Posts Tagged ‘high heat on lawn’

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.


Lawn watering, from green to brown

Watering your lawn is essential if you want to minimize browning

June is typically a transition month from cooler wet weather to warmer and drier weather in NH and VT.  While you may enjoy the warmer weather, your lawn is composed of cool season grasses and disapproves of 80 or 90 degree days.  Your grass is designed to flourish in 60 or 70 degree temperatures, but set the weather to broil and you will have consequences.  For instance, even a healthy green lawn with plenty of water is still susceptible to leaf scorch – a condition similar to taking a vacation in Mexico in January.  The lawn has succulent leaves, full of moisture, and they may not be fully prepared for hot weather.  I have seen lawns turn from a vibrant green to patches of white or tan overnight!  I can hear the phrase “what happened?” echo down the street from front porch to porch.

How can such a thing be prevented?  You can mow regularly with a sharp blade to 3,” not too short as to cause stress.  Don’t over fertilize either because too much of a good thing is never healthy.  A lawn cranked up on the golden juice of high soluble fertilizers is predisposed to stress and what we in the business call the classic “crash.”  This crash is a like watching a nice sports car hit a concrete wall – most unpleasant.  A lawn that is racing in terms of growth can be dangerous, especially if that same lawn runs out of soil moisture and/or hits a period of 90 degree days.  This type of weather can spell all kinds of trouble for what seemed bliss for you as a homeowner. You may see all kinds of white blotching as “hot spots,” as the sunniest areas tend to dry out first and turn a dull purple or off green.

Classic drought stress brought on in June by warm weather and minimal rainfall

Don’t confuse this type of situation with summer diseases which may also be present.  Dollar spot, brown patch, and a hoard of numerous villains await a weak, dry lawn, or one that stays wet overnight due to late watering or humidity.  Drought stress or sun scald can mimic diseases like dollar spot or patch diseases during the summer.  If you are in doubt, have a professional look in order to determine what course of action may be required.

Hot spots in a lawn should receive top priority when it comes to watering

When it comes to watering, anything is better than nothing when it comes to your lawn turning from green, to dull purple, to light tan, to all out brown.  Drought stress, combined with hot weather, can cause a lawn to crash and brown out in mere days if left unattended.  Any irrigation is better than no irrigation in the sense that once your lawn goes brown, it takes weeks to start new growth and push out new green leaves.  Brown grass leaves don’t just rehydrate and turn green for the most part – they are gone and need to be replaced.  Early intervention by watering can either minimize or prevent massive browning if done correctly.  Most turf wants 1” of rainfall per week to continue normal activities.  If you can water in the morning, this is preferred to help minimize disease and evaporation in the day’s heat.  Watering for a soaking is better than a light misting.  In other words, a 1hr soak is better than 15 minutes a day, yet 15 minutes a day is better than no irrigation at all.  Early watering will yield faster results and help the lawn stay green before things turn tan or brown.  Watch for those hazing dull patches, those sections that don’t bounce back after you walk over them so you can still see your footprints.  These are the priority areas that need water versus turf that is still a vibrant green.

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