turn causes crabgrass and other noxious annual weeds to germinate in earnest.  While your cool weather-loving turf is asleep trying to just survive, weeds can pop up and seemingly grow inches a day.  This is especially true of crabgrass, even with a preventative treatment applied in the spring since the product’s life span only lasts into late July or early August in NH or VT.  Super heated soil creates an ideal growing environment for crabgrass, even in the best cared for lawns.  A light touch is the best course of action until September arrives and restoration efforts can begin.

A more serious side to drought is the fact it attracts all kinds of heat- loving insects like Japanese beetles, chinch bugs and sod webworm to name just a few.  Damage can be occurring right under your feet without a hint of the battle raging in the soil or on the hot brown surface of your beloved lawn.  Left unchecked, fall rainfall comes and your lawn never recovers, which might be attributed to small grubs feeding from late summer right into fall.

Even those grassy areas lucky enough to have irrigation or some shade are not immune to the heat and humidity.  I have seen plenty of brown patch disease rising up overnight due to humidity and wet grass, with the resulting damage visible the next morning.  Mowing grass already in drought conditions or during the heat of the day is like pushing a friend over a cliff with the flu, just plain mean.  The best advice in a hot summer with a significant lack of rainfall is to stay off the lawn if possible, watch and treat for insects as necessary based upon population levels, and irrigate if possible in the morning – even if only for a short period of time.  Even a little water is better than nothing when it comes to keeping the dormant growing point of your grass alive.  Like an IV in a sick patient in the hospital, any moisture applied is better than none in an absence of rainfall.

Any fertilizer used should be at a low rate, slow release, and generally granular in nature.  With autumn only a month away, we are at the top of the roller coaster and things should slowly begin to improve as August fades into September.  If your lawn has taken a hit like many have, plan now to have restoration services lined up in order to take advantage of the best growing time of year for grass – fall!  Services like core aeration, overseeding, lime, compost tea, and organic or natural fertilizers can bring a lawn back to life in preparation for 2013.

Enjoy the heat now because your lawn sure hates it, at least in New England.

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