According to the United States Drought Monitor, New England, particularly Massachusetts and New Hampshire are in a historic period of extreme drought. For most of us this means that our city or town has put restrictions on outdoor watering. Those restrictions along with the extreme lack of rainfall can mean death or at least dormancy for our lawns. Is there anything homeowners can do to save their lawns and gardens during this unprecedented time?
- Water – This is a no-brainer if it is allowed by your town. According to the Lawn Institute, a nonprofit lawn-research corporation, it’s better to halt irrigation at the beginning of a drought than to water a lawn for a short period of time and then stop. A brown, dormant lawn may actually be in better condition to survive a drought than a lawn that was occasionally watered.
- Eliminate Traffic – If at all possible eliminate unnecessary walking traffic and lawn equipment. The weight of all this activity will compact the soil, making it more difficult for the lawn to absorb moisture.
- Aerate – An aerator, whether hand held or powered can create deep thin holes in your lawn that has become compact. The holes allow for any water to easily get to the roots and also allows for nutrients to be absorbed.
- Eliminate Thatch – Thatch can cover your lawn and create almost a blanket that shields the rain from being absorbed. Removing this blanket of dead organic lawn matter can be especially helpful during a drought.
- Redo – If the the lawn is in very poor shape a total renovation may be necessary. This would mean after the drought that you may need to reseed, patch brown spots or start all over again to kill the weeds that kept growing and encourage grass growth.
As humans we are under daily stress like work, traffic, bills, family and the list could go on and on. These stressors can wear on people and make us tired, even possibly ill in the long run. But did you know that there are stressors that do the same damage to our grass and landscaping? The causes may be different but the end result of looking tired and becoming ill are the same. So what are those stressors on our lawn and how can homeowners avoid them in order to keep their property looking well kept and healthy?
- Lawn Diseases – One of the biggest stressors on our lawns are the pests that do damage. Some of the insects that do this damage particularly in the summer and early fall include: white grubs, chinch bugs, sod webworms, and armyworms. Other insects eat grass blades, which causes lawn patches to appear as if they have been mowed too closely. Check with Pro-Tech Lawn Care to learn which pests plague which grass types in your area, the best methods for insect control, and how to deal with an insect infestation.
- Drought – Stress from lack of rainfall can make your grass wilt, fade and even die. With the lack of rainfall in our region as of late, it is no wonder all lawns are suffering from this stressor in some way. Last week’s blog discussed several ways to help your lawn in this case. Please scroll back to read more.
- Lawn Care Mistakes – To err is human. So, many homeowners make lawn care mistakes like: over watering, overcutting, parking a car on the lawn, or fertilizing at the wrong time. All of these behaviors can put undue stress on a lawn. Lawn that is stressed is more prone to disease and insect infestation.
- High Traffic and Pets – Lawn burn can occur if pets with a high concentration of nitrogen regularly go to the bathroom in the same location. Round dead spots of grass can appear all over the lawn. High traffic where children and visitors walk regularly can become compacted and may need aeration and reseeding.
For more information about the stress that your lawn may be under call Pro-Tech Lawn Care.
As of late, walking around your property might feel more like taking a stroll around the Sahara or Mojave Deserts. The crunch, crunch, crunch of your grass may sound more like dead leaves than what should be a soft, lush, green lawn. Your bushes may be drooping and your flowers may seem less than beautiful. Your garden may look like a wasteland, or your produce less than ripe. Thirsty grass loses its luster as it gradually changes color from the bright, almost shiny green you are accustomed to seeing, to a dull blue-green or grey-green tint. As conditions worsen, it continues to fade to a tan or wheat color. New England is currently inches behind in its rainfall totals for the year and facing a terrible drought. With local and regional water restrictions how can homeowners help their lawns?
- Watering – All lawns benefit from receiving about an inch of water each week. In the absence of rain, irrigate your lawn only once or twice a week so that a total of one inch is applied during this period. How do you know when you have applied an inch? Set out tuna cans in various places on the lawn where the irrigation water lands. Once the can is full, that area has received an inch of water. Many areas are only allowing hand watering in place of irrigation or sprinkler systems so, be sure to check with your local water departments before starting on a watering program.
- Mowing – Many people have told us that due to the lack of rainfall they have not had to mow their grass much, if, at all. If you are still mowing, allow your lawn to grow taller as drought approaches.Taller blades develop a greater, deeper root system. In addition, when you cut the lawn, allow the grass clippings to remain on the lawn. Most mowers today cut the grass blades into such small pieces, they are practically invisible. The benefit to grasscycling is that the clippings return valuable nutrients and moisture to the lawn, not only making your lawn healthier year round, but especially during periods of stress.
- Know your Nutrients – Normally during typical rain seasons adding nutrients to your lawn is advisable. However, it is not advisable to feed your lawn outside of its active growing season and especially during periods of drought.
Every area goes through the seasonal and meteorological ups and downs of rainfall. Droughts, unfortunately, can visit for long stretches and really be a problem for your yard. This can be especially difficult when cities and towns (who are conserving) put restrictions on outdoor water usage. Whether the period of abnormally low moisture is long or short, you can prepare for your lawn’s survival. Here are some tips to help your lawn stay healthy:
Prepare in advance of dry season –
If your area has a normal dry or hot season, try to follow the following advice about 30-45 days before the season begins.
- Reduce thatch and compaction.
- Reduce or eliminate nitrogen fertilizer and increase potassium fertilizer.
- Water the lawn late at night or early in the morning.
- Water infrequently and deeply.
- Sharpen your mower blade two or three times per season.
- Mow often so you never remove more than the top third of grass blades.
- Leave clippings on the lawn.
During a drought follow these ideas to help your lawn remain healthy.
- Raise the mowing height 25 percent or more.
- Reduce traffic on the lawn.
- Increase watering on areas near buildings and other heat-reflecting surfaces as well as high or sloped areas.
- Restrict watering to the areas that are most important to you.
If the drought is extended you may need to accept that brown patches may need to exist until the weather changes conditions.