Since we last wrote about the brutal summer weather conditions and their effect on our Lawns we have had some useful rain and a helpful drop in temperatures. We have not all had equal rainfall, but across most of Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex we are finding that the soil under most Lawns is now damp enough to support some re growth and recovery.
Recovery is happening on most Lawns to some extent. The variation in rates of recovery remains large. As we suspected those that went into the hot/dry weather mown short have fared the worst. Lawns with high levels of soil compaction and grass areas with little shade are also recovering more slowly. This latter group is the one where we are finding the highest instances of Persistent dry patch. These are areas of soil which have become hydrophobic and have so far not absorbed enough moisture to allow grass recovery.
So far, the only customer lawns we have seen since our groundsmen returned to work last week are ones that had been booked for Scarification. As yet, we have only visited about 150 lawns. Not a huge sample, but one large enough to give us a feel for what has happened across the region over the Summer. Current Lawn conditions are extremely variable, but the clear majority have not been in a condition where scarification would yet be risk free or helpful.
That said, we are seeing a general improvement on a day to day basis as recovery becomes more widespread. Many lawns will be strong enough to safely scarify very soon and we will try to return to them, others will be best left alone.
There are also lots of lawns which are in a marginal condition for scarification: Some customers want their lawns scarified anyway so that any bad or sparse areas can be seeded without delay or complication.
Some customers want to wait and see what happens before they accept the risk of committing themselves to addressing any seeding requirement.
There is no right or wrong approach, it is a personal choice. The wait and see strategy would not be perused on an area of continuously managed turf (like a Golf Course) but for the homeowner, it is very tempting and may work out reasonably well, or it may not…as we often say `every lawn is different`.
Will ALL Lawns FULLY recover?
Unfortunately, we do not think so. Despite the advice that `grass always recovers`, which has been the general message from news media and television gardening personalities throughout the Summer, we have already seen some areas of grass and even entire small lawns that seem highly likely to be permanently damaged if not completely dead. That said it is still early in the recovery cycle and many areas that still look like lost causes will produce some recovery in the next few weeks.
However, Lawns which were continuously mown and particularly ones cut short preceding or during high temperature are unlikely to make much of a recovery. When grass is cut down into the stalk, below `the crown` (where leaf emerges from the stalk) it is always weakened, in hot conditions it becomes likely to die.
Lawns which were treated kindly and left long, stand a MUCH better chance, but there are big variations in grass type and soil type/condition as well as direct sunlight exposure which also lead to variations in the lawns ability to recover. There is a large element of `luck` involved, and the completely unaffected Lawn will be rare.
Being certain what has died and what is still dormant is notoriously difficult. We may not know for certain until well into the late Autumn. Overall, we think most lawns will make strong if not complete recoveries given time.
What can a customer or homeowner do NOW to help their still struggling grass?
There is not a hose pipe ban! Now that temperatures have dropped it IS worth trying to help any bad patches you may have with some watering. There is certainly NO risk of doing any harm if you water in the early morning or evening. Be generous, the aim is to get the roots wet again and not just dampen the top.
If you have areas of brown grass, folded over and matted down – try to gently ruffle them with a rake and get some air moving around the plants. This will make it easier for new shoots to emerge.
If repairs are needed, when should they be done?
Repair means clearing the dead / damaged area of excess spent and dried up material so that the soil is exposed and then introducing new grass seed which will probably need a few weeks of regular watering.
It is easier to do this in the late summer / early autumn (mid sept / mid oct) than in the Spring because by Spring the weak / dead patches will have filled up with Moss and weeds. Sept / Oct also tend to provide better germination conditions for grass seed than early Spring.
What seed should be used?
In most cases we use & recommend a seed blend of Dwarf Rye and Tall Fescue these mixes offer a good appearance, strong disease resistance, deep rooting and better than average wear and drought tolerance.
They can be bought from specialist online retailers if you intend to do your own repairs. Avoid boxes from the shelves of general d.i.y stores that do not even list the component grasses!
What can Grasshopper do to help?
If you have serious concerns about your lawns drought recovery the first thing, as always, is to:
Ring – Mon-Fri 9/5 - 01449 722 667
There are a lot of options available to boost lawn recovery and manage any repair process that may be needed. But every lawn is different, and the requirements of our customers are equally varied. We are not managing a golf course and able say to the owners `this is what we are doing & here is the invoice`
So please do not hesitate to get in touch if you think your lawn may need a little more this year than our top-quality Autumn fertiliser to get it back on track. The forthcoming season for successful seeding work is short, but re seeding is not the only option available at this point.
Apart from seeding, assisted recovery options include:
Regular Autumn Treatments / Lawn Aeration with Soil Improver dressing to improve soil function & root health / Lawn specific Wetting Agents & Seaweed Extracts to improve soil rehydration & water retention.
These will not bring dead grass back to life, but they will greatly improve the outlook for dormant grass that is still capable of recovering. Even if some re seeding is ultimately needed next spring, all the above methods of promoting recovery will also improve conditions for the surviving grass & any new seed when sown.