Posts Tagged ‘turf dormancy’

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.


Snow Mold prevention, spraying is an option this fall

While snow mold disease may be annoying, it can kill turf dead under the right conditions.  Snow mold prevention usually means hardening your grass off in the fall with the proper lawn products like potassium, sea kelp, and calcium lime.  Mowing short helps reduce matting and can help minimize snow mold in home lawns.  Don’t shovel your snow into large piles where melting will be slow and create favorable conditions for the disease.  However, the fact remains that Gray & Pink snow mold are out there and given the right moisture content and temperature, along with the host being your lawn, things can get ugly- dead ugly.  I personally saw a lot of snow mold this past spring, most areas recovered but some did not due to the severity in NH and VT.

Snow mold comes in a range of colors including gray and pink being the most well-known.  Spraying for snow mold in a residential setting is not a common practice but may be helpful if your turf has had a few bad years.  The infection begins with spores in the thatch layer and old leaves and lawn debris.  Removing your leaves and grass debris at the end of the season is a super way to help reduce the source of infection.  Aeration can also help reduce snow mold disease as indicated by a report from Purdue University.  Many chronic factors such as long grass, debris, piles of leaves and other cultural problems help give rise to snow mold outbreaks.  Even under the best conditions, susceptible turf will become infected and if the weather cooperates, damage can occur in small patches to large areas.  Newly seeded lawn areas, those that have not gone through a winter are also susceptible to snow mold.  Spraying a fungicide can be a helpful measure to reduce snow mold if done in the late fall before snowfall.  If your lawn has suffered from snow mold in the past- for more than a few winters- you may wish to explore a preventative measure to help reduce damage visible in the spring such as a fungicide treatment this autumn (Nov-December).  Chippers is pleased to offer this kind of treatment for those residing within our service area.


High Heat and Brown Grass

High heat and a lack off rainfall is double trouble when it comes to your cool season lawn- whether in NH or VT.  Brown grass results within days if not weeks after prolonged heat and an absence of rainfall.  What is a homeowner to do?

At this time of year, most action would be preventative such as proper cutting height (3”), lime, slow release fertilizer, mulched clippings to enhance organic matter, not mowing during the heat of the day, and having over seeded with a drought tolerant turf.  In terms of no rainfall, unless you have an irrigation system setup properly or a very shaded lot- browning is as inevitable as bacon in skillet on Sunday morning.  Hmm, you can just hear the sizzle and smell the lawn drying out to a golden brown!

On a serious note, its not the browning of your lawn that is a huge thing, but what might eat it while brown.  You would never know of an attack because green turning to brown might get your attention while outside.  What about brown staying brown?  Nothing can indicate a problem- no color change.  Now is the time to monitor for chinch bug, grub, or sod webworm activity either yourself or by hiring a professional licensed lawn care company. 

In terms of watering, anything is helpful- but don’t expect that magical green you would see in the spring or fall.  Providing an inch or more of water may not even be allowed if there is a ban like many towns are now experiencing here in NH.  Since most grass needs about an inch per week, anything else helps to keep the dormant turf alive as it remains in a hibernation state.  High heat will brown out and cause all kinds of blotches and spots in a treated or non-treated lawn setting- it is plain just too hot for cool season grass when the mercury rises above 85 to 90.  High heat can cause white blotches on the leaf blade to creating drought stress as dull blue or purple sections.  Further stress results in a tan or light brown lawn as the plant shuts down to preserve itself.  Remember, grass blades are 99% water, so no water- no grass to grow!

 Now is not the time to apply liquid fertilizer or herbicides- the result can be a disaster resulting in what I call “corner to corner grey or brown turf”.  A trained eye can spot this kind of chemical induced stress.  High soluble fertilizers place undue stress on a lawn already on the edge.  Mowing during the heat of the day is like lying on your driveway at noon- hot and unpleasant.  Any remaining moisture is quickly lost through the fresh cuts as the lawn literally wilts in hours- sometimes causing massive browning.  Stressed turf is highly susceptible to mower tracks from the weight of a tractor.  This is also true of lawn care companies that use perma-greens and other powered equipment to apply fertilizer, lime, or herbicides- the pure weight causes tire tracks and the resulting brown lines!  A light touch using smaller spreaders helps to minimize this issue.

In short, high summer heat is not customary in NH or VT, but when it does occur- be sure to watch out for insect damage, water if you can- what you can, don’t mow if you don’t have to- especially during 11am to 3pm, and cut high 3” to 3.5”.  Don’t feel obligated to mow when not mowing is really the best course of action.

Take a vacation and have some fun- but make sure you take care of your investment!

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