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.