Climatic conditions for most lawns in East Anglia have been extremely challenging since December 2017. During the first week of December we had the first big drops in temperature, heavy frosts and snow which were to be a feature all the way into March this year. The periods of very low temperature and heavy frost were only interspersed by periods of heavy snowfall or rain. Many lawns were to some degree either waterlogged or frozen solid for months on end.March, traditionally the start of Spring and a vital period of early growth and rejuvenation for lawns delivered the conditions least helpful for recovery. We had very low temperatures and recorded the coldest March on record.
April offered a brief respite and a return to some normality in terms of sunlight hours, temperatures and precipitation. That was when many of us saw our last meaningful rainfall, across the region there are not many areas which have had any significant rainfall since the first week of May.
By early June temperatures were climbing above average, and drying soils were heating up. In the absence of any significant rainfall since early May most lawns are `shut down`. They are not dead and almost all will recover when the soil in the root zone is rehydrated, but for now they are stressed by heat and lack of moisture. The brown, dry leaf we see on our lawns will not go green again, the plant will have to produce new leaf and the roots will not start that process until soil temperatures drop and moisture levels allow it. We need a lot of rain.
What can be done?Watering: If you have already been watering your lawn, carry on! Remember, to do any good you need to water a lot. Late afternoon and evening are best. Perhaps put an old mug or jar on the area of lawn receiving irrigation and keep your sprinkler in that area until the mug has a good inch (25mm) of water accumulated in it. Then move the sprinkler and repeat. If you have not been watering so far, it might not even be worth starting. The soil is so dry and hard in many areas that the volume of water needed to re wet the soil to a useful depth may simply be impractical. But every lawn is different so don’t be put of trying if you wish to.
Mowing: In short, don’t. Grass that is not growing does not need to be cut, continuing to mow merely adds stress. Lawns that went into the hot and dry weather mown unkindly short face the highest chance of poor recovery. Once recovery does begin all lawns should be allowed to grow their new leaf to a length of at least 1.25 inches and cut only on a very high mower setting thereafter.
Long term effects of the severe weather.Until we get an end to the current weather pattern and recovery begins, we will not know for sure. However, we can expect a few things.
Thatch: all lawns will have acquired some extra thatch – dead / spent organic matter, in this case grass leaf from the pre-stress period. Excessive Thatch is detrimental to lawn health and encourages Moss.
Dry Patch: many lawns will have developed areas of `persistent dry patch` areas of soil which have become hydrophobic and resist the efforts of man or nature to re wet them.
Currently we can solve the expectable problems that will result from the severe weather with our regular treatments and the appropriate additions of Soil Conditioning, Wetting Agents, Lawn Aeration and Lawn Scarification. We will be assessing what can be done for all lawns during our regular Autumn visits. The challenge for us will be working that into a schedule that we have the capacity to deliver in a relatively short timeframe before winter is again upon us
Lawn Scarification.Ordinarily we do this at the back end of the summer. We already have substantial booking for this process. We may need to re think the timing if current conditions continue beyond the end of July. Scarifying a dry lawn is fine, scarifying one under stress from severe weather is not.
If you have already booked a scarification for late summer 2018 and are waiting for a date from us – we will be in touch as soon as we can, but the possibility that the entire late summer `scarification window` produces no appropriate weather conditions is real.