There is little disputing the 2012 growing season was a record breaker in more than one area. Extreme heat and corresponding drought caused widespread damage to even well cared for lawns. The effect of these weather phenomena then led to massive explosions of pests like grubs and chinch bugs. Even with November fast approaching, the pest issues will spill over into the spring of 2013, and if left untreated, will continue to cause turf damage. There is little that can be done for physical lawn repairs at this point in the growing season like bringing in new loam or trying to establish a lawn through seeding. However, beneficial turf treatments applied now like potassium, lime, compost tea, sea kelp, and slow release fertilizer can help both a damaged and healthy lawn. Lawn repairs ranging from small to full renovations should be explored now or at least during the winter months as landscapers and lawn care companies will be overwhelmed this spring by sheer volume of repairs necessary never mind pest treatments. Timing could not be more critical in terms of seeding and treating for damaging turf and ornamental pests than the spring of 2013. Even if the weather pattern returns to a more “normal” or stable pattern, the repercussions of this season’s heat and drought will continue into 2013. Although brown grass in October can be a result of past drought and exposure to dry weather, it can also spell bug troubles in the surrounding lawn as grubs vigorously eat fast growing root systems.
I am seeing grubs in record setting numbers and on lawns which have never had a past issue. While a curative treatment is only a short term fix, a preventative treatment in 2013 may well be in order for more lawns than previously expected. I do not normally endorse the use of materials to preventatively protect against grubs, which in a normal year are rarely a huge issue unless past history indicates a problem. However, I will be firmly endorsing both curative and preventative grub control on a case-by-case basis for 2013 because of the high risk factors recently experienced in New England. Furthermore, another mild winter would further enhance tick populations in 2013 in addition to hundreds of other outdoor pests. Make a note on your calendar to explore the potential health issues this winter and make plans, if deemed appropriate after speaking to professionals in the industry, such as Chippers.
On the bright side, the recent rain and cooler weather in combination with fall lawn treatments are helping damaged and weak lawns recover to the maximum degree possible before winter. Don’t dismiss potassium, compost tea, and aeration after the harsh growing season we experienced this past year. All of these treatments can be done well into November in most of New England so long as the ground does not freeze.
In closing, don’t forget the millions of crabgrass seeds which were deposited in record numbers along driveways, patios, and walkways because of drought or insect damaged lawns. Although a thick, healthy lawn is your best defense against crabgrass, some areas will not be up to the task without additional help of a preventative crabgrass barrier in the spring of 2013. Timing will be key and a lot of good can be done in an eight week period next spring, so don’t file your lawn contract when it arrives this winter, review it carefully and setup a proactive plan to both protect and perhaps restore your home lawn for the investment it truly is!