Posts Tagged ‘drought stress’

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.


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.

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