Midsummer weather can put even a great looking lawn into a slow dive of despair without careful attention. As the heat kicks into high gear, soil temperatures reach their smoking point and crabgrass seeds begin germinating in earnest, popping like corn in a microwave. Limey green crabgrass plants appear virtually overnight exposing vulnerable areas along driveways, patios, walkways, mailboxes among others. Where did they come from? How can they grow so fast? Ah, the games have just begun!
If you have not watered and your lawn is cut short, now is when your thin lawn becomes choked out with crabgrass plants the size of small cars. During hot, humid weather, cool season grasses will stop growing, sitting idle while crabgrass seemingly grows an inch an hour, basking in the searing July heat. A weak or thin lawn, or those lacking a pre-emergent crabgrass barrier, are now at high risk for a crabgrass invasion that will only cease when school reopens. While post-emergent sprays do exist, spraying at this stage is like using a garden hose on a house fire: it’s best just to let nature take its course. Measures should be taken in the fall such as aeration, overseeding, lime, and turf thickening fertilizers to help prepare the lawn for the following spring. A healthy lawn resists this invasion, and although areas may see some crabgrass, it will not be to the point where one could harvest the greenery for salads.
A casual glance toward the interior of your lawn may reveal disturbing patches and blotches of varying sizes and colors ranging from brown to white. How can this be? What went wrong? Like a good CSI episode, it is time for the facts to speak and rule out the guessing. These issues generally fall under environmental stress such as heat, sun scald, or some other non-pathogenic source. Ruling out diseases can be very tricky depending upon the weather, timing, and location of injury. This summer has seen a significant upswing in disease-related damage ranging from pits and scars, to unusual patches. Preventative measures can be taken to help clean up your lawn with either traditional or organic treatments. Insects are perhaps the easiest to detect given their predicable nature and timing during the season. Now is a perfect time to treat for grubs, sod webworm, and chinch bugs using either organic or traditional materials.
Doing some simple things properly for your lawn during the next 6 weeks can reduce unsettling issues arising from disease, insects, and environmental stress. Summer is generally not the best time to spray for difficult to control broadleaf weeds like ground ivy and violets since high heat and low soil moisture content reduce product effectiveness. If you think you have an invasion at your house, get it checked out and maybe there is a solution to either stop the problem or slow the damage. Don’t let your lawn scare the neighborhood children – plan ahead and keep it clean and green!