Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Solutions to Problems with the Drought and Intense Heat

High heat and a lack of rainfall is double trouble as it relates to the health of your lawn.  Brown grass results in weeks or even days after prolonged high temperatures and an absence of rainfall.  So, what is a homeowner to do?

At this time of year, the best action is preventative.  First, ensuring your mower is adjusted to the proper cutting height of 3-3.5” and not mowing during the heat of the day is just as important.  Applying slow release fertilizer, lime, or mulched clippings to enhance organic matter is very beneficial.  And over seeding with a drought tolerant turf as well.  In terms of precipitation, unless you have an irrigation system or a very shaded lawn.

On a serious note, it’s not the browning of your lawn that is most concerning, but what might eat it while it is brown.  It is much more difficult to notice an attack by hungry pests as the lawn may already be discolored.  Now is the time to monitor for chinch bug, grub, or sod web worm activity.  If you can’t monitor yourself, hire a professional licensed lawn care company.

In terms of watering, anything is helpful but don’t expect that magical green you may 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 have in place here in MI.  And since most grass needs about an inch of water per week, anything will help 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.  Frankly, it is just too hot for cool season grass when the mercury rises above 85 or 90 degrees.  High heat can cause white blotches on the leaf blade and create drought stress appearing as dull blue or purple sections.  Additional stress may result 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!

By the way, 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 easily spot this kind of chemical induced stress.  Also, high soluble fertilizers place undue stress on a lawn that may already be 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 from the fresh cuts as the lawn literally wilts. Massive browning can result in a very short period of time (sometimes hours).  Stressed turf is highly susceptible to mower tracks from the weight of a tractor as well.  This is also true when lawn care companies that use perma-greens and other powered equipment to apply fertilizer, lime, or herbicides.  A light touch using smaller spreaders should be used to prevent this type of damage.

In short, high summer heat is not “the norm” MI However, follow these simple steps to insure a healthy summer lawn:

   1. Watch out for insect damage
   2. Water if you can, and what you can
   3. Don’t mow if you don’t have to (especially from 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!

Want help preserving your lawn in the drought?  Call us for more details at 616-893-5765!

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