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.
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.